On a cold day deep in the heart of winter, Rowan’s father returns from an ill-fated hunting trip bearing a single, white rose. The rose is followed by the Huntress, a figure out of legend. Tall, cruel, and achingly beautiful, she brings Rowan back with her to a mountain fastness populated solely by the creatures of the hunt. Rowan, who once scorned the villagers for their superstitions, now finds herself at the heart of a curse with roots as deep as the mountains, ruled by an old magic that is as insidious as the touch of the winter rose. Torn between her family loyalties, her guilty relief at escaping her betrothal to the charming but arrogant Avery Lockland, and her complicated feelings for the Huntress, Rowan must find a way to break the curse before it destroys everything she loves. There is only one problem―if she can find a way to lift the curse, she will have to return to the life she left behind. And the only thing more unbearable than endless winter is facing a lifetime of springs without the Huntress.
Rating: 4/5 🌈
Published: 29th January 2019
Rep: wlw mcs (ownvoices)
“You,” she said, as if she had only just realized who I was. “Rowan.” Her eyes dropped to the dress, then back to my face. “Rowan,” she said again, like it was the only word she knew.
Review copy provided by publisher
Sometimes, you finish a book, and you’re just sat there basking in the afterglow, and then realise you need to review it but have no words to actually describe your feelings about it. I mean, fair enough, this is me a lot of the time, I’ll grant you. But this one felt particularly hard to review. Because I loved it a lot but also had (still have, even) no words to reflect that.
Thorn is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where “Beauty” is Rowan, the daughter of a disgraced merchant whose family recently moved back to where her mother grew up, and the “Beast” is the Huntress, a woman under a curse after she kills a boy who came to win her heart.
One of the best things about retellings of classic tales is that they can take something you’ve read/seen a lot and turn it into something wholly new (and I mean like, wholly wholly new, none of this keeping it white and cishet. No one has time for that). So Thorn was a breath of fresh air in that respect. (It’s also the second f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast I’ve read recently, but what I love is that both of the retellings are so hugely different from one another.)
My favourite thing about this book was the writing. Everything about the worldbuilding was lush and gorgeously described. It sounds trite, but it definitely felt like you were there with the characters. For me, the worldbuilding and writing have to be good before I even consider how I feel about the characters. Bad writing is an instant killer for me, but the writing here? Just about perfect, probably.
Anna Burke’s previous book, Compass Rose, was one of the best books I read last year. And one of my favourite things about it was the tension between the characters (even if, ultimately, I picked the wrong couple to root for… I’m not bitter, truly). I felt like in Thorn, there was maybe a little of that lacking. Sure, I loved Rowan and the Huntress, and there were some perfect scenes between them, but there was maybe that tiny bit of tension missing.
Having rambled this much, I’ll end with this: Thorn is probably up there among my favourite books. It’s definitely one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve ever read.