Thornwood (Sisters Ever After #1)

by Leah Cypess (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

This middle grade debut is Sleeping Beauty like you've never seen it before, about a girl who lives in the shadow of her older sister and the curse that has haunted her from birth.

For years, Briony has lived in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Rosalin, and the curse that has haunted her from birth--that on the day of her sixteenth birthday she would prick her finger on a spindle and cause everyone in the castle to fall into a 100-year sleep. When the day the curse is set to fall over the kingdom finally arrives, nothing--not even Briony--can stop its evil magic. You know the story. But here's something you don't know. When Briony finally wakes up, it's up to her to find out what's really going on, and to save her family and friends from the murderous Thornwood. But who is going to listen to her? This is a story of sisterhood, of friendship, and of the ability of even little sisters to forge their own destiny. The first in a three-book series of fairy tale retellings, these are the stories of the siblings who never made it into the storybook.

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Publishers Weekly

In her middle grade debut, Cypess (the Death Sworn series) reframes "Sleeping Beauty," retelling the classic from the viewpoint of an overlooked but determined little sister. Resourceful narrator Princess Briony, 11, "who never even got a blessing from a fairy godmother," is well aware of the fairy curse set to befall her older sibling, Rosalin, on her 16th year, and would like to think that she'd be brave enough to help her sister, if it came to it. When Briony wakes up a century after Rosalin's birthday, alone in a room housing a "very large, very illegal spinning wheel," she has a good feel for what happened. But the end of the curse seems off, somehow: Rosalin is initially nowhere to be found, savior Prince Varian is acting suspiciously, a mysterious fairy godmother is lurking in the shadows, and the castle remains enveloped by aggressive vines. As the sisters, who are white, attempt to free their home, they realize they're caught up in a magical scheme of epic proportions, and the only solution may require an unthinkable sacrifice. Incorporating surprising twists and subverting tropes to emphasize sibling bonds over romance, Cypess creates a fun tale with a strong heroine whose happily ever after isn't set in stone. Ages 9-12. Agent: Andrea Somberg, Harvey Klinger. (Apr.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4 Up-Everyone— knows about Rosalin, aka Sleeping Beauty, but almost no one knows about Briony, her younger sister, who wakes up to find herself in the castle tower with no memory of how she got there or how she seems to be awake before anyone else. Briony shows up just in time to see the prince kiss her sister and wake her from the curse. But the prince isn't exactly who he said he was, and the thorns aren't retreating from the castle, keeping everyone trapped inside. Briony might just be able to figure out the answer—but no one ever listens to the little sister! This retelling adds an original twist to a beloved classic and gives a younger sister a chance to earn a little of the spotlight. All the main characters—the sisters, the prince, and Briony's new friend Edwin—appear to be light-skinned. VERDICT A fun, compelling story that will keep readers engaged; recommended for younger siblings, fans of princess stories, and fantasy lovers.—Amanda Toth, Lane Lib., Hamilton, OH

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

★ The heart of the story lies in the utterly authentic relationship between the sisters, who squabble, tease, and hurt each other—and love one another with a fierceness that absolutely demands a happily-ever-after. Effervescent, thrilling, and practically perfect in every way.—Kirkus, starred review

"A fantastically dark and twisty Sleeping Beauty retelling, full of secrets, danger, fairies who are truly scary, and a complicated sisterly relationship that I adored." —Stephanie Burgis, author of Kat, Incorrigible

"A compelling, delightful, topsy-turvy Sleeping Beauty retelling. Princess Briony is not one to wait for wake-up kisses, she'd rather head straight out into an adventure. Such a fun read!" —Sarah Prineas, author of The Magic Thief and Winterling

Leah Cypess
Leah Cypess is the author of Thornwood as well as four YA novels: Mistwood, Nightspell, Death Sworn, and Death Marked. Both Mistwood and Death Sworn were on the Kirkus Best Books for Teens list, and Death Sworn was a Teen Vogue Most Exciting YA Book of the year. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Visit her at and follower her on Twitter @LeahCypess
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
April 20, 2021
Sisters Ever After

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