Thursday, December 4, 2014

ARC Review: Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

Title: Princess of Thorns
Author: Stacey Jay
Published: December 9, 2014 by Delacorte Press (Random House)

Synopsis: Game of Thrones meets the Grimm’s fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora’s throne ten years ago.

Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it’s too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?

**** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review in return. This fact has not changed my opinion.****

Princess of Thorns was an interesting and enjoyable fairy tale retelling and YA high fantasy novel. But be warned, this is not the Sleeping Beauty story you are used to. This is based more on the classic fairy tale and is about Sleeping Beauty's daughter. And while it didn't blow me away but it had great characters, a swoonworthy romance, and an interesting plot.

One thing I really enjoyed about Princess of Thorns was the world that Stacey Jay created. Pay no attention to the Game of Thrones comparison (even though I used GoT gifs), I mean it's there but vaguely, and the exiled ruler fighting to regain their kingdom is not a new concept. But the Grimm's Brothers and fairy tale retelling elements were there in full force. And it wasn't just the story of Sleeping Beauty. There were other elements of fairy tales throughout the book like ogres and witches as well as other fairy tales like The Twelve Brothers. Jay effortlessly combined these stories into something unique and interesting. But more than that she created an entralling world of magic and mystery. Her prose definitely captured my interest. I felt like I could perfectly visualize everything she had created as if I were there. Everything from the castles and the countryside, to the characters and even mundane things like the way camp smelled. It helped transport me into the world of the book.

However my favorite thing about Princess of Thorns may have been the characters. At first glance they seem like basic tropes. A princess trained as a warrior to regain her kingdom and save her people is not a new concept. Nor is the tough and mysogonistic prince who wants to marry her. And yet both Aurora and Niklaas seem complex and well-rounded. Aurora was a kickass female protagonist but she was far from perfect. Nikolass was also tough and smart but at times incredibly annoying with his old-fashioned ideas about women. And they both kind of had the same weaknesses. They expected the worst in people and lied and manipulated each other and others to get their way. And because the book was told in alternating perspectives, we got a little dramatic irony when it came to their lack of trust in one another. At times it was frustrating because we knew that what they thought wasn't true but it also made me keep reading and I slowly become invested in their story. If you had asked me a third of the way into the book if I would love these characters, I would have said no! But they both have great character arcs throughout the book and their Hero's Journeys made them likable and easy to root for when we get to the climax. 

But even better than their own development, I loved the development of their relationship. They start the book as unlikely partners full of arguments and hilarious banter (and lies, did I mention the lies?). Then throughout their journey and shared struggles they become friends and equals. The banter continues but it instead comes from a place of devotion and had me laughing along with them. And then that devotion becomes romantic. It was the kind of romance that I always love, the perfect slow-burn. I didn't ship it at first, I didn't even know I shipped it until I was swooning and clapping when (spoiler alert?) they finally getting together. But even that romance came at a price.

Usually I feel like my biggest problems with books tends to be with the pacing, and while this one was kind of problematic, it was the plotting that left me more frustrated. After a huge and eventful first chapter there was a steady rise until an exciting climax. But it all just kind of felt very muddled and not my favorite. For one thing it felt like the plot development had a lot more exposition than I am used to with standalones. For long stretches of the book it was nothing but world-building and travel monolgue, which you all know I hate. But it seemed like a series of moments and some moments just felt like they didn't move the larger story forward. And then when we did finally get to the big conclusion it was over to quickly and there wasn't much connection between some of the previous moments. There were clues along the way that helped you figure out how the story would be going but on the whole a lot of the book felt like filler to me. And it's not that they were bad moments. I just think I would have enjoyed it more if the plot had played to it's strengths and was more character-driven and less plot-driven.

On the whole it was an enjoyable ride. Princess of Thorns is the kind of book that grows on you. You keep chugging along with it and before you realize it you are immersed and connected with the world so much that it affects you in ways you never expected. And despite the fact that it did feel a little long at only 400 pages it was worth the investment when everything was all said and done.

I give Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. This would make the perfect pick for a library stop. It is an investment but in the end I hope you will enjoy the characters and the world as much as I did. I would definitely recommend this to fans of YA fairy tale retellings. It takes more than a few fairy tale stories and makes them into a unique and interesting tale. Princess of Thorns isn't perfect but with an interesting world and characters who grow on you it's worth a read.


  1. I have a hard time with long stretches of worldbuilding too, but I love the idea behind this book and it sounds like the characters make it worth it. I think I'll check this one out!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. The long stretches without the plot development were annoying but yes, the characters and the ending made up for it a lot. I hope you read it and enjoy.

  2. Can I start by saying that you are a GIF rockstar. You always nab the perfect ones! (love me some A.S.O.I.A.F) Also I'm glad to see so many of my trusted reviews are enjoying this. It gives me high hopes and since I'm a sucker for fantasy I'm a bit more prone to liking these types of books. Great review doll! Keep it up.

    1. Haha, you always compliment my gif game. Thank you! I hope you check it out and like it. I'm a sucker for these kinds of books too. At the beginning I thought I was going to be let down but I really liked it. And did you just imply that I am one of your "trusted reviewers." I'm going to assume you did! That's so sweet! Is it because I tend to be pretty critical? Whatever reason, I'll take it!

  3. Great review! I agree about the plotting, especially at the end. I felt like we were missing at least one chapter from the Ogre's perspective, because Things Happened that didn't QUITE add up, and the climax happened so fast. Otherwise, I really adored the characters and the romance and of course the ending. <3

    1. YES! I totally agree! Things happen that don't quite add up. It's not quite a dues ex machina (which I hate) it was just a total left field move. A little more in-depth with the Ogre Queen would have solved that, you're right. But I'm glad you also enjoyed it.