“Thorn” by Anna Burke— A Fairy Tale

Burke, Anna. “Thorn”, Bywater Books, 2019. A Fairy Tale Amos Lassen We are never too old to enjoy a good fairy tale and Anna Burke has a great one that will remind of sitting in front of a fire and listening to a thrilling story. I had no idea of what to expect when I stated reading and when I finished, I did not want to close the covers of the book because that usually means the story is over. “Thorn” is set on a cold day in the winter and it begins when Rowan’s father returns from “an ill-fated hunting trip bearing a single, white rose.” Now following the Rose is the legendary Huntress The rose is followed by the Huntress who is tall, cruel, and beautiful and she takes Rowan back with her to a mountain that is populated solely by the creatures of the hunt. Rowan knows she must change—she had once thought that she was better than the villagers and their superstitions. She now finds herself in a curse that has deep roots and ruled by an old insidious magic.  Rowan is torn by her family loyalties. She feels both guilt and relief about escaping her betrothal to Avery Lockland who is both charming and arrogant. Yet she has complicated feelings for the Huntress, Rowan must find a way to break the curse she is under before it destroys everything she loves. There is a problem, however. If she can find a way to lift the curse, she will have to return to the life she left behind and that means the villagers and Avery and the cold winters that plague her village. With the Huntress, she can have eternal springs. “Thorn” is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast” but with a lesbian twist. This is the story of Rowan’s self-discovery when she inevitably met The Huntress. We go back in time to read how Rose became the prisoner of The Huntress. The Huntress has her own back story that led to the curse cast against her by the witch. Burke gives the story true beauty with her words. It becomes the story of two women who are completely different  yet fall in love with each other and deal with the truth of their lives. The Huntress is dark, cold and mysterious yet is one of the heroines of the story. We work our way, with Anna Burke’s help,  to understand her. We want her to be a positive kind of character and so we work at becoming empathetic and it is not always easy. It is the beauty of Anna Burke’s prose that brings the Huntress and, in fact, the entire story to life. We are determined to break down her defenses and get to know her so that we can relate. With time we watch her change from a misunderstood and tortured character who is arrogant, selfish and heartless but who transcends the journey to redemption. By the time we reach Rose’s ultimate sacrifice, we learn of the real meaning of the curse. In case you could not tell, I am having a bit of a difficult time writing this review and I just wonder if that has anything to do with my being a gay male reviewing a lesbian novel. There is so much that I can say but I do not want to ruin the read for anyone. I love that there is so much social relevance here and that this is a fairy tale for our times. There are several minor themes here— clothing, the release from bearing children, self-reliance, rdealing with a family or past that no longer fits, partnership, and the iimportance of self-knowledge and love. The book is a lovely way to escape into fantasy for a while.

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