Review: Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

28554825Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Received: Thomas Allen & Son
Publication Date: September 15th 2016
Publisher: Holiday House
Point of View: 1st Person & Feminine
Recommended Age: 12+
Pacing: Fast
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairytale-Retelling

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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.


This is a YA retelling of ”The Sleeping Beauty”.

It’s an okay story. I liked the heroine, the writing, the fast-pacing.

But did I actually enjoy the retelling factor? Not quite. To be honest, I had no idea prior to starting this book that it would be a retelling. Obviously, my mind must have been elsewhere because the title is a gigantic clue.

It’s not that great of a retelling, if that’s what you’re looking for. Bristal, the heroine, is Rosie’s – Sleeping Beauty’s – protector. And that was original. I thought having the point of view of a witness in the Sleeping Beauty’s story to be refreshing, since it’s a 1st person POV narration.

However, it’s not about Rosie! Not really, anyway. Sure, she plays her role in the story, but Bristal is quite literally the main character. Good thing, in a way, because the secondary ones (including Rosie), are rather one-dimensional.

So it doesn’t have that fairytale-esque atmosphere, let alone plot. I don’t know why the author focused so much on the conflicts between kingdoms. This is supposed to be a fairy-tale, not a story of war! And she also added some Mulan-inspired elements and scenes, like Bristal disguising herself as a man.

Well, she’s pretty much always in disguise, so that wasn’t surprising.

Some things I found weren’t well explained, like the whole elicromancer magic and the people controlling it. Then the war threats disrupted the fairy-tale telling when they barged in and I simply could not find it inside me to care as much as Bristal did.

It’s hard for this book to keep your interest alive, but I still don’t think it’s a bad book. And also, maybe consider that I may be biased since I’m not a huge fan of ”The Sleeping Beauty” to start with.

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7 thoughts on “Review: Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

  1. Aw this looks like such a cool book based on the blurb and the title (the cover is also beautiful!). But if you had a hard time keeping your interest level high enough so you could finish, I don’t know how I would fair. I might read it if I come across it and need some reading material! Lovely review, Lola!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks


  2. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it 😔 I just read a 5 star review on this book, so I was pretty excited. But I don’t know now. I’ll go in prepared thanks to your review! 👍🏻


  3. I thought this book sounded great when I first read the blurb and saw the cover, but now that the reviews are starting to trickle in, I’ve only seen mostly negative reviews. Thanks for reviewing it! I think I might give this one a miss, which is a shame, I had high hopes.


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