I probably would have LOVED Princess of Thorns back when fairy tale retellings required two things: gore and romance. Well, all right, they kind of still do, but I’m just saying that, back when this formula was still kind of fresh, I would have sung its praises till day’s end. But now that that formula is more tired than it used to be, it doesn’t hold the same magic as it did before. However, I won’t be so quick to dump all over this book. It does not deserve that.
Princess Aurora of Norvere is the briar-born, fairy-blessed child of the Sleeping Beauty herself. But she and her brother are part of a prophecy: with their blood sacrifice, they will usher in a new era of ogre rule. The ogres have already captured Aurora’s brother, so she sets out to rescue him, bringing the reluctant prince Niklaas along for the ride. Niklaas sets out to win Aurora’s heart, believing her to be the key to breaking an ancient family curse. Who said adventuring for justice and love was easy, though…?
I should point out that Stacey Jay, the author of this book, is talented. She’s written other compelling fairy tale retellings (Of Beauty and Beast, anyone?), and she creates a world that is magical but bleak. But again, I think if I weren’t so tired of the usual world-on-brink-of-destruction that is painted in black, white, and red, it would feel a little more complete.
Aurora, while compelling, is also kind of a cliché main character. She is a warrior princess, blessed by the fairies to have incredible healing, strength, and fighting skills. She kicks ass in all the usual ways, and has a temper the length of a candlewick. Again, this kind of character would have been very cool several years ago, but it’s all-too-familiar territory.
Not a lot really differentiates Aurora’s voice from Niklaas’s (the book alternates between their POVs). They are both stubborn and prideful—almost to the point of annoyance. Much of their conversations involve them sniping or shouting at each other sarcastically, and it gets kind of annoying—like, come on, kids, say what you mean and get it over with! Aurora also disguises herself as a man to convince Niklaas to help her, which does not help how similar their voices are. I had to double check a few times to make sure I knew whose perspective I was reading.
Nonetheless, the stakes are still high, and there is an interesting, if kind of weak, connection to the Sleeping Beauty story. The coolest part is the addition of the ogres (read the Charles Perrault Sleeping Beauty; Disney doesn’t know everything). They don’t quite look like monsters, but you know there is something wicked about them. They consume human souls for sustenance, and make pretty nice antagonists.
And, just to make things darker, Sleeping Beauty’s prince—Aurora’s father—was unfaithful to his wife. As a result, the Sleeping Beauty gifted Aurora with a heart that can never know romantic love. Oh, the dramatic tension—sort of!
Just to reiterate, this book is far from terrible. It does have a lot of clichés, but it does still keep you engrossed. If you’re looking for a somewhat decent adaptation of Sleeping Beauty, it should fit the bill fine. I like it fine too, but it would have been a better reading experience if the formula were less tired.