Thornspell is written by Helen Lowe. It was published in 2008 by Alfred A. Knopf.
Prince Sigismund has grown up hearing fantastical stories about enchantments and faie spells, basilisks and dragons, knights errant and heroic quests. He’d love for them to be true—he’s been sheltered in a country castle for most of his life and longs for adventure—but they are just stories. Or are they? From the day that a mysterious lady in a fine carriage speaks to him through the castle gates, Sigismund’s world starts to shift. He begins to dream of a girl wrapped, trapped, in thorns. He dreams of a palace, utterly still, waiting. He dreams of a man in red armor, riding a red horse—and then suddenly that man arrives at the castle! Sigismund is about to learn that sometimes dreams are true. That the world is both more magical and more dangerous than he imagined. And that the heroic quest he imagined for himself as a boy…begins now.
I appreciate Helen Lowe’s work in building a lore and a magic around the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. It was, for the most part, developed well with Arthurian and other classic influences entwined with all the faie stuff. Sigismund is like a young Arthur himself (he’s even called the Young Dragon, which raises obvious connections to Arthur’s Pendragon).
However, not even the lore could pull me into this book. I thought that it took entirely too long for the Sleeping Beauty part to even begin, and I was utterly confused as to why the Margravine wanted the princess in the first place. It’s hard to enjoy reading a quest when you don’t understand what people’s motivations are.
In addition, some of the stuff at the end of the novel was just weird. Perhaps it would have affected me differently if I had really been immersed in the story, but for the most part throughout the book I thought Lowe was trying too hard with her prose. So the ending didn’t mesh with me because nothing in the book meshed with me. Part of the problem was that I simply could not get into the book, so half the time my mind was on other things while I was reading and I didn’t process as much as I would have liked to.
Finally, some of the character/plot reveals are really obvious, and most of the characters are very flat and stale. Sigismund is an okay hero, I guess, but he does entirely too much internal monologuing.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Middle Grade
Balisan’s cat eyes gleamed at Sigismund through torchlight and shadow. “A dragon is the symbol of your House, is it not?”
Sigismund shrugged. “Master Griff says that half the world uses dragons as an emblem, because they denote power and ambition in the human world.”
“Master Griff is correct, of course,” said Balisan. “But if you asked him, he would also tell you that the crown princes of this kingdom has always been known as the Young Dragon.”