Every once in a while, I like to set aside my super spicy reads for something of the young adult variety. The description of Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay intrigued me, to say the least. Young adult, fantasy, heroine in disguise (as her own brother), and a reluctant hero combined with several different fairy tales created an original and enjoyable story.
Once upon a time there lived a princess . . .
Princess Aurora’s mother, the Sleeping Beauty, died in her arms when Aurora was seven years old, sacrificing herself to give Aurora her own fairy magic. In the ten years since, Aurora has learned that no magic comes for free. The price for hers is her romantic heart. Familial love is the only kind she will ever know, and so, when her brother is captured by the queen’s men, Aurora dresses as a boy and sets off to raise an army, determined to free the only person it is safe for her to love before he becomes the Ogre Queen’s sacrifice.
. . . and a prince. . . .
Prince Niklaas is living on borrowed time. He must convince a princess to marry him before dawn on his eighteenth birthday or meet the same terrible fate as his ten older brothers. And so Niklaas barters his most prized possession for a charm to locate the lost princess, Aurora. Instead, he finds her brother—or so he believes—and is blackmailed into helping raise an army.
Will they find their happily-ever-after?
As they race to prevent the fulfillment of an ogre prophecy foretelling the end of human life, Aurora and Niklaas learn that there are worse things than old curses. There is impossible hope, forbidden love, and kisses that steal like a thief in the night. . . .
Let me start by saying that the descriptions I read on Goodreads and Amazon were VERY short and didn’t really convey the spirit of the story. Thankfully this description taken from the author’s blog gives the reader a better idea of what to expect. I didn’t go into the story expecting a fairy tale re-telling; instead Princess of Thorns pulls from fairy tale lore. I liken it to some of the popular stories using Celtic, Christian, and Greek gods/mythology. Much is borrowed, but the story is unique. If you’re a stickler for accurate and literal re-tellings, then this is not the story for you. The Grimm reference works, but I don’t understand the Game of Thrones reference – other than both can be categorized as fantasy.
As I said before, Princess of Thorns was a real hit for me. Aurora is incredibly likable and I was rooting for her even before she set out on her journey. Talk about traumatic childhood events: an often absent father, increasingly depressed mother, and subsequent imprisonment with her mother and younger brother after her father is killed. Yikes. The story reveals details about Aurora’s childhood as it progresses. This was important to me because I sincerely dislike information dumps. Though, I do wish there was more about Aurora’s brother, Jor. The purpose of her journey is to save him, and I wasn’t really invested in him.
Aurora and Niklaas are adorable together. The dynamic between the two provided light humor in the beginning when Niklaas thought he was traveling with Aurora’s brother. Niklaas references how he will seduce Aurora to her “brother.” Also, the lengths that Aurora must go to protect her identity can be quite comical. One of my favorite parts is when a secondary character realizes that Aurora is not a boy – it involves a misguided groping session and much confusion. Near the end of the story, too many fairy tales were combined into some sort of odd history for Niklaas and it just became a bit much. Some selective editing on fairy tale usage could have helped with clarity.
Most of the story revolves around the journey of Aurora and Niklaas. They need to find help to break Jor out of the Ogre Queen’s prison. Several characters show up or are referenced in the beginning and we see them later in the story. The continuity was nice, but I felt like it was too tidy. As in it seemed as if each character has an opportunity to right a wrong. They are faced with a choice (after making a not-so-great choice with far-reaching consequences) that will allow for their redemption. I understand the whole good/evil and light/dark idea that each person is two sides of the same coin, but it took away from the main plot. One character even made an abrupt change that was jarring to read. It didn’t make complete sense to me.
From a villain standpoint, the Ogre Queen was interesting. She referred to herself in the plural and had conversations with herself. Every time we shifted into her POV, I wanted to whisper “we are Legion.” Perfectly creepy.
A nice change of pace, Princess of Thorns thoroughly entertained me. The incorporation of several different fairy tales was original and well thought out. I would have preferred maybe just a few less story lines for clarity and brevity sake, but the current combination certainly worked. I can’t seem to find whether this is a standalone or the first in a series, but I do hope that there are more! I am looking forward to reading more stories by Stacey Jay.