Zaina will never be free.
She’s forced into an arranged marriage to a Viking King in a castle full of secrets. But she carries secrets of her own, and the scars of her haunted past.
Handed off from one monster to another, she has no choice but to do her best to survive and protect her sisters. Even if it costs her everything.
A Beauty and the Beast retelling you won’t want to miss, where nothing is what it seems and time is running out.
Author: Elle Madison and Robin D. Mahle
Genre: Fantasy / Fairy Tale Retelling
This twist on Beauty & the Beast completely enthralled me. From the first page, I was there with Zaina, rooting with her, crying with her, and sometimes, wanting to punch her in the face.
Zaina was stolen by “Madame” as a child. Every despicable act she has done in Madame’s name was for her adopted sisters’ safety. So, when Madame sells her off to a beastly viking king in a magical, frigid land, she goes without question. Even a world away from Madame, she’s not free. She’s been married to the king for a reason. Produce an heir. Steal his kingdom. When she’s met with a frigid ice land with an inhospitable court, Zaina thinks her mission should be easy.
Soon she discovers that there is something magical and dark at work. A hidden secret that the castle inhabitants don’t trust her with yet. One she needs to figure out if she wants to secure her sisters’ safety.
Worse, the king isn’t such a beast at all. As they get to know each other, his kindness begins to heal her damaged soul.
Suddenly a clear-cut mission becomes an impossible choice.
Zaina and Einar’s love story is compelling and beautiful. I loved the world, the side-characters, the magical furry companions, and best of all, Zaina’s journey.
What I Loved:
Zaina and Einar
They’re the bull-headed power couple that everyone loves. At first, both of them are sour-tempered jerks to each other. Even while butting heads, their chemistry and conflict is on fire.
More than that, I love how Einar is so perfect for Zaina. She’s a cunning assassin that knows every manipulative move in the book, but he doesn’t buy any of it. He keeps her on her toes and outwits her when he needs to. I respect “book boyfriends” that are sweet and loving, but I love the ones that can hold their own while doing it.
To say that Zaina is incredible is a vast understatement. Following her journey was downright inspiring. She’s the jaded beauty the author’s wanted her to be but never once did she come off as cheesy or forced. I loved her wit, ninja moves, and vulnerability.
Her past and trauma was so real. This Beauty has literal scars from the horrible things that have happened to her. You have so much respect for her because her character never wavers.
I also loved her unique Eastern background. So many times I think fairytale retellings fall into recreating the Disney characters. Zaina is an eastern beauty and the contrasting cultures play a huge part in this book.
Elle and Robin are masters of creating tension in a book. They’ve just landed themselves a diehard fan. Guys, I was hooked from the first page and I could not put this book down for the next 48 hours (and it only took me 48 hours because of my responsibilities. If I didn’t have kids and a job, I would’ve read it in one sitting).
When I look back, the “world” Of Thorns and Beauty is fairly small. The castle, a village, the mountains, and a couple caves. But I feel like a took an epic journey. I was hooked on every page.
It’s that tension, man. It never lets up.
You’re so confused but it’s the delightful kind of confusion that makes you want to turn page after page. I wanted to find out what was going on with the castle. Needed to learn more about Zaina’s past and discover what Einar’s deal was.
And Of Thorns and Beauty delivered.
But it was hell (in a really good way) waiting to find out.
The World, the Magic, the Characters, the Writing Style. Of Thorns and Beauty introduced a number of magical creatures that I fell inlove with. My favorite: The Chalyx. Think if the Cheshire Cat and Rajah from Aladdin had a baby.
I loved 99.9% of the book. I’m SO glad there’s a sequel (even if I’m a wee bit mad about the cliffhanger.)
What I Didn’t Love
Okay, there was one thing…. Sometimes I didn’t understand how Zaina could be so salty in the beginning. I understood her feelings (obviously) and why she as a person might be rude in an arranged marriage situation.
If her job was to win over the king’s heart and get preggo, it just didn’t make sense that she would lose her temper so quickly. That’s just my two cents!
The Sensual Scenes
I would still classify this book as clean. However, there is some language in it and the make-out scenes pushed me to the edge of my tolerance level. I think the authors did a great job of building steam without diving into the smut category. However, in any case, I like to recommend only books that I consider clean so I think it’s worth mentioning that some parents might be hesitant to allow a teenager to read these scenes.
Would I Recommend?
Oh, yes. If you love fantasy romances or fairytale retellings, this book is a must! Of Thorns and Beauty is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I really, really don’t think you’ll regret buying it!
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