Once upon a time there was a princess in a tower.

That, you might think, has already been done to death. But writers are endlessly inventive and, in Thornhedge, T Kingfisher has found a new angle. What if, she asked, the princess has been put there for a reason? What if people are terrified of what might happen if she gets out.

This, then, is the story of Toadling, a human princess who was stolen away by wicked fairies shortly after her birth. Thanks to the weird way time works in Faerie, she grew up happily amongst a group of pond folk, and she learned a little magic on the way. Meanwhile, in the royal castle where she was born, and a changeling has been left, all hell was about to be let loose. Only one person can prevent it.

Our story begins hundreds of years later. The castle containing the sleeping faerie princess has long since vanished behind a wall of thorns and brambles. Toadling still watches over it, just in case. And here, along the road, comes Halim, a young Muslim knight who is far more interested in books than tournaments, and who has found references to a mysterious lost kingdom and a hidden tower containing a sleeping girl.

Toadling has fought to keep her changeling foster sister contained for centuries. People she can manage. Magic she can counter. But can she fight the power of story?

Despite what budding writers may think, having the idea is only a small part of the job. Lots of people could have come up with a similar take on Sleeping Beauty. Few, if any, could have told it the way Kingfisher does. And that is the difference between an ordinary story and a great one.

“Tomorrow,” said Halim. “Tomorrow we will try to break the curse.”

“And if, as I keep saying, there is no curse?”

“Then I will brave the curse for you, Mistress Toadling. I have brought climbing equipment and an axe. The monk said that there aren’t many curses that can hold up to an axe.”

“He sounds very wise, this monk,” said Toadling. “I wish he’d been wise enough to tell you to stay away.”

“He is as curious as I am. It’s a dangerous thing, curiosity.”

book cover
Title: Thornhedge
By: T Kingfisher
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