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Thornhedge    by T. Kingfisher order for
by T. Kingfisher
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2023 (2023)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

T. Kingfisher's Thornhedge brings a new and rather extraordinary perspective to Sleeping Beauty. It's not the princess's story but rather the back story of a sort of selfless fairy godmother. And there is a happily ever after but by no means the usual one.

The fairy (named Toadling) 'was the greenish-tan color of mushroom stems and her skin bruised blue-black, like mushroom flesh. She had a broad, frog-like face and waterweed hair.' And she was very tired of warding the wall of thorns and what it held inside. She'd done it for centuries as the world had changed around her. Then one day a knight shows up, a very persistent young man, who insists on talking to her. Halim had read the story of the beautiful maiden, enchanted in a tower, but after talking to her, he wants to save Toadling from whatever holds here in this place.

Gradually the author reveals Toadling's back story. She was replaced by a changeling at birth and taken into Faerie. There, she was raised lovingly by greenteeth, 'the slimy swamp-dwelling spirits who devour unwary swimmers' and taught toad shape. At age fifteen, the hare goddess took her to be taught to return to the mortal world. There she was to act as godmother to the child who took her place, and whose spirit was 'old and cold and cruel'. Toadling was to enchant her to do no harm to those around her, but muddled the spell, leading to her long self-imposed duty.

Read Thornhedge and you will never see Sleeping Beauty in the same way again. It teaches us all not to judge any book by its cover

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