REVIEW: 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?
But nothing with fairies is ever simple.
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…
CW – it is mentioned that one character in the story tortured others, including animals. Nothing specific is described.
Dear Ms. Kingfisher,
Oh, what a lovely story. I can easily see how this flowed (pun intended) into being. The heroine is delightful and just the kind of self-effacing person who I enjoy watching save the day. And Toadling saves so many, most of whom have/had no idea of what she did.
What if a fairy tale has a different way of happening? What if everything gets flipped? Meet Toadling who the fairies stole from her cradle and exchanged for a changeling. Then Toadling was tossed away to the greenteeth, the slimey swamp dwelling spirits, who raised her because fairies don’t care, they just want to do mischief. Then after Toadling was older and happy, other fairies took her away to try to fix what was wrong. And Toadling tried. She really did but despite all the training, they forgot to train her for the one thing that tripped her up.
Now Toadling stands guard. She was supposed to keep others from harm but she didn’t. So she sentences herself to stay and watch life go on and silently pray for the Keep to be left alone. For what she watches to be left alone. Then one day another knight appears, a different kind of knight. One who swears to her that he’ll help. But can they overcome something so evil?
Yay for a plain heroine who stays that way! Yay for a hero who replies that he’s not much to look at either and far down the line of succession but he listens. And he tells Toadling “I believe you,” he said again, and the words filled up the hollow space under her breastbone the way that few other words ever had.
Toadling does her best. She does her best in the face of people who treat her with affectionate contempt. She does her best around people who should have loved her but who didn’t have the strength to do what needed to be done. She does her best although she’s been taken away from those who, however frightening they may appear to humans, do love her. She does her best and tries. She does her best in the face of a goddess who tells her “Did you expect a goddess to be kind?” She feels a little rage at that. She has the heart to ask the hero “Can you do this?” and worries about what she’s asking of him, the man whose mother has taught him manners and to apologize. Halim is a darling, too.
I wasn’t quite sure how things would end up. I pondered this as I read to the end and realized that I would have been happy either way Toadling decided to do things. But I think she made the right choice. This is the sort of story I want to flip back to the beginning and start reading again the minute I finish it. And I agree. It is sweet, dammit. A