Note: Review originally posted on Goodreads 07 January 2021
Among the Beasts & Briars
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Published: 20 October 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
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.
TL;DR: Mine is an unpopular opinion but I didn’t end up loving this as much as I hoped I would and I was sad about not enjoying it more. If you’re looking for a YA fantasy that’s light on the world building and character development, but has a nice fairytale vibe with “far-off places, magical spells, and a prince in disguise” then I would recommend it!
This was another 2020 release that I was so very highly anticipating but unfortunately (for me) I didn’t end up loving it. It started out strong as I was immediately pulled into the story and was eager to learn more about the curse and the woods, but it didn’t take long for it to lose me as I came across many inconsistencies that kept jarring me out of the story, and I ended up feeling quite lukewarm about it for the majority.
If you’re going into this expecting a lushly written fantasy with a unique plot and detailed world building then this probably won’t be for you, but if you want a very light and somewhat whimsical fairytale-esque fantasy that’s not too heavy on plot or character development then I think this would be more your speed. The writing surprised me as I found it was more juvenile for what I expected, although that’s not to say that there weren’t some really well-written parts that I connected with. There are a few curse words sprinkled into the story and it’s mostly from one perspective but I felt as if this was geared more towards the younger side of the YA age range. There is definitely a strong fairytale vibe to this story with its “far-off places, magical spells and a prince in disguise”, and it does require you to suspend your disbelief a fair bit, but I did end up enjoying it enough.
I have to say that this also got creepier than I expected and Poston did a good job in creating a genuine fear of the woods and the monsters the curse created! I had dreams about being chased through the woods by eldritch gods and it really wasn’t a jam–that said, I’m a notorious chicken so take that as you will 🤣 The world building was pretty simplistic and a lot of it wasn’t detailed which is a shame because I was really interested in the lore and especially wanted to know more about how the magic in the woods worked. I loved whenever Cerys used her magic and I found the imagery in these scenes to be quite vivid and full of life (no pun intended), but I’m sad that we didn’t get more of those scenes and I feel like that was really missed potential.
I vacillated on how I felt about Cerys and Fox but for the most part, I found it really difficult to connect to either of them. I did find Fox a bit more endearing than Cerys though as some of his thoughts and dialogue really gave me a good laugh at times. Who can’t relate to a character whose love for food is so strong? Because same.
Fox was also a much more complex and better-developed character and while I can’t say much else that won’t give part of the plot away (if you don’t already know it by now), I will say that he was truly the embodiment of a Fox, from the skittish fearful animal instinct, but also the mischievous cunning and somewhat rakish charm. There is a bit of a romantic relationship in here that you can see coming from a mile away and I wasn’t really feeling it. To me, it was one of those instances of unnecessary romance that’s there because it’s YA so of course there has to be a romance; I think it would’ve been much better and more believable if their relationship stayed platonic, and it would’ve been a more realistic dynamic.
While the plot was fairly predictable and I was able to figure out a lot pretty early on in the story, I was pleasantly surprised by a few of the character arcs. My curiosity to learn about the truth behind the woodcurse and how a few arcs would turn out is what propelled me to keep reading, and by the last third of it, I felt a bit more invested in the outcome. I did think the ending was rushed and the outcome too simplistic but at the same time, as mentioned before, it fit with the whole fairytale-esque vibe and so, of course, there was going to be an easy Happy Ever After.
I feel like the tone of this review is quite negative and it seems like maybe I didn’t enjoy this at all but that’s not the case, I just think that this might not be the book for me. As it is, my brain just wouldn’t shut off while reading it (and yeah, it can get pretty annoying sometimes!). Like I said though, if you’re looking for a lighter fairytale fantasy then I would definitely recommend checking this one out!
Have you read Among the Beasts & Briars or is it on your TBR?