Thorn - Intisar Khanani This novel is one of the few that have left me divided. On one hand, it’s too intense, too emotionally grueling for my taste. I wanted the heroine, Princess Alyrra (aka Thorn), to have a respite, to have something working for her, but the author wouldn’t oblige. So in my head, I argued with her. I told her that she was wrong to subject Thorn to so many indignities. I told her that the test she devised for her hero, Prince Kestrin, was unfair and unnecessary cruel. I told her that Thorn behaved foolishly. She could’ve found an easier way to deal with her problems. I told her that Alyrra’s friend, Horse Falada, is an inadequate teacher. He knows stuff but he talks in riddles and never explains anything as a teacher should.
Unable to persuade the author and the book to take a gentler road, I did it myself. In my few short breaks from reading, I imagined alternative adventures for the heroes. I gave them additional options and widened their choices. I came to love and respect the heroes too much to trap them into tight corners, as the author has done. So I pleaded with the writer to be kinder, and I raved, and I cried, but I couldn’t stop reading. The novel wouldn’t let me. I felt compelled to finish it even though I can’t say that I enjoyed it. But I can say that I will remember it.
Subjectively, I don’t like so much suffering for the heroes. I like a lighter read. Objectively, I know that this was one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in some time. And I know that this writer is a master of her craft.
Besides my feeble squeaks fueled by compassion for the heroes, I have one serious editorial comment. There are two mysteries in the story that are revealed towards the end. They include the story of Valka’s hatred towards Alyrra and the story of the Lady’s hatred towards Kestrin. Both should’ve been explained in the beginning of the novel. The hatred of those two antagonists drives the plot, but for three quarters of the book, it doesn’t make sense, and the reader wonders where it comes from. What could humble, inoffensive Alyrra have done to deserve it?
Besides that one objection, there are only a few typos to distract the reader from this rich, soulful story. It’s powerful and cathartic; and I recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy.