He laughed, “I’ll see you in a bloom.”
I swear, it’s as though every time I read a new Ashley Poston novel, I fall more and more in love. And the funny thing is that her books always have some sort of element to them that would typically make me steer clear away from it. But somehow they just keep getting better and better. I said it with Bookish and the Beast some months ago and I’m saying it with Among the Beasts & Briars now: this is Poston’s best book to date. In fact, I’m still completely mind blown I fell so in love with this book that I actually found myself referring to it as my new favorite. Now, I’m still massively in love with Marissa Meyer’s Cress and The Lunar Chronicles, but this book? It’s right up there with those for me.
The truth is…I picked this book up for the fox.
I saw the fox on this cover and, despite my NetGalley ban, instantly requested it without any further information. I remember checking who the author was after the fact. Fortunately, I was excited when I realized that this was written by someone whose books I’d genuinely enjoyed in the past. Considering I had only ever read Poston’s Once Upon a Con series, though, I genuinely wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Among the Beasts & Briars.
Funnily enough, due to my associations for the word Briar and knowing Poston’s written numerous retellings, I genuinely expected a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. I knew I was going to read the story at the end of the day. I’d read anything for a fox.
Among the Beasts & Briars follows Cerys, the daughter of the royal gardener. She lost her mother and her friends, the Crown Prince and their guard, at a young age to the terrifying beasts of the forest. Of everyone involved in the incident, only Cerys and the Prince’s sister, Princess Anwen, survive. And it is only the King’s magical crown that keeps the beasts from escaping the woods.
Years later, when the old King dies, the monsters of the forest see it as an opportunity to attack. And they must do so before Princess Anwen becomes queen and fully inherits the powerful crown. Soon Cerys and her fox companion find themselves braving the horrors of the forest to break a centuries-old curse to save her kingdom, her family, and the only people she’s ever loved.
I am not, I repeat, not the kind of person who likes scary, horror-esque, creepy, or bone-chilling. Scary stories are most likely to result in me nope-ing my way out of sight very quickly, much like this fox. As a result, it’s actually pretty surprising that I fell in love with this novel as I did. You see, Among the Beasts & Briars is very much an incredibly scary story. It was so scary that I had to keep reading until it wasn’t and watch a happy show afterward the one time I decided to read it before bed. Quite simply, I am not the kind of person who reads or likes nightmare-esque stories.
And yet there was something immensely compelling about this book. In a weird way, I actually found myself loving how scary it was. The dark and extremely disturbing monsters that peppered the pages of this book left you wonderfully terrified and engaged. The fear you feel is visceral and gripping. And it’s largely because Poston gets you incredibly invested in her characters in a really short time. In an astounding turn of events, you grow invested not only in Cerys and her charming fox companion, but in the very beasts that haunt them.
Though I will say many of the plot elements in this novel are fairly easy to predict. For example, I knew right away what the secret was behind the fox. Fortunately, there are still enough mysteries surrounding them to keep you guessing. While you might not wonder what the secret is, you’ll certainly find yourself wondering how it will be revealed to the characters. And, in that sense, the predictability is wielded expertly.
It helps, I think, that the plot is so fascinating and the characters so easy to fall in love with. Even the monsters, whom I never once would have expected to love, were endearing. I found myself desperately praying for a resolution for them, very pointedly wishing for specific outcomes. One such character that I loved who periodically broke my heart and built me up with hope was Seren. And even now I still feel in a sort of limbo with how much I adored him.
Of course, there’s always Cerys and her fox, both perfect in their own respective ways. And it’s a good thing, too, because they were the primary focus of the entire novel. You become quite invested in Cerys and Fox early on. Then you proceed to spend each moment of the book falling more and more in love with them. Their drives, personalities, and histories just filled me with so many feels that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do with them…other than spend literally all night–a work night, mind you–finishing the book.
And then there’s Anwen who makes you shake with fear whilst simultaneously inciting you to sob with hope and despair. Damn, this character was so friggin’ scary. And yet you were constantly wishing for her wellbeing. Of all the monsters, Seren broke me the most, but Anwen’s story was impressive.
Among them all
The stakes in this novel are incredibly high. And this builds in readers an intense sense of urgency and concern for the characters. I don’t think I spent a single moment of this novel not tensing up over something. The read was such a whirlwind, so amazing that I was enticed to preorder a copy immediately after finishing. I’m probably going to be buying the audiobook as well (I’m imagining this will be even scarier).
I cannot stress enough how amazing this book was, how beautiful the story, or how affecting the characters are. And I could not recommend a book more.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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