The King from the neighboring land of Menaiya pays a visit to the humbler land of Adania. Princess Alyrra assumes they visit for trade reasons, but soon the naïve and reclusive princess understands that the king’s visit to her widowed mother is for the purposes of marriage negotiation. She will marry prince Kestrin and there is no argument she can make. Is this her escape from the troubles of her life or a trade-in for even greater problems? Alyrra doesn’t feel equal to the increase in importance and responsibility.
Magic intrudes, first in the appearance of a mysterious mage one night in Alyrra’s room. He has but a moment to speak to her before his malevolent enemy, The Lady, appears with terrible and vague threats to her or to the Menayan prince.
All her fears turn on their heads on the journey to Menaiya and marriage, when her lady companion, Valka, appears in the forest with The Lady, who steals her identity. Switching bodies with the princess, Valka enters Menaiya as the bride. Alyrra must endure her displeasure as the superior power and is sent off to tend the geese. Now living as the Goose Girl called Thorn, is this the escape Alyrra longed for or is it condemnation for the people of Menayia? Can she ignore her duty as princess, or must she face the dangers together with Prince Kestrin?
Intisar has written a thoroughly enjoyable, beautiful story. Retelling the classic tale of The Goose Girl, she broadens the horizons of the story and adds depth to places one might not expect it. I especially liked Alyrra’s struggle with the relief of casting off an oppressive identity versus the responsibilities it still holds over her heart. I also loved the exploration of The Lady, her motivations and grievances, and how Alyrra appeals to her for mercy.
I read the same tale re-told in “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale, but it was entirely different. I truly believe that each author will write a completely different tale even if given the same plot as a basis. Thorn demonstrates just that.
The ending expanded the heart of the tale, in my opinion. The character of Alyrra was forced to wrestle with her yearning of a simple, peaceful life of obscurity, and the great need of the helpless people around her for someone to stand for them. A terrified, reclusive girl becomes a true princess and hero. Her heroism grew from her strength of heart and her compassion, and I really love that. Thorn is a truly enjoyable, rich read, both entertaining and challenging.
September 17, 2013
I was gripped from the start and found this story to be a very different take on what is actually a kind of vampire fantasy, a genre I actually have little interest in, so to please me it had to go some!
I loved the high-octane opening scene – it introduced great tension at the very start.
I liked Hitomi herself, her great courage, her compassion shown by how she paid for the damaged horse, wanted to help others in need, even when they were a great danger to her and how this tendency proved her salvation in impossible situations. I loved how the author SHOWED the qualities of the characters instead of TELLING us about them.
I enjoyed the slow build-up of some kind of chemistry between the fearful and unlikely Val and Hitomi. I liked the way the magic was handled, showing it coming at a cost to the one who wields it and also the cunningly slow reveal of the level of the magical powers held by Hitomi. The scene with Val in the tower had a weirdness to it that was truly fascinating, the calling of the bird, the release of the soul from entrapment in the blood spell and the horror of Val himself.
I loved the turn of phrase in places, such as when Hitomi says of her mother, “Four years I’ve thought her dead, scrabbling to find my next meal and keep a roof over my head, while she has dressed in silk and wandered sunlit gardens.” Conveys so much grief, rejection and sorrow in so few words.
Compared to the more well-known vampire fantasies (and they are usually lesser in quality than this one,) there was a refreshing difference in tone that felt almost like a cultural difference and it was partly explained when I realized the author’s own cultural background may be very different from most others of this genre I have read. The book is better for that difference.
I loved how the book seemed to be adequately concluded for a “book one” of a series – it did not just stop and leave the reader hanging. It had its own sense of conclusion and this came to me mainly from the little carving that was given by Val to Hitomi at the end. I loved that touch and hoped for it from the first I heard of his carvings in the story. There are still plenty of reasons for me to want to read book two however.
I usually gripe about stories written in the present tense but somehow this one gets away with it.
I think this book will appeal to young adults and inspire them to want more.
Sunbolt is a shining beacon of great writing. It has an amazing story line and brilliant characters that a lot of authors aspire to reach. The cover is striking, but simple, allowing it to capture your eye with the title. It really is the whole package.
Hitomi, our protagonist, is a young woman who has dragged herself out of the gutter after losing her parents. She lives by her wits, occasionally having to resort to stealing from the street vendors, but normally doing any job she can find for herself. She is fiercely loyal and dependable and mixed up with the Shadow League – an underground group who seek to overthrow the shadowy villain, Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame – to restore Karolene to its former glory.
The richness of the world that Hitomi finds herself in, is a true testament to Intisar’s craft. The intricate details are woven seamlessly into the story, coaxing the reader head-first into the grimy alleys and cells Hitomi frequents. The action scenes are crisp, the writing so taut and to the point it almost sucker-punches the reader in the guts and the pacing of the story is simply perfection. Not too fast, not too slow, the reader is drip fed the information needed not a moment too soon.
When it comes to character development, Intisar once again is leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of authors I’ve read. Not only are each of the characters (even the side characters) three dimensional and complex, but they each have an individual personality that sees them exploding out of the pages and into the readers imagination. Personal choices are weighed and measured in serious situations and the characters must decide who to trust and who to leave behind. Betrayal plays a part in the story, but it’s wielded with an expert hand, allowing the appropriate amount of anguish and confusion without losing sight of the goals.
The fangs and lycans make an appearance, and while having been done to death in popular books lately, in this instance have been given a new breath of life. They’re rubbing shoulders with ‘breathers’ who are rather sinister beasts themselves. Breathers made me think of the mummified character of Imhotep from the movie, The Mummy. Creepy!
All this is tied together with a magical system that felt organically sewn into the story. Normally magical books seem like the magic could be removed from the book and it’d make little difference, in Sunbolt however, the magic has been fused with the storyline, the characters and even the cities and places explored in the story. If you removed the magic, you’d remove the story. It’s so brilliantly done.
I loved this book so much, I am going to purchase the other two stories Intisar has written and I’ll be reading them soon.
I cannot wait for the other books in this series to be released.
I look forward to reading more about Val and Hitomi and the rest of the motley cast.
Do yourself a favour – buy this book today. You will not be disappointed.
**Note: I was provided an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review***
This is one of the best books I’ve read in the last 12 months if not the best. The main character, a good-hearted law breaker, was fascinating to read. The fantastical elements were not over the top or ridiculous.
At least as good as Harry Potter.