By Stacey Jay
Available now from Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)
PRINCESS OF THORNS takes the Sleeping Beauty story and runs with it. Aurora and her brother are the twin children of the Sleeping Beauty of legend, whose fate went awry when she was awakened early. Aurora is key to stopping the trolls, including her evil stepmother, from taking over. But she must face the trolls because they're holding her brother hostage.
PRINCESS OF THORNS involves so many things I like. It has a character in disguise (Aurora pretending to be her brother), a romance that blooms slowly, and an emphasis on redemption over revenge. Aurora's companion on her quest is Niklaas, a prince from a neighboring kingdom who is desperate to marry her (which is awkward, since he thinks she's her brother). He's living out the story of the seven swans, and only has a short time left as a human. However, he's not willing to just give up his secrets, which makes his life more difficult. Niklaas and Aurora deserve each other's stubbornness.
What amazes me about PRINCESS OF THORNS is that Stacey Jay made me enjoy a villain point of view. I often find villain points of view useless, telling the reader too much and wallowing perversely in murder, torture, and other such delights. Yet Jay uses the stepmother's point of view to flesh out troll culture and further the themes of the novel. She manages to make the stepmother a sympathetic character despite her hateful actions at the beginning of the story.
PRINCESS OF THORNS is a compelling read for any fairytale fan. It stitches several together (including Little Red Riding Hood) while still managing to do its own thing. Jay isn't so devoted to nodding to tales that she forgets the story she wants to tell. It helps that her characters are not the half-sketched things of fairytales. Aurora, Niklaas, and the Ogre Queen are all forceful characters.
I devoured this book (and possibly spent a bit longer out at lunch than I should have) because I had so much fun reading it. I definitely need to read that Jay book I bought last year but never got around to!