on September 15th 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy & Magic, Romance, Young Adult
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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.
I picked this one up mostly because the cover drew my eye like a moth to flame. Plus, fantasy. Anyways, the purple/blue color scheme features my favorite colors of all time, and the mentions of all these different fairy tales lumped together sounded like a fun ride. Although Kingdom of Ash and Briars was extremely predictable and overall a super light read, the nostalgic elements of several fairy-tales put together still made it enjoyable for the most part. I don’t think it’ll stick with me for that long and yet I still had a smile on my face when I finished reading it.
The world is organized into kingdoms where magic is rare, although it used to be ubiquitous. Ever since a devastating war, there were almost no more elicromancers left. Elicromancers are basically magic-users who are there to protect and serve the kingdoms with their powers, although some of them in the past decided that they should be the ones to serve. That was what led to the war that destroyed their race.
‘We elicromancers have a purpose,’ Brack stated carefully. ‘As gifted beings, we are destined to guide the kingdoms of men to prosperity and peace, to come to their aid when disaster or war threatens.’
The main character Bristal finds out that she is one of those elicromancers in the beginning of the book and goes under the tutelage of the last two in the world. It’s a very special snowflake scenario, and the straightforward narrative made it seem even more so. Throughout the book I felt very disconnected from the characters, even though it was written from the first person POV of Bristal. It gave me a very dispassionate feel about the book in general, which is why although I enjoyed it, I’m not crazy over it either.
I was now one of the three most powerful beings in the realm of Nissera. Soon everyone from Calgoran to Yorth would know my name.
I think what makes this book stand out, despite its tropes and the sheer predictability of the plot elements, is the fact that it weaves a bunch of already-known stories and fairy-tales together. From what I’ve read, I saw Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Mulan. Apparently Austen’s Emma comes into play as well, but I don’t know that story so I couldn’t pick it out. Seeing the incorporation of those beloved stories was really nice, especially to a fairy-tale lover like me. But when is it more much? I went through the whole book rather bored and uninterested, because using all those plot devices from familiar stories left very little room for the author to be original about her idea. Although she weaves them flawlessly with Bristal’s story, I couldn’t help but wish for more.
Bristal basically acts familiar roles for the various stories going on; if I go too specific, the plot will be very, very, very easy to figure out. Suffice it to say, it made me wonder at the timeline of the story in general. We see a time gap in the beginning/middle area, and Bristal’s age is never specified at that time. I’m not sure if she even aged at all. There’s a lot of other ambiguous aspects of the magic that was never explained in the book. Again, that’s something original I thought the author could have expanded on to make a reader a bit more interested. However, it’s kept relatively simple and unknown. Along the way, she finds herself getting close to the younger prince of whatever kingdom Anthony and starts to fall in love with him.
It was the smile of a young man with the kind of tough spirit that a difficult life couldn’t stomp out, one who thirsted for change. But deeper down, beyond the ruse, it was the smile of a lonely girl at last finding a sense of belonging.
What can I say? The romance was pretty mundane. I commend the author for her efforts, but their interactions never conveyed “romantic interest” except for everything Bristal was thinking until suddenly, which was rather near the end. It just lacked a spark that as a reader I could not feel. Either the whole predictable plot added to that lack of feeling, or that lack of feeling exacerbated my disinterest towards the story. Either way, falling in love with a prince and battling the responsibilities that would entail is not something new.
This book is basically a Disney movie. A pretty satisfying yet easily forgettable ending, nice characters that don’t necessarily inspire passion, and cute romances founded on a couple hours of dancing and singing. Actually scratch that – I’ve experienced tremendous feelings while watching Disney movies before, and this book didn’t give me those feelings. Although I adore the addition of so many familiar and beloved stories, the utter predictability of the plot and characters made me realize that there is such a thing as too much. But, like a Disney movie, the book does satisfy a reader for the amount of time they use on it, along with a hopeful message that dreams come true.
Rating: 3 out of 5