Sunday, August 14, 2016

Review: Kingdom of Ash and Briars

Title: Kingdom of Ash and Briars
Author: Hannah West
Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
Release Date: September 15, 2016

Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two - now three - after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince's band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.

I went into this not knowing too much about it, but it sounded interesting.  And I love fairy tale retellings, so I was happy to get a copy at ALA.  My very first thought is that the comparison to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Mulan is perfect.  There are little bits of each thrown in throughout the entire story.

Bristal starts as a lowly kitchen maid who has been kidnapped by three men who intend on throwing her in the Water, a mysterious pool that grants elicromancers immortal life and extra power.  It's not fully clear at first why they do this, but when Bristal touches the pool, she gains great power--the first person in a very long time to survive and be granted power rather than be sucked under and drown.

Fighting ensues and Bristal is taken to be trained with her new power until things turn dark.

So let's start with the romance and the Mulan vibes.  This was one of the cooler parts of the book.  I love seeing a woman that is good enough at fighting and such that the men don't realize the difference.  And she was very good.  The romance was very sweet, and even if it may have been a bit obvious, I still enjoyed it.

The world itself was something that I would love to revisit.  There was a lot put in about it as world-building, but I can tell this world is just so big.  The author couldn't fit everything in there, I'm sure.  And I would love to read more stories from this author about elicromancers--a prequel or a companion--and spend much more time in this really interesting and magical world with witches, fairies, and elicromancers.

I have only one complaint about this book.  There were many times that reactions and emotions seemed to be cut down for the sake of wordcount.  It's tough to give an example without a spoiler, but many times I kept saying, "I want more!"  Either way, I'm excited to read more from this author.

Reasons to read this book
1) The world is awesome!
2) The romance!
3) Such a pretty cover...
4) It has a Mulan-like story

Reasons not to read this book
1) Romance (I know you people that dislike it are out there...)
2) You don't like fantasy or fairy tale retellings

I really enjoyed this.  And despite my one complaint, I would recommend it if you enjoy books about magic.  

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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