Princess of Thorns
by Stacey Jay
Read: November 16 - 19, 2014
Published: December 9, 2014 by Delacorte Press
Source: Netgalley (THANK YOU, Random House!)
Tags: YA fantasy, fairytales, ogres
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository
Game of Thrones meets the 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 a 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 forever keep them from finding their one true love?
My note: Please ignore the Game of Thrones reference in the title. I automatically disregard other literary comparisons, because I think they're confusing and not useful.
Guess what, guys? I really liked this book a lot! Based on my feelings about the characters (well one) in the beginning of the story, and some early reviews I saw, I didn't expect to like Princess of Thorns as much as I did. A happy surprise, indeed! Also, don't believe everything you see, unless you read it for yourself.
Princess Aurora is on a mission to rescue her brother Jor from the ogre queen who has captured him. It is not good that he's been taken, since Aurora and her brother have been hiding for years from the evil Queen Ekeeta. She needs Aurora and Jor to fulfill a dark prophecy that will not benefit anyone but the ogres. This recent development is even more frustrating, because Aurora is the rightful heir to the throne. But instead of ruling, she and her brother have been hiding with the fairies for the past 10 years. Unfortunately, things go wrong almost immediately for Aurora once she sets out, as she's captured and drugged by slavers.
This is the point where Prince Niklaas comes into the story He's on his own mission to find Aurora and convince her to marry him. He needs her to help defeat a curse that will all but destroy him when he turns 18. Aurora is dressed as a boy in armor when Niklaas encounters her, making him think she's really her brother Jor. Aurora has her reasons for not telling Niklaas the truth (partially due to her fairy gifts, or curses depending on how you look at them), and together they form an uneasy alliance. Their goal is to hire an army to help free the real Jor. Although Niklaas' version of their mission is slightly different, because he's not been clued into the fact the boy he's traveling with is really a girl.
Here's the thing. I despised Niklaas when I first met him. His views on women and constant boasting about his past conquests were off-putting to say the least. If I'd met him in real life, I wouldn't have gone anywhere near him. Thankfully, Aurora is equally turned off by his behavior. But this made his character growth so excellent to witness first hand. I was truly amazed by how my feelings changed about him from the first to the last pages. Plus it was so much fun watching Aurora challenge every one of his beliefs about girls, even when Niklaas thought she was a boy and he didn't know it was happening.
However, it's not only Niklaas who has some growing to do. Aurora also learns some tough lessons through this story. There was even a moment when I stated in my Goodreads updates, "Girl, I would punch you in the face if I could." I was so mad at her!! But all those strong emotions mean that I cared about this book and these characters. Truly, the strength of this book for me was in the characters and relationship between Aurora and Niklaas: how it developed and changed as they faced dangerous situations and had to learn to trust each other. Their constant banter was fun to read, but I really enjoyed the way they each grew up throughout the story. I also appreciated the way this book explores stereotypes and gender roles. I was challenged on both sides of that question, and in the end, really appreciated the moments that made me angry, because they also made me think.
On the other hand, I did think that the overall mythology was confusing, and I never fully grasped the ogre's mission. There were a lot of different magical elements put together in this story - in addition to ogres: a swan prince, fairy blessings, witches, even a brief Rapunzel reference. It was an interesting mashup of fantasy elements from various fairytales, though most of them were just side details (including the Sleeping Beaty connection). The basic plot of the story was also fairly simple. It is a quest of sorts, but it's straight forward if you break it down, and I wasn't surprised where it takes the characters in the end.
But even though I wasn't surprised where the characters end up, I wasn't expecting who they would be at the end, or how the specific events would play out. For that, Princess of Thorns has a strong and surprising ending that solidifies it along with Of Beast and Beauty as another great read from Stacey Jay.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone!