Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
This was a good story and enjoyable, just slow. If I can put a book aside without thinking, ‘just one more chapter’ then I know the pacing is slow and the action is a little lacking. Most nights as I was reading this I found myself looking at the clock and thinking, ‘Oh,time to go to sleep!’ and putting the book down, even in the middle of a chapter.
I liked all of the characters in this book, and the retellings of the fairy tales, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Mulan. Bristal was a great character to spend time with and her ability to shape-shift added an interesting layer to the story. Especially because she didn’t just pretend to be a man, she could actually become one. This made the Mulan story line much more interesting, especially when Bristal finds herself falling in love with her captain.
I also liked the magic that existed in this world. The elicromancers draw their power from an elicrin stone, which they receive from being thrown into a pond. If they don’t drown, and most do, they receive their stone and become an elicromancer, with many magical powers. The fact that she is immortal adds an interesting layer to the romance in the story as well.
The main story is of course the age old struggle of good vs. evil, but the addition of the fairy tales and the elicrin stone made this a very interesting story indeed. I just wish it had a little more action and a faster pace.