The Write Reads Gang vote monthly on what book we’re going to read, and April’s book was Among the Beasts & Briars. I hadn’t even heard of this book, and, having finished it, I am stunned that I hadn’t, because it really was such a superb read. A combination of fairytale inspiration and beautifully unique storytelling, it will be a book I recommend to people for a long time to come.
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.
Firstly, let’s take a moment to admire this absolutely, stunningly, gorgeous cover. I’m a complete sucker for false embroidery covers and this one is just crushingly beautiful. The special edition is black and purple, and, somehow, even more beautiful.
The story is told from two perspectives, not completely even in their distrubution for reasons that are completely understandable once you get into the book. Cerys goes on a physical journey throughout, but far more important is the emotional journey she takes, going from a girl who sees herself as ‘just’ a gardener’s daughter, to a young woman who believes in her choices and her ability to make the correct ones. It’s always a wonder seeing character development as deep as this, and it’s a real credit to the author, just how much she makes you feel.
Fox and Vala, the bear, are the companions Cerys has on her journey, and they are supported by a wider range of characters at moments throughout. Largely it is only the three together, and they make a truly unique trio, especially with the information we learn about both of them as the book goes on.
I truly cannot understand why this book is not a bigger deal, especially with those who enjoy fairy tale-type stories, and I hope it becomes more widely known, as it really does deserve a lot of praise. Cerys is a strong, powerful female lead who would be great to inspire those of us who were taught that it always needed to be a boy saving the day; we’re making up for that with our reading choices now, and the creation of the reading options for the younger generation.
I’m so glad that I read this book. I finished it on a day where my pain was particularly troubling, and losing myself in these characters and this story was just what I needed. Beautiful, heart aching and heart pounding, full of action, love and adventure, this is a story for generations.