- Title: Thornhedge
- Author: T. Kingfisher
- Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
- Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling
- Would I recommend: Yes! I love fairy tale retellings, and I especially love ones that turn the expected on its ear.
Thornhedge is the tale of a kind-hearted, toad-shaped heroine, a gentle knight, and a mission gone completely sideways.
There’s a princess trapped in a tower. This isn’t her story.
Meet Toadling. On the day of her birth, she was stolen from her family by the fairies, but she grew up safe and loved in the warm waters of faerieland. Once an adult though, the fae ask a favor of return to the human world and offer a blessing of protection to a newborn child. Simple, right?
But nothing with fairies is ever simple.
Centuries later, a knight approaches a towering wall of brambles, where the thorns are as thick as your arm and as sharp as swords. He’s heard there’s a curse here that needs breaking, but it’s a curse Toadling will do anything to uphold…
A fairy tale retold, but with a twist? Yes, please!
Here we see the story of Sleeping Beauty retold from the point of view of the fairy. Toadling was supposed to be the princess, but she was stolen by the fae and a changeling was left in her place. She was raised by the greenteeth, trained in the ways of their magic. And when she was grown, the fae asked her to return to the human world, to place a spell of protection on the creature who took her place. But as often happens, the spell goes awry, and Toadling remains with the humans, to protect the princess as best as she can.
But as the changeling princess grows, she shows herself adept at casual cruelty to animals and people alike, and Toadling must more often protect others from her. Toadling’s magic is weak. The creature – for that is what the “princess” is – is strong, and vicious, and without a shred of empathy. The best thing Toadling can do is to put the princess into an enchanted sleep and guard the castle, lest anyone get some foolish idea about castles and princesses and breaking a spell with true love’s kiss. And history passes them by – Toadling, castle, and princess – until one day a knight comes along, drawn by an old, old story.
This is a fantastic reimagining of Sleeping Beauty! The fairy is always evil, come to wreak harm on the innocent human princess. Here, though, Kingfisher flips the whole thing around, and it absolutely works. Toadling is a winsome character, and the knight, though not big on derring-do, is charming in unexpected ways. It works.
It is a novella, not a full-length novel. I don’t think I realized that when I started reading. But that’s long enough. Would I love more of Toadling’s story? Of course. Was this story just right? Absolutely.
The story is gentle, in turns wistful and thought-provoking, touching on topics of love, loss, responsibility, and the deceptive nature of the outer self. It may be one of my favorite books this year. I highly recommend it, and I must read more of T. Kingfisher’s books.
Thanks to NetGalley and Tor for an advance reader copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.