“Ten Thousand Thorns” by Suzannah Rowntree

"Ten Thousand Thorns" by Suzannah Rowntree Some books just “sing”.

Others…don’t work for some people.

What if Sleeping Beauty was a martial artist?

For a hundred years, Princess Morning Light has meditated in a hidden temple surrounded by ten thousand thorns. Could her long-lost sword skill be the key to stopping the Vastly Martial Emperor?

Rebel leader Clouded Sky doesn’t believe in the old legends of Ten Thousand Thorns Temple. But as bounty hunters and imperial guards close in, the martial princess may be Clouded Sky’s last hope.

Who can he trust – and who is planning to betray him?

If you liked the martial arts and fierce female characters of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you’ll love this action-packed retelling of Sleeping Beauty!

The People in Front

The book has two leads. Clouded Sky is a young fugitive – a martial arts disciple trying to resist the invading emperor’s forces, while grieving his commander and brother’s deaths at said emperor’s hands. Undeserved misfortune? Check. Save-the-cat moment? Check (he agrees to help the village he’s passing through).

The Iron Maiden, on the other hand, makes her first appearance by throwing the village chief through the tavern wall. Then she berates the tavern waitress, and holds the chief hostage until somebody fights her. Then she kicks Clouded Sky’s butt…several times.

This gal is undeniably a character with secrets – and mad skillz – but her first impression was not someone I would root for.

That said, the story arc does change things.

Clouded Sky falls for her. (I know – can’t we have a relationship without sexual tension? But it does set up a little dilemma at the very end.)

Beyond that, everybody’s secrets unravel at a steady pace. While the revelations aren’t too shocking, the set-ups and pay-offs are well tied together.

Clouded Sky is forced to abandon his angst and face his deepest fears – until heroism emerges.

The Happy

The story itself is not so much based on historical China, as on an anime-inspired version of China. There is much kicking butt (mostly Iron Maiden kicking people’s butts) and the best blows are so fast they cause a physical wind to blow. In a campier version of this story, words like “Blam” and “Pow” would probably materialize at each hit.

Once you adjust to this physics-defying world, it’s great.

Speaking of adjusting: the author does a good job easing us into the mindset of these non-Western, non-modern people. Without paragraph dumps of “This is how the world works” – and without dragging us through actions and dialogue where we are totally lost about what’s happening – Ms. Rowntree presents us with some foreign concepts and mannerisms, but allows us to pick up the significance from context.

One other thing I liked was the subtle way she included each element of the source fairytale, re-casting it to fit the setting of the re-telling. Her way of plotting these stories always makes it more like a clever scavenger-hunt for interested readers, rather than beating you over the head with Hey this is a fairytale, like you’ve already seen!

The Grumpy

It’s interesting to me that Ten Thousand Thorns is billed as the author’s “most popular fairytale retelling”, since in my opinion Death Be Not Proud is better than this – and Prince of Fishes is better than that.

For one thing, the descriptions (both of the settings and the characters) felt more fleshed-out and real in Death Be Not Proud. This makes sense, since the setting was near the author’s own Down Under – rather than Thorns‘ mystical Oriental setting.

However, I also noticed at least four errors in the text. I don’t mention this to beat up on indie authors, but because it’s a departure from Ms. Rowntree’s usual standard of work. After all, if she’s now paying for professional cover design…I would think she had the line-editing down pat.

And as for the secret character revelations…I guessed like two out of four of them. Was I supposed to?

The Way of the World

Even Dorothy Sayers, my highly esteemed idol of authorship, had her “off” books.

And, manifestly, Ten Thousand Thorns worked for many people. If you’re tired of princess stories with no fight scenes – and way too much mooning or drama – this might be your ticket. (Clouded Sky does a little mooning…)

If you read (or tried to read) The Book of Five Rings and had no idea what he was talking about, this will show you stance-based Oriental martial arts in action.

Look out behind you! Scratching Monkey Gets the Early Worm! Ha ha!


DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-copy of this book through a promotion from MyBookCave. I was not required to write a book review of any kind, and all opinions are solely my own.

Ten Thousand Thorns is available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo.

You can find more about the author and her books on her website: VintageNovels.com.

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