Saturday, June 1, 2024

Thornhedge, by T. Kingfisher

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250244093, August 2023

We have a princess, sleeping in a tower. The tower is entirely surrounded by tall, thick, dangerous thornhedge. We know this story!

But no, this is T. Kingfisher, and she does strange and wonderful things to fairy tales.

Our heroine is Toadling, born in the tower, but stolen away by fairies, and raised in the warm waters of faerieland, in the loving care of the toads. And then she is summoned to go on a mission, to make a blessing on a newborn princess in the tower, to prevent harm. Such a simple mission. What could go wrong?

Everything, really. Starting with the fact that the queen thinks she's come to steal the baby princess.

Toadling finds herself committed to staying to keep the child out of trouble. Or trying to, because the child is the problem. Toadling finally sends the princess into a long, long sleep, after events I shall leave you to discover for yourself. Watching over the sleeping princess and making sure no brave and hearty heroes find and rescue her may not be exciting, but it is, mostly, peaceful. Except when it's not.

And then comes the first in a long, long time. A knight. A Muslim knight. He is, for reasons, obligated to save the princess. Toadling absolutely must prevent this. They are both intelligent, reasonable, and very likable people.

How can both goals be satisfied? Can either be satisfied?

It's a lot of fun.

This is a 2024 Hugo Awards Best Novella Finalist.

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