• Nina Clare

Thornspell by Helen Lowe (2008)

Updated: Jul 10

Young Prince Sigismund leads a sheltered life, growing up in an isolated castle while his father fights campaigns abroad. He reads of Arthurian legends and dreams of a life of heroism and knight-errantry beyond the castle walls he is not allowed to leave. He also has a lot of questions, such as why will no one explain the mystery of the woods that he can see from the topmost turret of his castle? Is it really the home of a wicked sorcerer or a powerful faerie queen, or are they only tales? And what of the old story of a sleeping princess, ensnared by an evil enchantment in a palace of thorns: a palace said to be hidden in the woods? If that too is only a story, then why is he forbidden to go there?

As Sigismund matures, mysterious enemies and ghostly helpers begin to enter his world, and life becomes more interesting, and dangerous. Strange dreams and visions haunt him, and the old stories seem to have more reality than anyone wants to admit. Sigismund’s adventures lead him into dangerous and unseen worlds, as mortal and immortal fae collide. The mysteries around him slowly unfold as he learns his full identity and destiny.

Thornspell is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, or Briar Rose, told from the viewpoint of the rescuing prince. I really liked the fact that the sleeping princess was not a passive victim in this retelling, but a heroine just as brave as her knight in armour.

This is an imaginative retelling of Sleeping Beauty, which I would rate as being for mature middle-grade / YA readers, full of fairy tale motifs: dragons, faeries, knights and princesses, with a medieval setting and complex magic system. My only disappointment is that this is the only fairy tale retelling the author has written so far—here's hoping she writes some more!

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