You really need to jump on the Intisar Khanani bandwagon. Shortly after I acquired her debut novel, Thorn, for my Kindle, HarperTeen bought the book and it’s as yet unpublished companion novel, A Theft of Sunlight. Intisar Khanani is about to become a thing and her books are about to become more expensive. You can still get Sunbolt and Memories of Ash inexpensively, and you should do that ASAP.
In the few books I’ve read by Intisar Khanani, she has impressed me with her complex heroines, nuanced stories and worlds. In Thorn, she gives us Princess Alyrra. Alyrra is the lowest in the pecking order, largely scorned by her court and from a small, insignificant realm. The king of a much more powerful nation comes looking for a bride for his son. Alyrra is afraid to go, but more afraid to stay. On the journey to her new home, there is a magical attack and she switches bodies with her female traveling companion. Alyrra cannot reveal what has happened, and she has a choice now to be free, or to find a way to reveal the imposter and reclaim her body. Alyrra renames herself Thorn.
Thorn is based in part on “The Goose Girl” so the basic story will be familiar to anyone who knows the fairytale. Khanani makes some important changes to the story. The maid who steals the princess’ life is a member of the aristocracy, who has abused her position before. Rather than being about someone having a right to rule by blood, Thorn explores what people deserve in their leaders. As a goose girl, Thorn has an opportunity to see society from the bottom. Though the king and prince are kinder than Thorn’s mother and brother, there’s as little justice in her new realm. Thorn can choose freedom or justice.
“This is about justice.”
“Justice for the poor?” He laughs, sitting back. “There is justice for the rich here, lady, and justice for the powerful. But for the rest of us there is very little of anything.”
“Laurel told me that there are two laws here: the King’s Law and the thieves’ law. If the King’s Law only serves the rich, what of the thieves’ law?”
What does it cost to earn love and trust? Is justice enough, or does it also require compassion and mercy?
Intisar Khanani is creating some of the most interesting contemporary YA fantasy. I like The Sunbolt Chronicles better, but even in Khanani’s first work, her talent shines. I’ve read everything she has published so far, and her work gets more and more interesting.