Published by Self published on May 30, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, YA
Find the book: Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads
For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she's never had ... until she's betrayed.
Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family's cruelty and the court's contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.
But powerful men have powerful enemies--and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman's, giving Alyrra the first choice she's ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she's never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.
This book is based on The Goose Girl, a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. I sort of wish I’d known that going in, because after doing some research it seems like some of the plot points that felt a little random were actually part of the fairy tale and that’s probably why they were included.
Anyway, the first few chapter of this book were so interesting, I was drawn right in. The writing is strong, the world is interesting, and it felt relatively unique compared to other fantasy novels I’ve read.
These first chapters introduce Princess Alyrra’s (AKA Thorn) family, who quickly make themselves out to be great villains. I was firmly in Alyrra’s corner and I was ready to spend a whole novel with that character. The plot really started picking up when Alyrra left her home to meet her prince, and when the big betrayal happened I was totally outraged and heartbroken on Alyrra’s behalf. I took that as a really good sign because I was invested in her character so early in the book.
But then…the plot started to wander. It wasn’t clear what Alyrra wanted, if she was angry that she wouldn’t be the queen, or if she was happy to be free of the responsibility. It seemed like it was a little bit of both, which would have been fine but I wish her emotions had been clearer. As she’s written, Alyrra came off as weak willed and kind of indifferent to what was happening to her. That was frustrating because…if she didn’t care about what was going on in her life, why should I?
There’s also magic in this book, because what’s a fantasy novel without magic? Sometimes it was woven into the story pretty well, but other times I had no idea what was going on, or why the magic was important to the plot. For example, Alyrra’s mother does some kind of spell, I think? That’s supposed to make the prince love her? At least I think that’s what it was. It gets mention a few times in the book but I was never totally sure what it was about. The rules of the magic didn’t seem very clearly defined, and so certain things felt very random. The one thing I really didn’t like was (and this isn’t a major spoiler) the talking horse. Apparently that’s something taken from the original Grimm fairy tale. The horse ends up helping Alyrra, and I wouldn’t have minded a magic horse but it didn’t do much that was significant to the overall plot. I kept waiting for Alyrra’s friendship with the horse to make her do something, but it never really paid off.
In fact, there were a few parts of the book that never paid off. A whole gang of thieves was introduced for little purpose, Alyrra gets lost in the fields twice and finds a weird cavern place where the prince has been practicing sorcery, I think?
Alyrra’s relationship with the prince was fine, and they did get some good interactions, but he wasn’t a very memorable character to me. I wish we’d gotten to see more of him, and I wish Alyrra’s feelings for him had been clearer. The romance between the two of them wasn’t developed very much, which was kind of disappointing.
Overall, the book felt cluttered, like there were too many plot threads that should have been paired down. If the plot had been more focused, I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more. As it was, the middle really dragged and if the beginning hadn’t been so interesting I think I would have given up.
The end wasn’t horrible. There wasn’t a huge cliffhanger or anything like that, which was nice. But it still ended up being a little underwhelming.