Nowadays, it seems like YA fiction is largely dominating the book charts – particularly of the fantasy variety. With good reason I’d say – I’m not mad about it. There are so many talented authors out there publishing all the fantastical content that we could want. One of the latest additions to this content is Among the Beasts and Briars, a foray into a magical kingdom surrounded by a dangerous, cursed forest. Throw in an old curse, warring factions and some animal companions, and you’ve got a recipe for an adventure. Let’s jump in – potential spoilers to follow.
Among the Beasts and Briars Summary
The novel begins with proper introductions. Among the Beasts and Briars follows lead heroine Cerys, daughter of the royal gardener for the kingdom of Aloriya. Her best friend and princess of the kingdom Anwen is about to be crowned queen following the death of her father the king. It’s a melancholy sort of occasion as the king is still being mourned by Anwen and the entirety of Aloriya. Also, a fateful error from years previous saw the crown prince, his squire, and Cerys’ mother lost in the cursed forest, never to be found. Cerys emerged mostly unscathed, but she retains a part of the forests’ wood curse: her blood carries magical properties. A drop will sprout flowers, vines, moss and the like. Basically she has the ultimate green thumb.
However, before the coronation can be completed the castle is attacked by monsters who promptly begin turning the citizens into terrifying creatures known as Bone Eaters. With no other option, Cerys flees Aloriya along with the magical crown meant for Anwen, and her “pet” fox into the cursed woods. There she’ll go looking for the fabled kingdom of Voryn, said to exist deep in the wood, to ask for their help and restore her home and family to their proper state. With the help of an insightful bear, Cerys and Fox will walk among the beasts and briars to find the truth about Aloriya’s power, and secrets that they never imagined.
A Magical Forest Filled Review
So I should preface my review by saying that fantasy isn’t my be all or end all genre. However, I grew up obsessed with Harry Potter like any other proper millennial, and there have been many fantasy novels that I’ve enjoyed over the years. I love the idea of a fantasy world, imaginary creatures and curses. That being said, I think those elements may contribute to some of the failings in Among the Beasts and Briars. What I mean by that is that those are elements that are seen over and over again in YA and fantasy fiction. Potson writes beautiful scenery and lovable characters, but that’s not enough to make the story original or extremely exciting.
Unfortunately I also made a very accurate guess about Cerys and Fox early on in the novel, and it turns out I was correct, as my theory proved true before the end of the novel. This probably didn’t help my lack of the element of surprise either. Sometimes twists are what add intrigue to a story, surprising the reader throughout the course of the novel. Among the Beasts and Briars does have a few twists to it, but I found myself searching for more of a surprised reaction from myself when I was reading, which didn’t come.
Now don’t go getting the wrong idea and thinking that I hated Among the Beasts and Briars. Not at all. It was a fun and fast read that basically checks all of the boxes for young adult fantasy novels that so many people love. The romance aspect was sweet without overshadowing the story, and Cerys is a well written and genuine heroine. I think that I was simply hoping for more from the overarching story. The boxes are checked, but not with much new or different from many others. That said, Potson is clearly a gifted writer, and I would be interested in picking up some of her other novels in the future.
Overall I’d say that Among the Beasts and Briars is a fun, fairly standard young adult fantasy novel. It’s well written with tight storytelling, but didn’t have any new or exciting twists to present to the reader. It was fast paced, and anyone looking for that type of fantasy read will likely be quite happy with Cerys, her powers and her fight to save her home. Reviews are always based on personal tastes; what appeals to this reader may not to others. But that’s the beauty in boos isn’t it? There is so much out there to discover and enjoy, so many worlds to get lost in. It may not have been for myself, but for others Among the Beasts and Briars and the kingdom of Aoriya will be the perfect way to wander into the woods.