Published: October 20, 2020
Genre(s): fantasy, young adult, retelling
Read as: OwlCrate edition, owned
Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.
Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.
As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive. (Goodreads)
“Briars, brambles, bones, and blossom, I smell a girl who can’t be forgotten.”
Contains minor spoilers
One of my goals this year is to read all of my backlist books from past OwlCrate boxes and Among the Beasts & Briars was the first on my list to conquer. I had read one of Ashley Poston’s books in the past, Heart of Iron, and enjoyed it well enough but not being terribly familiar with her writing style I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into.
The tags etc for this book all tell me that it is a fairy-tale retelling but I just don’t see what fairy-tale it is talking about. I was never terribly interested in the classic happily-ever-after fairy tales anyway so just reading this book I don’t know which one it is supposedly retelling.
Be that as it may, Among the Beasts & Briars was a pretty good read.
Our heroine, Cerys, is very much what you would expect from a ya fantasy heroine. She is kind, loving, and her soul longs for adventure even if her mind won’t accept it. Cerys loves her father, her home, and her best friend who is set to be queen. Overall, she is a very likable character and when push comes to shove she is determined, brave, and tries her best to make the right decisions in tough situations. Her journey from being the castle gardener’s daughter to the savior of the kingdom is fun to go along with her on.
On the flip side of that, we have Fox who is, sort of, an actual fox. Fox has been by Cerys side for years as her furry woodland companion who seemed to understand and sense more than a normal fox should. When, after a magical accident, he gets turned into a human he accompanies Cerys on her quest to save her father, her friend, and everyone who dwells near the magical, menacing forest. Fox was not a likable character and having him as a love interest was rather off-putting. I found him cowardly and weak, unwilling to help against a threat unless he had no other choice.
I’ve seen this book billed as sapphic by a few reviewers and if that is specifically what you are after I will say that perhaps you should try another title. There is a sapphic aspect to this story but it is little more than a quick little snippet hardly worth mentioning toward the end. Overall, this story was good and it was exactly what I was looking for as my first read of 2021. I wanted simple, easy to follow, and a happily tied up ending. If that is something you would like, too, then I would recommend this book.