Mina has always felt alone. The daughter of the Duke of Schwartzstein, her father quickly remarried after her mother died but his new wife is too busy finding suitable matches for her own daughters to pay much attention to Mina. Now a young woman, Mina spends her days trudging the woods on the edge of their town of Blumwald. But in the depths of the wood, in a monstrous castle, a witch is getting ready to claim a companion as she does once every generation. When Mina offers herself up and finds herself stranded with the seductive witch in her castle, she uncovers a secret about the companions that have come before her which puts her own life in danger.

Inspired by classic fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast, Kat Dunn has created a darkly romantic, fairy-tale world setting for readers to escape into. Bitterthorn is a fantastical read with a romantic, queer love story at its centre.

A story of two outsiders finding each other, Bitterthorn speaks to the universal human fears of loneliness and loss, the scariest monsters of all.

Want to know more? We’ve created a reading guide for this book – just click here.


Kat Dunn grew up in London and has lived in Japan, Australia and France. She has a BA in Japanese from SOAS and an MA in English from Warwick. She’s written about mental health for Mind and the Guardian and worked as a translator for Japanese television. She lives in London.

Photography © Aashfaria A. Anwar

‘A beautifully written, atmospheric, sapphic YA fantasy with its roots in fairytale and gothic fiction, Bitterthorn is at once fresh and timeless.’

2023 Children’s Fiction judges

Urmi Merchant

Dave Rudden

Nick Sheridan

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