I received this book for free from requested from publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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.
Well! I wasn’t expecting such a fun and adventurous read! And even though there are echoes of Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Emma and Cinderella, the story is still strong on its own. Loved the magical bits a lot and the slow burn romance was just too cute.
The writing is vivid and engaging! Right from the start I was invested in it. And I knew I was going to like it. The world building was pretty great because we get to see some of their history being told as well. I loved how we get to see the villain’s slow decay into enemy territory. I also like how each character held promise. They all weren’t the typical one-dimensional characters we see in the retellings. Hannah West, the author made sure the characters stood on their own and each one had echoes of their fairytale characters, making them whimsical or kind or generous like we know and love them to be. I loved pretty much all the characters, but I especially love how devoted Bristal was to protecting a country that she holds dear to her heart. Even though her past was wholly blank, I wasn’t the least bit curious as to how she came to be an orphan until well the end where all was revealed. There are a lot of characters to learn, but they’re always mentioned so you can remember who was who. There was also a handy chart so you can look at that as well. I also loved matching the different scenes to the other stories, pointing out in my head, the similarities and such.
Can I also mention how gorgeous the inside of the book is? At the beginning of each character there is a tree and it looks lovely every time you start a new chapter. I do feel that the cover felt a bitter much like a middle grade read instead of YA, but that’s just me. I still love the cover though. It reflects the magical style of the story very well.
The Kingdom of Ash and Briars will have you wanting to flex your own elicromancer skills! This is a lush and riveting read for any fairytale fantasy adventure reader. I must get myself a finished copy soon!