Monday, March 31, 2014
Great Reads for (Mature) Teens: "Thorn" by Intisar Khanani
Oh man! First of all, Thorn had me at "Goose Girl retelling." I am a huge fan of that fairytale and loved, loved, LOVED The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale--it's one of my Great Reads for Teens.
I first saw Thorn on GoodReads. It was in the title suggestions for readers who like my own book. I decided to give it a chance, because the cover was so cool and unique. Yes, I do judge books by their covers when I'm not going off of recommendations from trusted friends. ;-) It's a risk, I know. But this was definitely a risk that paid off big time.
Intisar Khanani is an indie author, which I didn't know until after I finished the book. Seriously, it was that good. This is her first book, and guys, her writing style was so unique and just . . . well . . . dreamy. There were rough patches here and there, particularly when she was describing magical scenes, but I have to say it didn't really disrupt the story that much for me, because her world building was so fascinating to me. And, to be honest, it was nothing that I haven't seen in professionally published books.
Before I go any further, here is the synopsis for Thorn:
For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she's never had ... until she's betrayed.
Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family's cruelty and the court's contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.
But powerful men have powerful enemies--and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman's, giving Alyrra the first choice she's ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she's never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.
Thorn has received a Badge of Approval from Awesome Indies.
Thorn reminded me of The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, a book I loved the idea of, but wasn't stolen away with the writing. As I mentioned above, this book stole me away with both story and writing style.
One thing I respect very much in storytellers is when the author isn't afraid to take on hefty issues without sugar-coating things, but still shows that there is hope in the end. Huge kudos to Suzanne Collins for Mocking Jay. I think she got a lot of flack from fans because of her realistic depiction of the realities of war, but I don't think she could have ended the story any other way and still done justice to her characters as well as her purpose in writing the series in the first place. Which was to teach kids about the realities of war.
Intisar does the same thing in Thorn. She takes on some pretty meaty issues concerning the protection of women and children's rights in a very masculine governed society, and she does it rather well. Now, because of this, I would say the proper age for readers of this book would be no younger than 16. There are some fairly heavy scenes (not glorified) toward the middle and end, but they are done in a way that I felt got the point across without completely turning off the reader (I am a VERY sensitive reader to violence in general, but especially toward women, and I was made just uncomfortable enough to take notice.) AND, Intisar did a really good job of teaching women and children how to protect themselves and avoid the same things happening to them...what I mean to say, she didn't let her heroine or other characters make a bunch of stupid decisions without showing the consequences of said decisions. And, when bad things happened, she showed her characters learning from them by not making the same unwise decisions.
Like the meaty issues the author addresses, I felt like she wrote a very realistic heroine who reacted to things in the way a victim of such meaty issues would. I read a few reviews that were bugged by this, saying Alyrra needed to be more heroic. But I think you have to really understand what it means to be heroic and courageous in the first place to see that, considering her background and circumstances, she was actually quite courageous. And she grew more so by the end of the book. It reminds me of what one of my characters, Lylend, says to my heroine Norah when she things he's calling her a coward: He tells her that she can't really be courageous without fear, because courage is when you act in spite of your fear. When you understand that, and understand the depth of Alyrra's fear, then you have to know that there are few heroines written who are that brave.
The other thing I really loved about the themes in this book was how Ms. Khanani addressed the very fine line between justice and cruelty. I also appreciated her strong petition for mercy.
The one thing I wish that had happened, is that I wish Alyrra would've had the opportunity to stand up to her family. But on second thought, I think she was able to do it via proxy with Valka, Kestrin, the Lady, and the King, so I suppose it wasn't necessary.
Anyway. As you can tell, I liked this book. :-) I mentioned above, there are flaws, but overall the story was a very satisfying read. I am also thinking it might be a rather important read, because of Ms. Khanani's bravery in addressing the meatier issues--issues that we still face today. (Abuse, human trafficking, rape, etc.) Because of this, I will be adding this book to my Great Reads for Teens list. However, it will go up with a cautionary note because of the heavier themes.
I hope you will check out Thorn. I think Ms. Intisar Khanani has just become a favorite author of mine, because once I heard it was even better than Thorn I didn't hesitate to buy her 2nd book Sunbolt. Definitely a great read.