Briar Girls/ Rebecca Kim Wells / Book Review

Briar Girls


Lena has a secret: her touch kills. She has never had real friends. She has never even had close acquaintances. It's just too risky. Cursed by a witch before she was even born, this has been Lena's reality all of her life. Until now. Now, she and her father have moved to the edge of the Silence, the mysterious forest that borders their world. The Silence drives people insane. It is dangerous. It is deadly. Lena knows that, but she can't help but feel it contains something more. And she's right, because one night she sees something that shouldn't exist: she sees a girl at the edge of the Silence. And Miranda isn't crazy. No, Miranda has a story to tell, a story of a wicked sorcerer and his witch daughter, of a sleeping princess who will wake to save the Silence--a story of the origin of Lena's magic. Lena doesn't want to feel like a monster anymore, and the Silence is calling louder than it ever has before. 


This book is a painfully generic fantasy. I hold high standards for fantasy, because I love it (and because there is so much of it). At best, this book is forgettable. But if someone wants to discuss it, I've got some WORDS to say.


  • Sapphic Fairy Tale: It's always fun to see a non-hetero twist on a fairy tale, especially one that is particularly rape-y in the original. I mean, when you've got a "sleeping beauty" woken up from her slumber by unexpected labor pains courtesy of the prince... Well, anything is a better take than that, in my opinion. Bringing more women into the tale (and leaving out a few key men) makes the love interests shine in this one--and allows the sleeping princess to keep slumbering unviolated. And that's the best kind of twist. 
  • Gruesomely Whimsical: As all good fairy tales should be, this book is both gory and full of magic--dark magic. The magic is twisted and corrupted, and its implementation is bright and full of whimsy. The forest teems with shadows and blood, desiccated bodies and hideous beasts. But alongside that death and destruction are whimsical will-o-the-wisps and drifting flower petals. The naming conventions in this book are fun and very fairy-tale as well, though that lightness hides the dark reality of the world the author weaves. 
  • Epic Quest: There is a lot of YA fantasy out there, but so little of it focuses on a quest. While quest literature tends to sacrifice character development to make room for the epic journey, the personal and worldwide stakes still make the page--and that's the case here. There is a sleeping princess, a wicked witch, and a harrowing journey full of heroes and heroines, rebels, refugees, magical roadblocks, unsettling beasts, and unexpected help along the way. 


  • Generic Voice: With so much YA fantasy out there, it can be hard to develop a unique character voice. This book just didn't do it. Neither Lena herself nor her narrative voice stood out in anyway. Because of that, I never really cared about her, and without caring for the main character, the stakes she was facing just didn't make any difference to me. I wasn't invested, and that's unfortunate. 
  • Bad Transitions: Every transition in this book felt clunky and unedited--and I do mean every one. Transitions in time, transitions in dialogue, even character movements around any given setting: it felt a little bit unpolished. There were too many "signal words" at play here. Signal words--words like "first," "then," and "after"--definitely have a place, but if they're used in abundance, they make the reading feel rather juvenile. They're often applied abundantly in learning-to-read books, after all, to help young children make predictions and connections. They're not so useful in abundance in a book meant for readers who can guess time skip transitions without needing the full expressions. 
  • Too Much Trust: I've said it before about characters and I will say it again about this one: Lena trusts way, way too much (except when it is plot-relevant that she doesn't). She switches loyalties on a dime. She gets very mad that people have concealed the truth and/or lied to her even though she has no actual reason to expect the truth from them. And if she decides not to trust someone, it's just to make a plot obstacle. She trusts again and again and again--mostly without any problem at all, real or imagined. And that just doesn't make sense. 



Fans of Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me will appreciate this new never-been-touched protagonist. Those who loved the chilling fogs of Janella Angeles's Where Dreams Descend will sink right into this shadowy forest. 


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Date: November 2, 2021
Series: N/A

Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley and Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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