I like fairytale retellings. I also like fairytale sequels. And kick-ass princesses. So by all rights, I should have enjoyed Princess of Thorns. I started the book feeling really excited. But, by the halfway point, I was really annoyed, and by the end of the book, I couldn't muster up any good feelings towards the two main protagonists.
Because their relationship is messed up.
First, background stuff. Princess of Thorns follows Aurora, daughter of Sleeping Beauty as she fights against the evil Ogre Queen who has her younger brother. She disguises herself as a boy, and runs into Niklaas, a pretty-boy (literally. Aurora describes him as pretty many, many, way too many times) who wants to marry the Princess Aurora to break the curse. Of course, it's hate at first site, until Aurora sees Niklaas unclothes, starts to drool over him and bam, you have love. Oh, and Aurora can't kiss any man she loves. Just a note because this is important.
So, that's the background knowledge. And now, this is why I think their relationship is messed up, summarised in this one quote from the book: (Note, the first person who speaks is Aurora. The "I" is Niklaas)
"And perhaps, if men were brought up to be gentler people, women wouldn't have need of protectors. Have you ever thought of that?"And just so you know, Niklass never admits that he's changed his way of thinking. The first half of the book was him boasting about how he's seduced so many girls, and how he'd easily seduce Princess Aurora, and protect her by, among other things, lying to her.
I shake my head. "Men aren't going to change, Ror. Men are what they are."
"And women are more than you allow them to be. Women can be strong, Niklaas. If given the chance, they can handle the world, maybe even handle it better than a man."
"All right." I snort. "If you say so, Ror."
"I do say so."
I look straight at him before I roll my eyes, wanting to make sure my opinion of his opinion is abundantly clear. "Maybe you've met girls like that in your many travels around your enchanted fairy island, but that's not the way it is in the real world."
Of course, he's pissed (and humiliated/embarrassed when he finds out Ror is Aurora).
Here's the spoiler part: For Aurora to save the world and get her guy, she has to give up her powers and become weak. Actually, weaker than most women, in her own words. Whee, Niklass gets the girl he can protect. Do you feel my lack of excitement?
In fact, the way the ending felt to me was that he only accepted Aurora because she had lost his powers. She had proposed to him before, but he refused to marry her because he didn't want her to be the one saving him.
It's a pity, because Stacey Jay can write good characters. The Ogre Queen, for instance. She's the villain, but she's so compelling, and may be my favourite characters. Her sections were easily the best in the book. And there was Crimsim, who I thought was going to Ror's lady-in-waiting/fighter-in-waiting, but disappeared after a few chapters and was never heard from again.
I've heard that this book is like Mulan. Nope, nope, nope. Mulan doesn't fawn over Shang (even though he is a pretty boy), and their relationship seems pretty healthy to me. Now I feel like watching Mulan again. And Sleeping Beauty.
Disclaimer: I got this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.