REVIEW: Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher

The latest novella from Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award-winning author T. Kingfisher is Thornhedge. Kingfisher is a definite favourite in the halls of Grimdark Magazine and personally is one of the authors on my auto-buy list. Thornhedge is another of Kingfisher’s fairytale-inspired stories, which perfectly balances the creepy and the cosy and has a heroine that I just loved, even when she was a toad. If you are already a fan of Kingfisher’s other novellas like Nettle and Bone or A House with Good BonesThornhedge should be in your hands as soon as you can grab it off the shelves of your favourite book-selling establishment. If you are new to Kingfisher’s worlds, please pick this up; Thornhedge will hurt and heal you all in the few hours it takes to read this beautiful book.

Thornhedge Now I know that adjectives like beautiful are not the most expected of words to be found in a review for the darker corners of the fantasy world. But that is what Kingfisher does so perfectly, in a way that almost no other author can. Thornhedge is no exception to this signature style. It is a stunning novella, both materially if you pick up a physical copy and linguistically. Kingfisher writes in a classic style which I love. Though the story’s darkness is inescapable, even our heroine, Toadling (who is so sweet she should be protected at all costs), is a changeling baby stolen at birth and raised by child-killing, flesh-eating, fish fey in fairyland. Thornhedge should not feel as nice as it does, but that makes it such a good read for people who enjoy darker novels. Kingfisher shows that, even with some very dark events in a short space of reading time, darkness is not overpowering. Is Thornhedge the darkest or dark things you can pick up? No. But does it tick the boxes of dark, gritty, with an imperfect protagonist? Absolutely.

Sleeping Beauty inspires Thornhedge, but not the Disney version. Even the Grimms might raise an eyebrow at some of the events, which are set in the expected medieval European-esque world. It is also not the story of the princess sleeping in the tower. Thornhedge follows the changeling Toadling from her time in fairyland to her return to the human realm. She is tasked to serve as a fairy godmother and protect the princess. It is a thankless task that Toadling is ill-suited for. As well as Toadling, there is Halim, a hapless but endearing knight whose curiosity makes him cross paths with Toadling after centuries of her guarding the princess and learn more about this cursed castle which has slipped from human memory into legend.

Like all of the other Kingfisher novellas I’ve read, Thornedge is an exceptionally written, bitesize piece of escapism. I read Thornhedge in one sitting for a couple of hours, and it was so nice to do that. I loved this world, but everything is all wrapped up, so I do not expect Kingfisher to return to it. But as long as she keeps writing the way she does, I will keep singing her praises. I want to say a huge thank you to T. Kingfisher and the team at Tor for sending over a copy of Thornhedge so that I can review it. Thornhedge is released on the 15th of August 2023. 5/5.

PS If you have a tweenager in your life who loves fantasy, it might be worth checking out Kingfisher’s writing for younger readers, written as Ursula Vernon.

Read Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher

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Fiona Denton

Fiona Denton

Fiona is a former secondary school teacher and current stay at home parent to two very wild and active children. She lives with them and her husband in the UK and can often be found on a beach paddling in the North Sea or stomping through a forest with the sprogs and hounds. She loves to read and has always enjoyed fantasy novels, particularly the very dark and twisty ones with mythical creatures.