Among the Beasts and Briars

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Oct. 2020. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062847362.
Gr 7 Up–Poston’s quiet writing style gives life to an original, spine-tingling fairy tale perfect for middle schoolers who are venturing into the world of YA. The country of Aloriya tells a story about the king’s magical crown: a gift from the Lady of the Wilds in the magical city of Voryn to the first king, as eternal protection from the Woods. That story is a lie. Cerys’s blood can bring forests to life—a curse leftover from her trip into the Woods, when she and the Princess Anwen were the only survivors. When Anwen’s coronation is interrupted by a woodcursed stranger and bone-eaters who are after the crown, Cerys takes it and runs for the Wildwood. With Fox and their new friend Bear to help evade their new enemies, Cerys makes for Voryn. Poston cut her teeth on retellings; this is her first original fairy tale, and it’s the perfect balance of heartwarming adventure and creepy monsters. There are unanswered questions that keep the story from being entirely satisfying, but open up the possibility for more original fairy tales. The casual assumption of bisexuality lends the impression that queer relationships are the norm in this world. The majority of the cast is white—Cerys is pale with freckles, Anwen has blonde hair and blue eyes—but there is mention of darker skin tones among peripheral characters.
VERDICT Naomi Novik’s Uprooted for a younger audience, Poston has written a soft, romantic standalone that should be considered an additional purchase for libraries where fantasy is popular.

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