If you love fairy tale reimagining’s, and stories of sisters with complicated relationships, you are in for a treat with Thornwood, by Leah Cypess (April 1st 2021 by Harvey Klinger)!
Princes Briony is rarely tidy, let alone polished, and is happy to avoid the public spotlight of being the heir to the throne. Her older sister, Princess Rosalin is beautiful, poised, and the pride of her parents. Rosalin is also cursed. She will to prick her finger on a spindle when she is 16, and she and everyone in the castle will sleep for a hundred years, until she’s woken by her true love’s kiss.
The morning of Rosalin’s birthday arrives. Briony hurries to her room, to offer such emotional support as Rosalin’s willing to take. And then…Briony wakes up in a strange room she’s never seen before, with no memory of how she got there. There she sees a mysterious old woman, and a spinning wheel. The old woman won’t give her any straight answers about what’s happening, but only cryptic and ominous hints that all is not well.
And indeed, Rosalin has been kissed awake by a boy who says he’s a prince, and everyone has woken up, but the wall of thorns around the castle is still there. The curse, it appears, hasn’t been entirely broken. There’s still a snarl of fairy magic, malevolent thorns trying to take over the castle, and unhappy residents. Prince Varian is no help (he’s a fairly useless prince), and Rosalin is preoccupied by having been woken up by her true love to figure out what’s happening and do something about it. But Briony and a new friend Edwin, a boy who deliberately snuck into the castle just before the curse day came, are determined to break the curse once and for all.
It’s a lovely fantasy mystery! Lots of twisty clues, things that aren’t what they seem, and much uncertainty about who to trust! It’s not perfect–I wondered how one character, supposedly trapped by the enchanted sleep, still knew about the technological progress made by the outside world (the sleep lasted rather more than 100 years….). And I didn’t like how Rosalin’s relationship with Briony was mostly one of putting her down (though it was clear they loved each other).
Still, Briony was a great strong, smart and stubborn protagonist, and it was easy, and fun, the cheer for her! Especially since the challenging circumstances of being stuck inside a castle that no longer had a kingdom (because time had marched on outside), whose population no longer lived to serve (because why should they?), and a new best friend who was a commoner, forcer her to think hard thoughts about princess-ness. And so in the end this was one I enjoyed lots, though didn’t quite love (mainly because Rosalin was such a pill….).
In short, a fun and fascinating twist on a familiar story.