Title: Kingdom of Ash and Briars (The Nissera Chronicles #1)
Author: Hannah West
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings, Fairy Tales
Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
No. of pages: Hardcover, 352
Publication Date: September 15th, 2016
Date Read: November 27, 2018
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.
First, thanks to Holiday House, Inc. for sending me an electronic copy to read before I dived into Realm of Ruins for a blog tour with The Fantastic Flying Book Club.
This book was a super interesting read. I think it’s been on my reading list for a while because the cover is gorgeous, but I never had an opportunity to pick it up. I wished I had picked it up sooner because Bristal, the main character, completely steals the show. Kingdom of Ash and Briars follows Bristal, a orphan who is kidnapped and thrown into this mysterious, magical pit of water called ‘The Water.’ It’s design is for those who hold elicromancer magic to be revealed and given an elicrin stone to help control those powers. Her kidnappers, once she returns from the water, attempt to kill her but she is rescued by the only other two elicromancers known to be alive at this time. They take her back to Darmeska, where they live, and begin to help Bristal with her training. As she trains, she realizes that there is good magic and bad magic and that she’ll soon need to make a choice regarding which side she’ll take. Continuing is a story reminiscent of a mix of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella from their guardians’ view, and a view based on Mulan in what only be the first I’ve read that has incorporated them all flawlessly and logical.
Though it did take a bit for me to get into the story, this one turned out to one I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved getting to see Bristal perspective as a Clandestine, one who can change her shape. The characters that she portrays are well thought out and each plays well into the story. I also love all three of the fairy tales were seamlessly interwoven. Sometimes when reading multiple tales in one, it can seem like the effort is forced. This didn’t feel like that at all.
I also really liked the friendships and bonds built between Bristal and Brack, Drell, Elinor, Rosie, and the Alliance. Though at times, Bristal had taken on the shape of another, once she revealed herself and explained, their bonds weren’t broken. They only grew stronger because they knew that she had their best interests, and the best interests for Nissera, at heart. I also really loved Anthony. I’m so glad that he was included to be Bristal’s love interest because he was written as someone who only had the interest for his country at heart, just like her. They, and the development between them, was really well written.
Overall, I really liked this book. If you’re a fan of Disney or of the fairy tales mentioned, this is truly one worth picking up.
The Second book in the Chronicles, Realm of Ruins, released yesterday, December 4th. As part of the book tour, you can find my post on Realm of Ruins on Friday, Dec. 7th.