Thorn by Intisar Khanani




by Intisar Khanani

Genre: Fantasy, Folk Tale

Five stars

The King from the neighboring land of Menaiya pays a visit to the humbler land of Adania. Princess Alyrra assumes they visit for trade reasons, but soon the naïve and reclusive princess understands that the king’s visit to her widowed mother is for the purposes of marriage negotiation. She will marry prince Kestrin and there is no argument she can make. Is this her escape from the troubles of her life or a trade-in for even greater problems? Alyrra doesn’t feel equal to the  increase in importance and responsibility.

Magic intrudes, first in the appearance of a mysterious mage one night in Alyrra’s room. He has but a moment to speak to her before his malevolent enemy, The Lady, appears with terrible and vague threats to her or to the Menayan prince.

All her fears turn on their heads on the journey to Menaiya and marriage, when her lady companion, Valka, appears in the forest with The Lady, who steals her identity. Switching bodies with the princess, Valka enters Menaiya as the bride. Alyrra must endure her displeasure as the superior power and is sent off to tend the geese. Now living as the Goose Girl called Thorn, is this the escape Alyrra longed for or is it condemnation for the people of Menayia? Can she ignore her duty as princess, or must she face the dangers together with Prince Kestrin?

Intisar has written a thoroughly enjoyable, beautiful story. Retelling the classic tale of The Goose Girl, she broadens the horizons of the story and adds depth to places one might not expect it. I especially liked Alyrra’s struggle with the relief of casting off an oppressive identity versus the responsibilities it still holds over her heart. I also loved the exploration of The Lady, her motivations and grievances, and how Alyrra appeals to her for mercy.

I read the same tale re-told in “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale, but it was entirely different. I truly believe that each author will write a completely different tale even if given the same plot as a basis. Thorn demonstrates just that.

The ending expanded the heart of the tale, in my opinion. The character of Alyrra was forced to wrestle with her yearning of a simple, peaceful life of obscurity, and the great need of the helpless people around her for someone to stand for them. A terrified, reclusive girl becomes a true princess and hero. Her heroism grew from her strength of heart and her compassion, and I really love that. Thorn is a truly enjoyable, rich read, both entertaining and challenging. I approve this title for Awesome Indies.

I received this book from the author for the purposes of unbiased review.


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Ping Ping Panda and the Power of Personal Responsibility


Ping Ping Panda and the Power of Personal Responsibility

by Bernadette Shih & Stephen Smoke

Genre: Children, Folk Tale

Four Stars

I read Ping Ping Panda: The Power of Personal Responsibility with my 5-year-old son. I really like the purpose behind the story and the message to kids about taking responsibility.

Ping Ping the Panda receives a bag of money from his father for summer activities, telling him that it must last the whole summer. At a festival, Ping Ping and his friends enjoy all the cash and use it all on games, treats, and rides. When he returns home, he argues with his father about the money. Ping Ping is angry that his father sticks to his decision not to give Ping Ping more money. Father has a plan, though, and gives Ping Ping extra work. When the work is done, Ping Ping’s father gives him pay for his work. Over the summer Ping Ping earns enough money to go to the Big Concert and bring his friends along.

My son said he liked the story and the pictures, and his favorite part was where Ping Ping took his friends to the concert.

I enjoyed the bright, colorful pictures and the story’s admirable theme. The character pictures show cute and varying emotions in an interesting historical environment.

As a parent, I appreciate any reinforcement of my own lessons about responsibility. It is so easy in this fast and bountiful culture to miss the appreciation of what we have and of others’ generosity.

This book is written in the present tense, and I’m not a fan of that style. I feel the switch in the dialogue between past, present, and future tense, while correct, still makes for awkwardness in the flow of the story. This may not bother other readers. The story also uses a few big words which may be difficult for younger children. I don’t mind the bigger words because a few included in the story becomes an opportunity to teach a child vocabulary.

Ping Ping Panda: The Power of Personal Responsibility is a charming story that children will enjoy and learn a positive message. I approve this title for Awesome Indies.

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