Thorn by Anna Burke

(4 customer reviews)


When a fatal mistake brings Rowan into the hands of the Huntress, she finds herself trapped in an enchantment that is every bit as alluring as it is cruel.


On a cold day deep in the heart of winter, Rowan’s father returns from an ill-fated hunting trip bearing a single, white rose . . .

Rowan, Aspen, and Juniper, the three daughters of a widowed and recently bankrupt merchant, think their bad luck has finally come to end. They have escaped their father’s creditors, and while Rowan longs to be back in the city, the small village nestled in the foothills of the mountains offers her family a chance to start over again in a place where her father’s name is not synonymous with disaster.

The village, her mother’s childhood home, is frustratingly provincial, and Rowan thinks she understands why her mother was so eager to leave it behind. The villagers are full of superstitions and old clan feuds, and worst of all, her ability to read and write is dismissed— especially by her betrothed.

Still, her family is safe, here, and Rowan is determined to make the best of it, until the day her father returns from an ill-fated hunting trip bearing the bodies of his companions and a single, white rose.

The rose is followed by the Huntress, a figure out of legend. Tall, cruel, and achingly beautiful, she brings Rowan back with her to a mountain fastness populated solely by the creatures of the hunt. Rowan, who once scorned the villagers for their superstitions, now finds herself at the heart of a curse with roots as deep as the mountains, ruled by an old magic that is as insidious as the touch of the winter rose.

Rowan’s terror quickly turns to anger at her captivity, and the Huntress, who seems more beastly than all of the animals who serve her combined, refuses to give her satisfactory answers. Her only comfort comes from the runty wolf pup that the Huntress leaves for dead, and, of course, the Huntress’ extensive library.

Torn between her family loyalties, her guilty relief at escaping her betrothal to the charming but arrogant Avery Lockland, and her complicated feelings for the Huntress, Rowan must find a way to break the curse before it destroys everything she loves. There is only one problem. If she can find a way to lift the curse, she will have to return to the life she left behind, and the only thing more unbearable than endless winter is facing a lifetime of springs without the Huntress.

Thorn gives young women all the leading roles: heroes, villains, and lovers. The story delves into clothing as self-presentation, the release from bearing children, the work of self-reliance, reckoning with a family or past that no longer fits, the give and take of true partnership, and the interlinked importance of self-knowledge and love. It does all of this within a framework of castles, rugged landscapes, and forbidding enchantments. Thoroughly gratifying, Thorn is a perennial escape fantasy tangled up with a call to adventure. Burke turns one young woman’s release from drudgery into a beguiling disruption of conventional social roles, expected dichotomies, and personal power.” —Foreword Reviews, Starred Review

“Her prose is exquisite, her characters are memorable, and her worlds are as enthralling as they are dangerous.” TARA SCOTT, The Lesbian Review

“A riveting and original romantic thriller of a fantasy novel by an author with a total mastery of the genre, Anna Burke’s Thorn will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Fantasy Action/Adventure collections.” —Wisconsin Bookwatch, The Midwest Book Review

“Burke is a very talented writer and weaved such beautiful proses throughout the story that often caused me to re-read paragraphs just to enjoy them again. The skillful writing in this book made the story even more compelling and lent itself to driving a vivid setting, perfect pacing, and well-rounded characters.” — KD RYE, The Lesbian 52

“An epic romance, a dramatic adventure, an exploration of what women are capable of—good, bad and ugly. And all wrapped up in a story worthy of a blockbuster Netflix fantasy. Just brilliant —Ms. Burke is one to watch.” VELVET LOUNGER, The Lesbian Reading Room

“Burke’s writing is rich and textured. You won’t want to rush through this novel. In fact, if you do, you’ll miss so much. This is writing you want to take in slowly. It deserves to be savored.”CARLEEN SPRY, Frivolous Views

“With its thoughtful re-casting and turns of phrase so perfect and subtle they made a thousand tiny cuts in my heart, I can honestly say l loved Thorn. I loved it. I will read it again. I will recommend it to friends. It is what I always wanted Beauty and the Beast to be.” —ROSILAND CHASE & ELIZA MacARTHUR, Biscuits & Bodices

“Sometimes, you finish a book, and you’re just sat there basking in the afterglow, and then realise you need to review it but have no words to actually describe your feelings about it.” —ANNA and CHARLOTTE, Reads Rainbow 

“Burke’s talent is boundless. Her eloquent imagery at times almost brought me to tears and her character work is untouchable. She was able to breathe new life into this familiar tale and make it completely her own.” —VICTORIA THOMAS, The Lesbian Review

“The tone of this novel shifts back-and-forth from poetic and romantic as a rose to hurting and heartbreaking as a thorn. Similarly, the pace changes from slow-burn romance to fast-paced thriller. This book has been a pleasure to read and shows that Anna Burke is quickly becoming more than a promising writer.” —GABY MAURINO, Lez Review Books

“Burke gives the story true beauty with her words. It becomes the story of two women who are completely different, yet fall in love with each other and deal with the truth of their lives.” AMOS LASSEN

“Not only is Anna Burke in possession of a fine gift for writing in general but also add to that her sensitivity to writing fantasy fiction in which the main characters are women. Anna knows how to write LGBT stories in such a style that the gender factor is purely additive and not the sole reason for the story. Yes, this is a lesbian-centric novel, a factor that enhances the action even more.” GRADY HARP, Amazon Hall of Fame & Top 50 Reviewer

Thorn is also available in audiobook format at Amazon, Audible, ACX, and iTunes.

Raised in Upstate New York, ANNA BURKE graduated from Smith College in 2012 with a B. A. in English Literature and Studio Art. She holds a certificate from the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, and was the inaugural recipient of the Sandra Moran Scholarship for the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Writing Academy. Anna’s debut novel, Compass Rose, was written while living on a small island in the West Indies, but Thorn is the product of a long, cold New England winter.


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4 reviews for Thorn by Anna Burke

  1. Bugs

    – by Anna Burke??A holiday gift surprise fell onto me lap whilst I was on holiday, courtesy of the very kind and generous Salem West of Bywater Books! (Ta, mate!) Yes, it was in the form of a book (me fav form!)!?”Thorn” by Anna Burke.?Never read anything by this author ever before.?Wow. To say the book captivated me was an understatement. I was hooked, lined and sinkered. From the first paragraph. Literally.?Just read this… ?”She smelled it, sharp and bitter on the wind.?The pack smelled it, too.?Tracks.?Fresh.?There.?A faint jingle. ?A creak that was not bark on bark. ?A cough that did not belong to cat or elk.?The old hate quickened.?The pack tightened around her.?Red tongues lolled.?Breath steamed.?Winter bared her teeth.”?Me love for beautiful literary texts in the form of storytelling was instantly satiated by Burke’s aesthetically structured, lyrical passage. And it was only the prologue! So you can just imagine me utter glee…!!! *yes, I’m a shameless nerd of literary, poetic words that flow like lyrics to a song, that’s me! So I knew Burke got me good!*?Thus, another new author was born on me “author to watch” list.?”Thorn” is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast,” with a lesbian twist. Obvs. And just like Karin Kallmaker’s brilliant retelling of “The Little Mermaid,” “Fish Out Of Water,” which became the sole recognised “The Little Mermaid” for me, Burke’s “Thorn” has now become me only recognised “Beauty and the Beast” tale! Yup.?I absolutely loved how Burke told the story of Rose (Belle) and her journey of self-discovery when she inevitably met the mythically feared “beast” otherwise simply known as The Huntress. Burke’s brilliant depiction of Rose’s back story, how she ended up being The Huntress’ “prisoner,” and most compellingly, The Huntress’ own sordid back story that led to the curse cast against her by the witch. I’m sure most, if not all of you, have read or at least heard about the fairy tale if you haven’t watched the film adaptations (most notably the recent brilliantly adapted life-action version starring Emma Watson) already so I won’t elaborate it here.?Suffice to say, Burke took the tale to a whole new fabulously captivating, beautiful story about two women from totally different walks of life who slowly but surely fell in love as they grappled with the truth behind all that happened with Rose and her family and Isolde’s (The Huntress) tragic life since the horrible, life-altering curse which both of them eventually understood the real, heart-rending reason behind what the witch did.?The Huntress. Oh, the Huntress! How I utterly loved her character! There’s something to be said about portraying a dark, mysterious, reclusive, disheartened stone-cold, bitter character who is a lead in a story, innit? And to depict it in a deeply resonating way that cuts through all the impenetrable exterior the character presents so the reader can’t help but gravitate toward those “thorns” (pun intended!) that encompassed the character’s defence mechanism, feeling increasingly empathetic toward them as the story progresses is a whole other level altogether.?In this case, Burke’s richly descriptive words brought the Huntress to life, in all her glory and ugliness, hitting every nail on the head with her soul-penetrating depiction of the misunderstood, tortured character, transforming her from the arrogant, selfish, heartless Isolde who knew nothing about love of another to the hardened, hateful, feared, soulless Huntress and eventually back to a redeemed, renewed, reborn Isolde who finally understood the true meaning of the witch’s curse: “A rose for a rose, a thorn for a thorn.” Her metamorphosis truly transcended the transformative journey of a redemptive soul. Deeply sublime!?I was utterly captivated by Burke’s flowery language, her poetic and lyrical words and expressions that read like a song, with the refrain, “a rose for a rose, a thorn for a thorn,” flowing melodiously throughout like a musical chorus. The world that Burke built around Rose, The Huntress along with the village and its deeply superstitious inhabitants, the fortress, the forest was vividly described to its most minute detail.?Winter was felt in me bones, me soul as I read Burke’s reverberating words turning into lyrical songs that howled the absolute harshness and bitterness of each biting cold, at times with arresting loneliness, but its breadth strangely comforting and intoxicating to the spirit of the soul as the story progressed.?Oh, and the story of the winter rose…*sigh* So utterly romantic, tragic, yearning, beautiful, utterly heartfelt. Burke’s aesthetically dramatic expressions as she repeated its story throughout the Huntress and Rose’s journey flowed like a sonnet, a romantic ballad, really, that touched every essence of emotions fused from every action, behaviour and personification of the characters and the surrounding atmosphere and environment altogether. I was entranced throughout the story even though I knew the fairy tale by heart! Truly refreshing!?Furthermore, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the brilliantly structured action sequences in the book. Every action sequence was so visually described it was like watching the entire book on-screen: Rose’s hunting training, Rose & Juniper’s long slog back to the Huntress’ castle, including the incident with the melting ice (you simply must read it to experience the realism of the scene!), Rose’s power being unleashed in the final act as she came face-to-face with fate. Each scene was thoroughly presented with literary flair.?Rose’s ultimate sacrifice & the witch’s eventual revelation about the true meaning of the curse, her realisation and life-changing epiphany about what her love for Isolde/the Huntress truly meant at the heart of it all were resoundingly portrayed with utter authenticity it was hard to believe it was a fairy tale!?All in all, the moral of Burke’s brilliant retelling of the age-old tale was supernaturally resonating. The lesson about courage, bravery, the uncompromising dare to fight for what you believe in, sacrifice and ultimately, true love, was defined with such realistic fervour that this story will always reverberate in the recesses of me mind.?”Thorn” is a resounding MUST-READ. There’s just no way about it! It is me one and only official “Beauty and the Beast” tale that I will recognise. Thanks to Ms. West, Anna Burke is now on me list of new authors to watch. I will be looking out for her books from now on starting with her debut novel, “Compass Rose.” Yup, I am ready!?Get

  2. Margaret

    Excellent story, compact and eloquent. Both main characters are vivid and attractive. Only critique is that its too short, I wanted more time in their company.

  3. Gaby LezReviewBooks

    Rowan is the daughter of a merchant who unknowingly gives her a cursed rose taken during an ill-fated hunting trip. The rose was in a land of eternal winter inhabited by a mysterious woman called the Huntress. Furious at the merchant for killing her wolves and stealing her rose, the Huntress irrupts into the merchant’s house and takes the rose back along with Rowan. Trapped in the Huntress’s realm of eternal winter and curse, Rowan will have to choose between her family loyalties and her growing feelings for the Huntress.

    Following my new year resolution to read more books out of my comfort zone, I chose a genre that I seldom read: fantasy. ‘Thorn’ is a retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. In this novel, according to the author, bravery and not beauty defines Beauty. As in her previous book ‘Compass Rose’ Ms. Burke is very poetic in her metaphors, this time changing naval comparisons for winter ones. Her depiction of the freezing landscape with its vast gamut of whites, menacing beasts and dimmed sunlight acts as an ideal backdrop to this beautiful story.

    This novel is written in first person from the point of view of Rowan except for a few short sections written in third person point of view from the Huntress. Both main characters are well-rounded and believable and the reader cannot help but feel the pain of both: the Huntress as a victim of her own arrogance and Rowan as a casualty of her father’s weakness. Underneath lies a heavy criticism to the patriarchal system, in which women are traded as goods in the name of their fathers’ interests, and the conflict between family loyalties and a woman’s search for true love.

    ‘A rose for a rose, a thorn for a thorn’. With each repetition of this mantra, the reader sees this phrase in a different light. The tone of this novel shifts back-and-forth from poetic and romantic as a rose, to hurting and heartbreaking as a thorn. Similarly, the pace changes from slow-burn romance to fast paced thriller. This book has been a pleasure to read and shows that Anna Burke is quickly becoming more than a promising writer.

    Overall, a very good lesfic retelling of the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’. A tale of suffering, bravery and love conquering all. 5 stars.

    ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

    See all my reviews at

  4. Holly Williams

    Read this fantastic book while “Social Distancing” during the COVID pandemic. Couldn’t have asked for a better book to immerse me in another world and make the time go by quicker. I could not put this book down and it is so refreshing and necessary to have a retelling of traditional fairytales with such powerful LGBTQ couples. Can’t speak highly enough of this author and her work.

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