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The Nissera Chronicles #1

Kingdom of Ash and Briars

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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.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published September 15, 2016

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About the author

Hannah West

5 books330 followers
Hannah West is the author of young adult novels includingThe Nissera Chronicles and The Bitterwine Oath. She's always loved writing about magic and fairytales, but her time studying abroad in Orléans, France inspired her to finally write and publish a fantasy novel. She's a freelance writer living in Texas with her husband and their rambunctious rescue dogs.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 413 reviews
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews157k followers
April 3, 2021

History might be whittled down until all that remains are shining fables of fairy magic and curse-defying kisses.
This is the story of a kitchen maid, Bristal, and how she became the most important woman in all the kingdom.

Bristal finds out that she is an elicromancer - and that with that magic comes the ability to shapeshift, a responsibility to the kingdom and a healthy amount of danger.
"This lass will be nothing but a drowned corpse in a few hours."
A rogue elicromancer is threatening the kingdom in a wholly new way.

Bristal must find a way to stop her before she loses everything.
But the thought of death made me coldest of all.
So this was an okay twist on the typical fairytale.

She was Sleeping Beauty's guardian, she was Cinderella's fairy godmother, there's evil and magic throughout...but at the same time...it was missing that sparkle.

It felt like we ran through the various fairytales - checking them off the list before leaping to the next one.

The character development felt rushed to me...though, for the characters it grew at a logical pace...but for me as a reader we did jump decades here.

I really wanted to love this one but in the end, it just felt like too much too fast.

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Profile Image for Erin .
1,274 reviews1,198 followers
April 14, 2018
Welp! Well that was underwhelming. I have a feeling that I'm going to be in the minority on this book but this book was so boring.

Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West is a mix of fairytale, contemporary mysticism, & boredom. A loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty with shades of Mulan. Without the diversity of Mulan all characters read as white. Tells the tale of Bristol an orphaned kitchen maid who discovers that she is actually one of the last of a breed of ancient magical immortal beings knows as Elicromancers. Who through centuries of battle with humans have been winnowed down to three including Bristol. The remaining two train Bristol to use her gifts with include the ability to transform herself into any human or animal form.

You know where this is going one of her trusted teachers betrays her, she must decide what side she's truly on, love interests, secret identities, and of course the final battle etc.. Maybe I woke up in a bad mood but I just don't care about this book at all. I didn't feel connected to any of the characters and I just found this book to be very slow moving. Like I said I'll probably be in the minority with my opinion of this book but I didn't like it.. At all.
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews907 followers
March 2, 2017
An Advance Reader Copy was provided by the publisher for review. Quotes pulled from the ARC may be incorrect and may be subject to change.

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!


"History likes to call one side good and the other evil. But is it bad to want to use your power to bring clean order to the world?" (37)

"I've lived a simple life, but I understand that not everything is simple." (38)

"You do nothing but meddle until we need you, and then you are utterly useless." (92)

"Not everyone is built for true love." (148)

"You are the only good thing here, the only light in the dark." (210)
Profile Image for C.J..
Author 17 books3,951 followers
June 21, 2016
I loved this book so much! Flawless world building, fascinating characters, an epic story, a swoony romance, and such a clever homage to several fairy tales. It's absolutely brilliant, and I want Hannah West's next book in my hands YESTERDAY.
Profile Image for Kerri.
Author 14 books25.3k followers
June 14, 2016
KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIARS is a breathtaking fantasy that draws inspiration from classic fairytales and breathes even more magic into them. I could not flip the pages fast enough and cannot wait to see what new adventure Hannah West has in store for us next!

Perfect for fans of fantasy, adventure, fairytales, strong female leads, and swoon-worthy romance.
919 reviews255 followers
May 9, 2022
Despite the gorgeous cover, promising beauties to come, once the cover was opened and pages were turned this whole book felt... rushed. As though the author had neatly laid out a plot and was determined to get from point A to point C at any cost, major events rushed up in a blur and years were lost in the span of a single page.

The heroine (whose name I have already forgotten) gains and masters her powers in the blink of an eye; the enemy is found and made over the same speck of time. We are told that she (that name-forgotten main character) falls in love with barely a moment to see it happen; we are told she has a deep and important relationship with the lost princess (one of two, at least) without ever really seeing it; her "search" for the other lost royalty is over before it begins and i still cannot fathom why it was important in the first place.

Tales need room to breathe, and this should have had plenty: the hardcover is 352 pages of generous font and illustrated chapter-headings. The writing was readable enough I would have happily accepted another 100+ pages if it meant the inner workings of the story hadn't been sacrificed.
Not bad, exactly, but too much of a whirlwind to relate to.
May 14, 2022
i think i understand why books like these fell out of popularity. the heroine, bristal, is a typical special snowflake, who has been a servant girl all her life but is actually the daughter of the most powerful person in the realm (who would've guessed?).

that would've been bearable if i could connect to the characters. her love interest was annoying, and so was her mentor, and at times i also despised bristal herself. the entire book is TELLING, not SHOWING, which is usually the mark of an author who cannot write or manipulate nuance artfully and thus has to resort to telling the reader everything straight out.

this book tries to nod to cinderella, snow white, sleeping beauty and a few other fairytales by incorporating some of their elements into the storyline, but the result was that the entire plot was in a mess. when hannah west combined everything it was so bizarre that half the time i didn't understand what was going on. the transitions were too abrupt and within 3 chapters, the heroine finds herself as one of the last two people standing against evil? where is the complexity or the character development on both sides? this made the characters seem like they were cut out of paper with no dimensions at all, each one boxed into a "good" or "evil" category.

overall, i would 10/10 not recommend this book, unless you have nothing better to do and would like to waste 3-4 hours of your life
Profile Image for Gray Cox.
Author 4 books165 followers
April 13, 2018
Hmmm, I don't know if I should give this three or four stars... :/
Profile Image for Eileen (BookCatPin).
761 reviews196 followers
August 29, 2016
Kingdom of Ash and Briars is a must-read for fantasy fans. It is officially one of my favourite 2016 reads! The book meticulously blends fairy tales together while maintaining complete originality. What an imaginative story!

The world in Kingdom of Ash and Briars is intricate with legends and foretelling but also simple and easy to catch onto. I was surprised by the drawn-out timeline but it made perfect sense. This book had bits of various fairy tales mixed into new material. Ms. West beautifully weaves each element together to craft a compelling new story. So creative! I loved the moments where I was able to figure out which twist belonged to which fairy tale. Magic. Curses. Princesses. Soldiers. Matchmaker. I loved seeing how each was incorporated into the overall story- so refreshing and delightful because the parts came together so well.

The kingdoms lived mostly in peace until evil (re)surfaced and threatened destruction. The darkness lurking just behind the scene heightened the sense of foreboding in the story. I dreaded but needed to see what came next. Every move and decision the characters made impacted their chance of survival. The battle between humans and monsters (good vs. evil) had a likeness to The Lord of the Rings. While I loved it, it was no less miserable to witness. Oh the sacrifices... *sobs*

Bristal, our heroine, is so noble. As one of the few (three to be exact) elicromancers left in the world, she pledged herself to protecting the kingdoms. She played each of her roles admirably. I was very sad for her when the heavy chip on her shoulder jeopardized her chance at happiness. To find it but not be able to act on it. Pure torture for me. If anyone deserved to be happy, it was Bristal.

There are quite a number of characters in Kingdom of Ash and Briars and I loved each one of them. Each played a vital role in bringing out the story. Their relationships were even more crucial to tying in the twists. Rosamund, Elinor, Charles, Anthony, Nicolas, Tamarice and more- they complete the story.

With courage, danger, passion at every turn, Kingdom of Ash and Briars is one exquisite read. The creative story and brilliantly-executed fairy tale twists made Kingdom of Ash and Briars an unforgettable read.
Profile Image for Ambur.
807 reviews431 followers
February 25, 2022
I have been ridiculously excited about KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIARS since I first saw the cover months ago....so, so excited! And you know what? It completely lived up to that excitement and totally blew past all of my expectations! It was amazing!!! :D Gah!!!

I absolutely loved Bristal! She was such a wonderful main character, and it was a pleasure to get to see what was going on inside of her head. The story itself was magical, and just all-around wonderful! And all of the characters were freaking amazing...each one, no matter how big or small, completely stood out for me. Add in all of the fairytale elements from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Hua Mulan plus elements of Jane Austen's Emma, and this story was amazing on every level! It made me laugh, giggle, growl in frustration, cry, and it made me feel immense elation...so many feelings were going on, and I loved every single second of it!!

I wholeheartedly recommend this one to everyone!!! Seriously, I think it's a book that everyone could love, I even think that readers who don't normally enjoy fantasy would really love KINGDOM OF ASH AND BRIARS!
Profile Image for Brianna Silva.
Author 3 books108 followers
August 10, 2016
DNFing this almost 100 pages in. The setup is so cliché, I feel nothing for the characters, and - ick I hate being so negative - but the prose isn't creating vivid imagery in my mind, either.

Also, this is a magic-centered story, and I tend not to care for those. But that's my fault for not reading the synopsis more closely.

I skimmed through the rest of the book to see how the story plays out... and as far as I could see, it doesn't swerve in any directions that interest me. I have no regrets for putting this one down.

(But, maybe you'll like this book?? If you love fairy tale retellings and magic stories, and you're okay with underdeveloped characters?? Just not for me.)
Profile Image for Tracy (Cornerfolds).
569 reviews197 followers
September 12, 2016
Read more of my reviews at Cornerfolds.com!

Initial reaction:

DNF @ 55%

Fun fact: I LOVE fairytale retellings! I participate in a retelling challenge every year and actively seek them out because they're usually amazing. When I first saw Kingdom of Ash and Briars earlier this year I knew I had to have it and, when I had the opportunity to read an ARC, of course I said yes! With such an amazing lineup of tales, I expected nothing short of greatness!

Kingdom of Ash and Briars is about Bristal, a kitchen maid who is literally dragged to her magical fate as an elicromancer. The first page of this book throws the reader directly into the action along with Bristal so we really don't learn anything about her or what's going on. We also learn about the magical aspects and lore of her world as she navigates her story. Although I wasn't able to connect with Bristal very much, I did enjoy her for the most part. The way she was written did make her seem really interesting, but also distant. There were other characters in the story who were important, but equally as difficult to connect with.

Unfortunately I put this book down at 55% so I didn't get very far into the Bristal's romance, so I can't really say much about that. Instead I'd like to comment on the romance between Rosamund and her prince. Look, I understand that this is supposed to be the Sleeping Beauty part of the story but I honestly wanted to throw up when I read that he loved her and would do anything for her after knowing her for maybe a couple hours. Yes, the Disney version was very instalovey, but come on. This is a retelling. Why can't it be, you know, retold? I have no idea if the Cinderella part of the book was as bad in the romance department because I only saw the very beginning of it.

Which brings me to the story. This is marketed as a fairytale retelling and it is certainly a fairytale mashup but I'm not sure if "retelling" is the appropriate word. Usually (and maybe I've just happened upon this type of book thus far) a retelling uses aspects of a well-known story and makes into something almost entirely new. This is the first time I've seen so many fairytales basically smashed together with a couple details tweaked and they are literally just one after another.

Kingdom of Ash and Briars had the potential to be amazing! Bristal's story apart from all of the other fairytales could have been fantastic on its own. I was really interested in everything she had to do to basically try to save the world from a crazy person, but it got really bogged down for me on the way there and I just couldn't keep going. And this is coming from someone who loves fairytale retellings! The magic had the potential to be an amazing aspect of the story but was never quite expanded upon enough to really make sense.

I wanted to love this so much and I really hate not enjoying a book, especially when it was given to me for review, but I just couldn't finish this. I tried off and on for nearly a month before just calling it quits and passing it on to another blogger. Luckily for all of you, I seem to be in the minority on this one! Retellings remain my favorite thing to read. Unfortunately, this just wasn't the one for me.
Profile Image for Lindsey (Bring My Books).
649 reviews140 followers
September 14, 2016
Really interesting way to spin and morph two really familiar fairy tales (Cinderella & Sleeping Beauty) into something new and interesting! The plot was compelling and the characters intriguing and (mostly) well drawn out - would definitely recommend this to people looking for fast paced fantasy or fairytale retellings!

The story is simple enough in theory: Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, finds out she has shape shifting powers. She also comes to realize that these powers mean she could become an elicromancer, "gifted beings that are destined to guide the kingdoms of men to prosperity and peace, to come to their aid when disaster or war threatens." She trains with the only two elicromancers left in the world, and shenanigans ensue. Ultimately, it becomes Bristal's responsibility to, well, you know, save the world.

But really, the book is SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. Betrayal, heartbreak, death, secret identities, magic, love, disguises, shape-shifting ... you name it, this book has it. It's all plotted together incredibly well, and I love how the fairy tales merged and split and the moments that they became familiar to you (like when Bristal hid away with Rosie in the forest, scenes that were all very reminiscent of the Sleeping Beauty film).

I thoroughly enjoyed the characters in this book, and felt a kinship to Bristal throughout. I loved her relationships with the other characters in the story, and even though I've talked to a few people who didn't really ship the thing, I totally shipped the thing. It's definitely slow burn, but beyond worth it. (Just to put it out there, in some ways I was kind of reminded of another fantasy book, Fire by Kristin Cashore.) Bristal's relationships with the two girls (the matchmaker to Cinderella's Fairy Godmother, and the guardian to Sleeping Beauty's fairies) were especially fun to read, and I loved watching those plotlines come together.

Find this and other reviews at Bring My Books!
Profile Image for E.C..
Author 1 book80 followers
August 9, 2021
Okay, confession time. I read this book purely because of the gorgeous cover.

(Not exactly true, though. I also read it because I love fairytale retellings. Don't tell anyone, though. I'm supposed to be that girl who never touches fantasy with a 64-foot pole. 😜)

And honestly, I really, really wanted to like it. I loved a lot of the story—the mishmash of fairytale retellings, the characters, the world, and magic. I also really related to the main character's feelings of being forced into someone who wasn't really herself, longing like a bird to be free from her cage. The author's writing style fitted the tone of the story. And yes, Bristal's disguises and her "fairy godmother" role made me just a tad bit jealous. 😉

Oh, and Brack is an AMAZING character. Love him.

But in all, while there was a lot of fun and creative aspects of this story, there were a lot of things that I just couldn't quite get behind.

Some parts felt reminiscent of Disney movies. And for those who know me, I'm not a big—or even a little—fan of Disney, partly because I never could quite agree with the way they dealt with their themes. Specifically, in this book, there were SO many scenes where princes and princesses fell in love at first sight, based on appearance only. There was so much of "I love you because you're so beautiful" which just felt so wrong. That happened multiple times, not only between the princes and princesses Bristal was befriending/protecting, but also with Bristal herself.

The Bible specifically talks about this. Proverbs 31:30 states, "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."

Appearance should never be the guiding factor in ANY relationship, romantic or otherwise. I know it happens a lot in real life, but that's not how things SHOULD be. Such relationships are purely shallow, and probably not enduring like all good relationships should be. Like, seriously, can't we have an average (appearance-wise) female love interest?

Rant aside, I feel like there was a lot of romance that seemed to come out of nowhere in this book. And of course, there were weddings. None of the ships were ones I could get behind at all, because they were all so surface-level and based solely on appearance. None of the characters even started as friends, and I felt because of that, they didn't know each other very well. Which was just sad, because there was so much potential there.

There were also other things ... how stilted the dialogue felt, how some of the characters felt underdeveloped, and some believability issues I had, as well as questions worldbuilding-wise that never were explained.

But what I DID especially appreciate about this book was that the lines between good and evil were not crossed. There was a very clear evil character (that I really wanted to like, in the beginning) and her evil magic. The main and side characters used their good magic for healing, practical things, and bringing peace to the realm. Never once did they source from the dark magic.

So overall, I just feel this book wasn't my thing. But if you like dark fantasy with a lot of magical elements, fairytale retellings, and political subplots (that are specific to the world), you might enjoy this one.
Profile Image for Anna.
207 reviews17 followers
November 18, 2016
What a charming little book.

It was neat. A well thought out book coming to a tidy conclusion with no strings left flapping around.
It was creative in how she weaved Bristal into different fairy tales, making a mark on many other people's lives, while the story of Bristal's life was wholly her own.
It's strange (in my experience anyway,) to find a fantasy book that is so short and not in a series, but I think in this case it was a good idea to keep it to one book. It showed that West's eyes weren't bigger than her stomach, and she knew that she only had so much story to tell. Instead of dragging that out between two or three books with endless chapters of filler, she kept it succinct, and therefore it was well paced and interesting the whole way through.
My only qualm with this though, was that I would have actually liked a bit more time in the world she made, and a lot more time with the characters.
The romance's were true to their fairy tale origins, happening over night (save Bristal's herself...sort of) and there just wasn't enough time focused on building the relationships between the huge array of people that she knew. Drell, for example, had my love and attention from the beginning, and I feel like she wasn't allowed to grow to what she could have been as a character and friend.
I love a tale of a girl coming to power and changing lives, and I really wish that there could have been more on how she individually helped shape those around her.

Other than that it was a heart warming story that had me hooked from the start, eager to read more, holding my breath and ultimately feeling very satisfied.
And that cover.
Profile Image for Octavia.
367 reviews161 followers
August 17, 2016
I am thoroughly impressed with this one! The plot was strong, writing was entrancing , the characters were AH-MAZING. And above all, it was a retelling that didn't read like a traditional retelling and that is something I can get behind!

Full review to come soon!!
Profile Image for Amy.
851 reviews53 followers
October 4, 2016
Bristal is an orphaned servant girl who finds out she has super-speshul powers and that she is a super-rare, super-powerful immortal elicromancer. Elicromancers were wiped off during a war centuries earlier and Bristal is only the 3rd known one still alive (apparently they're not all that immortal afterall). Becoming an elicromancer involves being thrown into a lake called the Water that's hidden deep in the forest – if you drown, you're not an elicromancer; if you're worthy, you get spit out with a shiny new elicromancer stone that channels or enhances your powers (or something…it's not really clear). Bristal goes to live and train with the other 2 living elicromancers Brack & Tamarice. Tamarice immediately lets Bristal in on the secret that Tamarice is dabbling in the dark side and WANTS TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD *insert evil laughter*. At this point, there's a lot of political stuff between 3 kingdoms and with retellings of Sleeping Beauty & Cinderella thrown in for good measure, and then a war.

The pacing in this book is so weird. Not only does Tamarice tell Bristal she's turning dark almost immediately after meeting her but she also tries to lure Bristal to the dark side. Then only 20 percent into the book, Tamarice has a Maleficent moment on Princess Rosamund's name day, curses the princess and vows to destroy the kingdom. Bristal temporarily vanquishes her (in a very baby Harry/Voldemort moment). Bristal, despite being a brand spanking new elicromancer with little training is given the task of hiding Princess Rosamund away and protecting her until Brack can find Tamarice and destroy her. (It's hilarious that immediately after Tamarice curses the princess and destroys half the castle, Brack tells the King "welp, the only thing we can do is take your long-hoped-for infant daughter away, change her name and have a stranger take care of her" and everyone is like "okay sure no problem".) So Bristal disguises herself and takes "Rosie" to a peasant village. Then we have a time jump and Rosie is a teenager. We find out that Bristal often leaves Rosie alone to go meddle in/influence political affairs. Bristal eventually has her mortal (???) friend Drell come stay with Rosie so that she can infiltrate the Realm Alliance army that the youngest prince of one of the kingdom has formed to stop Tamarice. I found it stupid that Bristal was given the job of protecting Rosie but is away from her more than she's there to protect her. And she puts a human in charge of the princess instead? (Also, I never really understood the characters of Drell and her grandmother Kimber. Were they mortal, somewhat magic? It's never explained.)

Rosie's cousin, Elinor, who was also sent into hiding and is known as the "Lost Duchess" takes on the role of Cinderella in the book. (With Bristal as her fairy godmother.) Bristal thinks it's important that Elinor marry her betrothed, Prince Charles, who is heir to the throne of one of the kingdoms. Elinor's adventures at the ball are pretty much exactly like Cinderella's (except her slippers only have glass ~accents, which I suppose are more practical). Again, the pacing is weird on this story: Elinor runs out of the ball & loses her shoe, the Prince tracks her down AND FINDS HER THE VERY SAME NIGHT…LIKE LITERALLY A COUPLE OF HOURS LATER AND THEY IMMEDIATELY GET ENGAGED AND MARRIED. I suppose it's better than dragging it out? We wouldn't want suspense or anything.

Shortly after, a mysterious boy rides through the forest next to Rosie's hovel and meets the lovely young maiden Rosie and falls immediately in love with her. He tells her he's a peasant boy but while in disguise with the Realm Alliance, Bristal discovers he's the prince of one of the other kingdoms and was betrothed to Rosie on her name day. The Prince tells a disguised Bristal that he had a fairy work a spell to help him locate the "Lost Princess" but that he fell in love with a peasant girl instead…so Bristal immediately tells him that Rosie *is* the Lost Princess and that she'll get them together if he'll send soldiers to join the Alliance and fight against Tamarice. She just blurts it out without a background check or anything! I was half hoping Prince Nicolas was evil or something and it'd bite her in the butt.

Speaking of bad decisions, Brack tells Bristal that Tamarice has set traps to catch the 2 good elicromancers. They normal travel by disapparating materializing and Brack tells her that Tamarice can track her in sort of a no-man's-land so she shouldn't travel by materlializing…so Bristal immediately does travel by that mode of transportation, gets trapped but she's rescued by Brack in less than a page, so what was the point, really?

The Curse is eventually enacted and Rosie falls asleep. For like a couple days or weeks, big whoop. Bristal finds out her true parentage and I'm not quite sure how that works since her parents died in the elicromancer war centuries before she was born but whatever. Her father, of course, is the most powerful elicromancer ever so you can see how things are going to turn out.There's a battle, some side characters no one cares about die, Tamarice is easily killed, the Curse is broken…it's pretty anti-climatic.

This book reminded me a lot of Uprooted, another highly-praised 'new' fairy tale that I failed to see the hype for. The best thing I can say about this book is that nothing is drawn out…but I'm not sure that the plot moving at break-neck speed is really an improvement. Maybe this is one of those times when a duology would've worked better and the plot (and characters) could've been fleshed out a bit more (and not made so many hasty, reckless decisions).
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Trisha.
158 reviews40 followers
May 21, 2019
I am a huge fan of retellings. I loved The Restless Girls, Circe, Uprooted and I was so sure I would love Kingdom of Ash and Briars as well. I mean.. Look at the cover! Isn’t it gorgeous?!!! ❤

Now.. My take on Kingdom of Ash and Briars is a bit complicated. I mean, the book was fast pacing, we got a strong female lead and I loved the writing style. But yet after finishing, I am not satisfied. It just feels incomplete.. I don’t know why! I just liked this book, when it had the full potential of being loved!

I think the place it got a little lacking is the re-telling factor. The book is not a single story retelling, we have got Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and bit of Mulan flavor in it. Part of me wished for a simple Sleeping Beauty retelling (that part was really enjoyable), and part of me wished for a more developed relationship story of Bristal-Anthony and Bristal-Rosie. I think that would have made it easier to feel more connected with Bristal?! I mean we get to know that she cares about Anthony and Rosie, but the relationship between them somehow came as very two-dimensional. I get that due to the *circumstances* she couldn’t show her affection, but a little bit inside dilemma/angst would have been better.

SO, My overall rating for this book is 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Thank you TimesReads for sending the Review copy on my way in exchange of an Honest Review.*

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Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 21 books4,803 followers
May 17, 2016
I won this advanced reading copy from a website hosting a YA book giveaway. Very exciting! It took me awhile to finish due to May being the craziest month ever for me.
This book is told in Acts. Act 1 was *amazing* I couldn't ask for anything more from a YA fantasy. Strong world building, jumped right into the action, likable protagonist, interesting magic system.
Act 2 was not as good in comparison. The author introduced two storylines that were based on Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. I didn't like that. I felt like the author did a wonderful job drawing me into a very unique and expertly told story of her own and then this reimagining of old fairytales was inserted into it. It felt very jarring.
The third act was the climax into the ending. This act was very strong as well with the story moving at a quickened pace and character storylines coming to a close. I gave this book 4 strong, bright stars. I loved so much about it. I just left one star off for the middle of the book being a little weak and for the fairytale stuff. I recommend this book!
Profile Image for Whitley Birks.
294 reviews355 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
August 14, 2016
I'm just really not feeling this book. Mostly because of the villain. She's so hammy, and any attempts to make her 'grey' or give reason for her villitude are just clunky at best. Plus, carrying on about her amazing sexy looks while she's villaining is just...not my bag. The fantasy aspects and plot are nothing to write home about, and Bristal sacrifices having a personality for being an observer, so there's just really nothing holding me in this book.
Profile Image for Elisa The-Bookie-Monster.
423 reviews18 followers
August 27, 2018
DNF. Sounded interesting but I just couldn’t get into it. I usually give books 100 pages but I made it 150 and I just can’t do it. Maybe I’ll revisit in the future.
Profile Image for Portia.
244 reviews1 follower
March 22, 2017
I really enjoyed this. It was new and I like how there were so many references to other fairytales. :)

Review to come!
Profile Image for nia🏹 •shades0fpaper•.
848 reviews111 followers
January 25, 2018
You can find this review and others on my blog shades of paper

“She is clever, Bristal. But I hope you’re wise.”

It’s been a while since I finished this book and I still don’t know how I truly think about it. The thing is, I overall enjoyed a lot the story and everything, but I was in the middle of a reading slump, and sometimes I wasn’t really in the mood or was simply a bit bored, and I’m pretty sure this was one of the most important reasons why I ended up not loving this book.

I’ve been eyeing this book ever since it came out, and to be fairly honest, I didn’t see a lot of people talking about it, which even intrigued me more, because it had really good reviews online. So finally I ended up picking it up a couple of weeks ago.

“History likes to call one side good and the other evil. But is it bad to want to use your power to bring clean orde to the world? To archieve the peace in this land that mortals can’t archieve on their own.”

The story was actually really good, and I loved how it started. The beginning of the book was so intriguing that made me very excited to see what things were going to happen next. I think the characters were really well done, and their development throughout the book was done quite well in my opinion. I loved the magic system, and even though at the beginning I was a bit confused with some things that were happening, I ended up loving how magic worked in that world and the information provided as I kept reading the story.

However something I would have loved to see more was the retelling parts of that novel. I feel they weren’t the main focus nor really important. Sometimes you could see little snippets of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, but they were brief and didn’t add much to the story line, which made me so sad because I was really excited to discover another good retelling.

I wasn’t particulary fond of the romance, either. I feel it wasn’t really important, and it started in a really bad timing and out of nowhere, to be honest. I knew when I was almost halfway through that there would be romance, but it didn’t make sense to me and it felt a bit unecessary. Who knows, maybe I would have liked it more if I hadn’t been in a reading slump!

“Magic is given to wise and unwise alike, just like title and crowns. You could no more say it’s only used for evil that you could say every king is corrupt.”

It was really fast paced, though! Even though I wasn’t in the best mood while reading it, I have to say once I reached that half mark I flew through it. The first part was a bit slower, since a lot of information is given and the author was explaining a few things about that world and the magic system, but I’d say it wasn’t that hard to follow.

The ending was a bit convinient and unrealistic. It’s kind of a personal opinion, but when there’s a war, or any type of fight between “good” and “evil”, I expect some things to happen, and this didn’t reach my expectations, which was a bit disappointing. Some things that happened towards the end were really convinient, and they felt a bit odd to me.

Overall, I think this was a nice and solid read, even though I had a few issues with somethings that happened in the story. I think that me being in that slump made me do a much more crytical review, so I’m debating whether or not re-read it another time where I’m in the mood and finally put all my thoughts together!
Profile Image for Cassi.
680 reviews50 followers
September 8, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Mandy.
636 reviews67 followers
November 6, 2016
But truthfully, it's more like Kingdom of Meh and More Meh. Exactly like Sleeping Beauty's face. She is not pleased.

DNF at 32%

Guys and gals, you don't understand how excited I was for this book. Not only did it have a ridiculously beautiful cover, it promised me a Sleeping Beauty retelling - and not just a Sleeping Beauty retelling, it also promised to take elements from other folklore and fairytale novels including Mulan. MULAN, KIDS. Mulan, Rapuzel, and Sleeping Beauty are my ultimate Disney Princesses, so imagine all the squealing I did when I discovered that two would be in this book. I stalked Amazon and Barnes and Noble every day to see if this would go down in price and what day was the actual day it would be released (there were three different days that each website would tell me and it turned out to be, like, none of them.) It was a really power in restraint not to buy it, and because I saw a few negative reviews, I finally had a stern talking to myself and decided to wait for the library. Thank gosh for that mind-conversation, though, because I ended up struggling through this no matter how pretty the cover was.

I tried soooo hard with this book. I really did. I got 114 pages in, which usually my limit is two chapters in and I'm done if I'm not feeling it.

However, no matter what I did, I just couldn't get into this book. It fell so flat to me. I didn't care about the plot. I didn't care about the characters. I felt nothing for the main character, and we hadn't even met the love interest yet. But seriously, how do you go 114 pages in a smaller book (like only 300 pages) and NOT meet the love interest yet? It just seemed really boring to me.

What made me even more upset is there was honestly nothing really wrong with it. Hannah West has a nice writing style, and her concept was amazing. She really did flesh out the whole concept nicely, and I love anything fairytale. So far, she did a very interesting take on the Sleeping Beauty tale.

But it was just boring, meh, and I just couldn't get into it, and it's a real shame. So much for one of my most excited books of 2016.

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