• Page Count: 352
  • Release Date: August 30, 2016
  • My Rating: 4 stars

Goodreads book description:

Kingdom of Ash and Briars 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.

My thoughts:


This was a really fun fairy tale retelling! It’s a YA fantasy with elements of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Mulan, but is also totally its own story.

Bristal starts out the story as a poor orphan, but then discovers she’s one of the ancient, immortal elicromancers and can shapeshift. Throughout the course of the story she becomes a fairy godmother to both the Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty characters and helps them get their princes/the end of their traditional storyline. Bristal shifts into a guy’s appearance and joins the soldiers of Prince Anthony, which is where the Mulan story comes in. (I loved how there were so many princes in this story — EVERYONE gets a prince. It’s like Oprah). There’s a much larger plot going on at the same time with the threat of the Maleficent figure and war.

I loved seeing how all of the different fairy tales wove together… so many parts were incredibly clever! I also LOVED the relationship between Anthony & Bristal. But there really were a lot of characters overall and it was a bit hard for me to keep them straight. I didn’t necessarily connect with Bristal as much as I would’ve liked, either… I think my main issue was that I frequently felt like a distant observer instead of someone actually in the story.

But the story I was observing was still incredibly fun! The world was gorgeous and combined all of my favorite aspects of YA fantasy. There were princes, magic, castles, kingdoms that sounded gorgeous, pretty dresses, and a medieval-type setting!

The story occasionally felt like several disjointed smaller stories, but I did like all of those stories. It was just a bit hard to see the bigger picture at times. The writing was really good, though, and the whole thing was just so creative! This book felt more like an awesome YA fantasy book that threw some familiar roles from fairy tales into an imaginative new world. So check it out if you like retellings and/or fantasy!

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC!

See my Q&A with author Hannah West


8 comments on “Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West”

  1. Ummm this made me extremely excited to read the book. I’m a sucker for retellings so when I heard about it originally, I was excited, but shapeshifters? I basically would like to read it now please.

  2. Great review, this sounds like a really interesting book! Sleeping Beauty has always been my favorite, and I’m always up for reading Sleeping beauty retellings. Sadly, there are hardly any. The shapeshifting sounds really interesting as well, especially because that’s not a topic that I at least don’t see often in YA. I’m excited to check this out now (also that cover is gorgeous)!

    • Have you read Princess of Thorns? That’s more about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, but I still liked it.
      And yes, the cover IS gorgeous, isn’t it?!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *