Monday, February 16, 2015

Princess of Thorns - Stacey Jay

Title: Princess of Thorns
Author: Stacey Jay
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2014 (Hardcover)
Length: 388 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: February 9, 2015
Finished: February 15, 2015

From the author's website:

Games of Thrones meets Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy, yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome, but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise keep them from finding their one true love?

I've read a few of the author's books before, and she is amazingly good at retellings, so I was really looking forward to her take on Sleeping Beauty. Thankfully I was not disappointed, and though there were a few areas that fell short, overall this was an enjoyable read.

First off, the story looks quite different from your typical Sleeping Beauty tale. Aurora in this version is actually the Sleeping Beauty's daughter. Along with brother Jor, the two were imprisoned with their mother by the ogre queen because only briar-born children can bring about the end of her rule according to ye old prophecy. Their mother sacrifices herself in order to pass along her fairy blessings  to Aurora so that the children might live, but the magic takes a bit of a dark turn. Though Aurora can kick butt like nobody's business, her mother's intention that she not be taken advantage of by men turned out to transform men that kiss her into zombies that want to do her bidding. And though that thought can be tempting at times, it doesn't lead to a very fulfilling love life. So Aurora is resolved instead to reclaim her throne and her captured brother from the ogre queen, but she needs an army to do so. Enter Prince Niklaas, the 11th prince of a neighbouring kingdom who is also cursed. Mistaking Aurora for her brother while she is dressed like a boy, Niklaas asks to be taken to the princess, while "Jor" asks for an army to save a friend.

What happens henceforth is a darkly entertaining read. Aurora and Niklaas are both wonderful characters with distinct voices (the narration alternates between both their points of view). Aurora is a bit rough around the edges, which is quite refreshing in a heroine; and Niklaas was a complete playboy that I normally would've detested but instead adored. Their relationship was wonderfully crafted and developed slowly, and I can't thank the author enough for not rushing it like so many other YA novels.

The only thing that irked me was the lack of world-building. The world itself was enticing, but so much was just put out there without explanation, it was confusing and lacked any real depth.

An enjoyable retelling, though definitely not one you would expect.

Thoughts on the cover:
A good image of Aurora, though I was kind of expecting a more intense and striking pose.

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