Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher
There's a princess trapped in a tower. This isn't her story.
Meet Toadling. On the day of her birth, she was stolen from her family by the fairies, but she grew up safe and loved in the warm waters of faerieland. Once an adult though, the fae ask a favor of Toadling: return to the human world and offer a blessing of protection to a newborn child. Simple, right?
Centuries later, a knight approaches a towering wall of brambles, where the thorns are as thick as your arm and as sharp as swords. He's heard there's a curse here that needs breaking, but it's a curse Toadling will do anything to uphold...
COVER ART: Trevillion Images and Shutterstock
PUBLISHER: Tor Books
LENGTH: 116 pages
Queer Rep Summary: No canon queer rep.
THORNHEDGE is a Sleeping Beauty retelling which recasts the sleeper as someone best never woken: a faerie changeling whose confusion at the human world and disregard for other lives turns her into someone who can only be contained in sleep or stopped forever in death. The sleeper is constrained and contained by Toadling, the once-human girl who was stolen from her cradle and replaced by that very same changeling.
I like this as a take on Sleeping Beauty, but it plays the idea of changelings straight, not engaging with the historical links between “changeling” children and autism (or other ways of being ostracized for being strange). In that light, featuring a child so unable to learn social rules that she must be kept or killed becomes a more fraught narrative, one that makes the story harder to enjoy. I like Toadling and Halim, but because of how the backstory is told first as memories then as stories to Halim, I remain unsure just how much Toadling told him of what had happened. I appreciate Halim as an idea of a character, but as a novella there wasn’t really room to flesh out that many significant characters and Toadling received most of the detail (to Halim’s detriment). The time dilation between the human world and Faerie allows for a couple of cool narrative moments. Ultimately this is a book I would neither recommend nor dissuade someone from reading.
Graphic/Explicit CW for confinement.
Moderate CW for blood, violence, injury detail, abandonment, murder, animal cruelty, child death, death.
Minor CW for cursing, pregnancy, kidnapping, plague, self harm, suicide, torture, parental death.