Among the Beasts and Briars
- Author: Ashley Poston
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- Publication Date: October 20, 2020
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
CONTENT WARNING: blood, gore, death of a parent
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.
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 a small and irritating fox from the royal gardens 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.
Another month, another opportunity to read one of the many, many unread books on my shelves. Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog and I have committed to reading one backlist book a month together, as a buddy read. Some are hits, some are misses, and then there’s this book: an absolutely outstanding read that fit exactly what we both needed right now.
It starts out promising, with a main character, Cerys, that I automatically adored. I liked how descriptive the writing was, making it easy for me to picture everything in my head. She’s the daughter of the royal gardener, a title her family has held for generations, and one that she fully expects to step into the role of when the time comes.
“We were not just royal gardeners—we were historians of sorts, preserving Aloriyan history in flowers and roots.”
Even though this is a relatively short and fast-moving story, it managed to give readers like me what we want, without falling into common pitfalls. The information is provided at just the right pace—dropping info when it fits and is relevant, slowly answering all the questions and keeping me invested without resorting to info-dumps. The world building is beautifully done, as are the characters. I loved the way they grew and changed throughout the story, as individuals and together. Cerys has to become independent, decide how to move forward from the bonds that she thought kept her locked into a certain role, especially once her situation changes. And she honestly discovers more about who she is and what she can do:
“I wasn’t sure which thought was worse—that he relished chaos, or that I becoming more like him. Or stranger yet, maybe that I was always the kind of girl who didn’t belong trapped inside garden walls.”
Naturally, she doesn’t do this alone. There are some really strong and amazing allies that she makes, but she also discovers things that she never knew about the past, things that she just took for granted. And I loved seeing her physical and emotional journey, as well as the way that she connects to others. She identifies her priorities and what she’s willing to do to achieve her goal:
“If I’d learned anything in the wood, it was that there was always a choice, but sometimes the right one wasn’t the easy one.”
This book is absolutely everything I could have asked for, all rolled into one book that seems to be relatively underrated. It has characters I loved early on, an intriguing system of magic, snarky animal friends, a fast-pace without feeling rushed, plot twists that had me shocked, and the perfect ending that tied everything up nicely. Plus, I was also extremely emotionally invested in the story and the characters. It’s the kind of book that has me checking out the author’s backlist and hoping for a spinoff book.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 10
Categories: Book Review