Book Review : Thornhedge

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : ThornhedgeThornhedge by T. Kingfisher
Published by Tor Books on August 15th 2023
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 128
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three-half-stars
Source: NetGalley

From USA Today bestselling author T. Kingfisher, Thornhedge is an original, subversive fairytale about 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 Toadling: return to the human world and offer a blessing of protection to a newborn child. Simple, right?
If only.
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...

Ever since reading What Moves the Dead, I’ve become a huge fan of T. Kingfisher’s books, snapping them up left and right. I love how the author manages to effortlessly pivot from sweet and quirky fairytale retellings to dark and twisted horror stories. In Thornhedge, Kingfisher manages to merge both of these genres with aplomb, creating a simultaneously sweet, but dark and violent retelling of the classic tale Sleeping Beauty.

 

“There was simply no way to hide a hedge with thorns like sword blades and stems as thick as a man’s thigh. A wall like that invited curiosity and with curiosity came axes, and it was all the fairy could do to keep some of those curious folk from gaining entrance to the tower.”*


Thornhedge poses the question, “what if the beautiful maiden sleeping in the tower was put to sleep and hidden away for a more sinister reason?” And in Thornhedge, this reason is simple—it’s for the world’s own protection from this Sleeping Beauty, who’s beautiful appearance hides a truly dangerous secret. I was truly enthralled by this story and was floored that the protagonist of this story was not the helpless sleeping damsel in need of a white knight, but the “evil” fairy who laid a “gift” on her in the first place.

Toadling, the faerie godmother in question,  has a truly unique upbringing—she was stolen from her human parents at birth, and raised in the swamps of the faerielands, something which renders her more fae than human. Knowing the circumstances of her life, a goddess appears, and calls for Toadling to leave her home and to become a faerie godmother in order to bestow a crucial gift upon a newborn princess.  But when the day comes to bless the child, everything does not go according to plan and Toadling is forced to deal with the increasingly violent consequences.

 

 

“His eyes were grave. ‘Some things can’t be fixed.’

‘We couldn’t change her,’ said Toadling, feeling as if the words were broken glass in her ruined throat.”


Thornhedge does a fantastic job of setting up the mystery of why Toadling remains alone, with only a wall of  thorns as company, as centuries pass. This novella sucks readers in by giving more details of Toadling’s past piecemeal, leaving readers with the magic of suspense until the full story is divulged. Kingfisher truly is a master of dread and readers quickly learn that  the Sleeping Beauty is anything but the Disney version of the character.

 

“‘This would be easier if you could turn into a toad,’ said Toadling, after Halim had been hacking away with a hatchet for several hours. He raised an eyebrow at her. ‘I can safely say that in all my life, no one has ever said that to me before,’ he said.”


I immediately liked Toadling, as Kingfisher enchantingly crafts her as an endearingly otherworldly, but kind and sensitive, fairy. Through Toadling, we see the difference between the worlds of the fairy and the humans. Though each world is cruel, it’s in very different ways. Thornhedge charmingly shows off Kingfisher’s talent for truly unique and quirky world-building along with her zany sense of humor, which though quieter in this novella, still manages to show itself through Toadling’s new friendship with an ineffectual, but sensitive knight who originally aims to break the curse surrounding the mysterious sleeping maiden.

 

I highly recommend this to pre-existing fans of T. Kingfisher’s works, especially those who loved Nettle & Bone, as it really combines the author’s talents for both the dark and the sweet in a delightfully entertaining and satisfying way. Thornhedge is also the perfect read for fans of fairytale retellings and those who like strong female protagonists. 

 

*All quotes taken from an ARC and subject to change at time of publication.

**The cover of this publication is not yet available. 

 

three-half-stars
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Book Review : Thornhedge - Blogging with Dragons

Posted February 15, 2023 in ARCS, Book Reviews, Fantasy

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2 responses to “Book Review : Thornhedge

  1. Bookwyrm

    You seem to have started at the horror end of Kingfisher’s books. Have you read any of her fantasy or children’s stuff? I am specifically thinking of her books set in the world of the Temple of the White Rat for the fantasy which is the basis for several series and stand-alones.

    • Yes, I did somehow start on the horror end, but I also love her fantasy and children’s books. As a matter of fact, I just finished her book “Minor Mage,” earlier this week and “A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking,” is a delight too. I haven’t read that series yet though, but I hope you enjoy it!

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