Friday, September 9, 2016

ARC Review: Kingdom of Ash and Briar by Hannah West

Title: Kingdom of Ash and Briars
Written by: Hannah West
Published: September 15, 2016 by Holiday House 
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: 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 received an advance copy of this book from the publisher at BEA. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

Before I start this review I want to thank the amazing Rachael who let me know about this book at BEA because I totally loved it. This was an absolutely fantastic read. It was the perfect combination of a fairy tale retelling and a epic fantasy. It was full of magic and adventure.

 I'm not sure if I would call this a fairy tale retelling but it definitely had aspects of that. It is almost a love letter to the classic fairy tales that we know and love. It pulled from so many different stories similar to Once Upon a Time or Into the Woods. It rewrites those stories in an interesting way and intertwines them in a complex and compelling way. It's one of those books that feels both familiar and creative at the same time.

The fairy tale aspects were not the only thing that felt familiar and creative though. This book also felt like a classic YA fantasy with an epic ending of the world kind of vibe. There was so much action and adventure here that was reminiscent of some of the great epic fantasies. It was a book full of action and adventure. A lot of times you'll see me complain about exposition or a slow plot development, but not here. Here the book slowly built to a thrilling conclusion that had me on the edge of my seat. And yes, sometimes it moved a little too fast with moments just seeming to serve as a springboard for the next step but in general it was a very exciting fantasy read.

But it was also a book full of magic with a fantastic and creative magical system. I'm always looking for a unique and different magical system and I feel like I found that here. It was an interesting combination of the two most common systems I see, elemental magic and an object granting someone with inherited powers magic. The elcrin stones were really interesting but that on top of the individual power that the person had made for a cool and interesting kind of magic.

But the larger world of this book was also incredibly fascinating. My favorite fantasies are those that have a history and a lore to them. A history that is somehow repeating itself and/or impacting the plot of the story in a big way. That's exactly what happened in this book. That on top of the political intrigue and threat (then actuality) of war made for a compelling setting and world for the book to place in. A world that I loved learning about throughout the book.

The only thing that didn't super impress me was the characters. They were interesting enough but they didn't really jump off the page for me. I did like Bristal but she didn't have quite the complexity that I was hoping for. However she was someone you wanted to root for because of her selflessly but she felt a little one-dimensional at times. But I will say that I surprisingly didn't hater the romance here. The romantic lead Anthony was likable enough too and the author made me believe it. Which is a surprising feat after ranting about how frustrated I would be if she did fall in love after saying she wasn't equipted for it. But it was a good slowburn and ended up working for me.

On the whole, Kingdom of Ash and Briars is a creative and compelling story with a ton of action, adventure, magic, and an interesting world. It perfectly combined fairy tales and epic fantasy to create a story that felt familiar and unique. It's a great modern fairy tale that I think everyone will love.

Also, I want to let everyone know about this interview of the author on BookiEmoji's Fall Carnival where she talks about the fairy tale and fantasy aspects. Plus there's a giveaway, so go enter it.

I give Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. Seriously, this is a fantastic read. I know a lot of people have loved this book and I am one of them. This is definitely a book I would recommend, especially if you are a fan of fairy tale retellings of YA fantasy.

Have you read Kingdom of Ash and Briars? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. Replies
    1. Me too! I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it, although not that surprised because of all the great reviews I had seen.

  2. Ooh nice! I might have to give this one another try. I had started reading it and was feeling a bit overwhelmed with some of the worldbuilding and explanations of magical this or that things. It was a little too much at once I think and there was the wondering when Bristal got to the point of becoming the other roles she was meant to play in the fairy tales. Definitely plan to try it out again at some point! Great review!

    1. The world-building is a bit much at first. It almost feels like an extended prologue. Then it gets into the fairy tale stuff which is fantastic and I think you will love. Definitely go back to it if you can.

  3. I'm bummed that you didn't find the characters particularly stellar. I have a really hard time reading a book when I don't enjoy the characters. Overall though it sounds like you enjoyed this book. Thanks for sharing your review!

    1. See I'm more of a plot driven reader. The characters not being great won't affect my enjoyment of a book. But I know a lot of people are the opposite. If you're interested I say still give this a try.

  4. I'm really glad you loved this one! I actually tried to read it but ended up DNFing, unfortunately. I can certainly see why you enjoyed it so much though! Great review :D

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. Bummer. I understand though, the beginning is a bit slow. I think I powered through all of that and got to the stuff that hooked me.