Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West
Review by Lauren
source: copy from BEA16; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: 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.
Review: Kingdom of Ash and Briars is a book that I randomly came across at BEA 16, but I am very excited that I did! I’ve read and enjoyed fairy tale re-tellings in the past, but they aren’t something that I seek out time and again. What I truly loved about this one is that it’s based around more than one fairy tale, mixing the stories of Cinderella, Hua Mulan, and Sleeping Beauty. It also says it takes from Austen’s Emma, but as I haven’t read that book, I didn’t notice the comparisons. Regardless, it was great reading through the book and seeing where the various fairy tales came into play, creating a completely new and enjoyable book!
The story of Kingdom of Ash and Briars follows an orphan girl named Bristal who discovers she is one of the long lost elicromancers, immortal beings with great power. There used to be many more, but now there are only two currently in existence, known as Tamarice and Brack. Bristal joins them to train and learn how to use her power, but it’s not long before danger is looming over them.
It’s hard to talk about this book because I feel like even the smallest details could be seen as a spoiler, and I do think you should go in knowing as little as possible. I will say that I loved Bristal. She’s a smart young woman, willing to sacrifice her happiness for the good of others. I appreciated her bravery and willingness to fight. She’s definitely a heroine to root for throughout the book. This book is a stand-alone, which is great. It could have been stretched out, but I feel like it works much better as one single book, with all things reaching their conclusion in the end.