Among the Beasts & Briars - Ashley Poston

Goodreads Book Blurb:

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.

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My Review:

solid, good read:
4/5

I was totally swept up in the fantasy of this world. It felt like a good old school fairy tale, creepy and foreboding with only a small flash of hope that is extinguished over and over again.

To really enjoy Among the Beasts & Briars you have to relax a little and just let it take you. If you stop to think about it too much the logic starts to crumble and the plot holes jump out at you. Luckily I was in an easy breezy mood and so I thoroughly enjoyed the story. In the end I think the shortcomings are from this being a standalone fantasy novel. I love fantasy but in order to have a fully developed cast of characters and believable worldbuilding it really works best in a series, otherwise the standalone needs to be much longer than this brief ~350 pages. Now if this became a series, allowing us to shore up some of these characters and plaster over the plot holes, I’m totally on board.

I could probably write an essay about Cerys being too perfect, Fox’s identity being painfully obvious, and a million other thoughts on the characters. I really did like them all, but my favourite, and I haven’t seen this mentioned often, was definitely Vala. She was sarcastic and incredibly brave and strong. I’d love an entire book just about her. Unfortunately, the forced romance threatened to doom everything. It felt rushed and illogical, contributing nothing to the plot. I would’ve much preferred a strong friendship and, if you have to, maybe a hint of potential. Just another reason a series fits this genre so much better than a standalone.

I always thought that gardeners’ daughters couldn’t thrive where our roots didn’t grow. But maybe we were like dandelion tufts.

Maybe we were built to catch a warm spring wind and grow somewhere new.

An enchanting read with haunting monsters and inventive magic, delightfully whimsical, and perfect for a light, easy read.

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