Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Summary from GoodReads:
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.
“I always thought that gardeners’ daughters couldn’t thrive where our roots didn’t grow. But maybe we were like dandelion tufts.”
I really enjoyed this new fairy tale with it’s talking animals, creepy creatures and magic and a wonderful adventure with a strong female character. It would be an excellent book for younger YA’s and possibly tweens with only a couple of swear words and swoony kisses. Although older teens will also enjoy it. My only discontent is that it is a stand alone book, I would so like to see more stories set in this world.
“You’re the bravest, smartest, most stubborn person I’ve ever met, and if anyone can break a curse, I know it’s you.”
I liked Cerys, (although I had trouble remembering her name as Fox always called her Daisy). She is spunky and brave and quite determined to fix things even though the odds are hugely against her. I also appreciated that she wasn’t a princess, but the gardener’s daughter. Her magical power is pretty awesome too, and at times she is even afraid of it, especially when it gets out of control. She also has a lot of survivors guilt which is important to the story and is what makes her so determined to fix things.
“And then, worst of all, he grinned. And oh, what a dangerous look that was, trouble tucked into the corners of his mouth like sin.”
I must say that my favorite character was Fox. He was not your typical hero, as he was more likely to hide than fight. But his love for Cerys is what keeps him by her side (mostly) and helping her in her quest. His humor was also delightful, full of good natured teases, even when Cerys constantly teases him that she is going to make him into a hat. His character’s development is far better and a bit more interesting than Cerys, but the two of them together are perfect.
“You trekked among the beasts and briars, and the deep heart led you all the way to Voryn … [The deep heart is] what we call that feeling inside you, the part that leads you, draws you forward – toward some great purpose.”
The overall plot was wonderful, although for me a bit predictable. There were a few surprising twists once they get close to the end of the journey and start to learn the truth. There are some pretty creepy characters called bone-eaters which added a darker tone to some parts of the story. The curse and Cerys magic were well done and explained at the end. I would have liked to see a bit more of Vala, she was the bear that accompanies them. She was very intricate in getting them to Voryn and even in breaking the curse.
If you like modern fairy tales that are beautifully written with lots of action, talking animals and magic this is one you should give a chance. Although there is nothing concrete that there will be another book, there are hints at the end of this one that one might be forthcoming eventually, with different characters from this book taking the lead. I certainly hope so, and look forward to that day when I get to spend time again in Aloriya.