Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West (2016)

I tired to recall the legends of the Water, the stories Patsy and the maids had told me. It determined the fate of anyone who dared touch it – like the thousands of dead before me. It either bestowed immeasurable power in the form of an elicrin stone or pulled you into its depths and destroyed you. The bodies of those it rejected were never recovered (ARC p 8).

img_6113In this fairy tale retelling, West weaves together the Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty tales through the ‘good fairy’ who aids both blonde-haired princesses as part of a larger agenda to unit disparate kingdoms against a dark magic attack.

When orphaned kitchen girl Bristal is kidnapped and forced into the Water by a group of thugs, she is revealed to be an elicromamcer – an immoral magical being with an affinity for shape shifting.

She is immediately rescued by the realm’s only other existing elicromamcers, Brack and Tamarice. They take Bristal to the ancestral elicromamcer mountain home where they begin her training as a protector of the three realms of Nissera.

Her presence ignites long simmering tensions between the Sentient Brack, when can read and influence minds, and his former student Tamarice, a Terrene who can manipulate the land and all that grows from it. Brack believes in the traditional role of elicromamcers as public servents and protectors of the peace. Tamarice advocates for embracing power and dominance over mortals as the best means of insuring peace.

When Bristol chooses to aid Brack against Tamarice, she is soon pitted against a growing darkness and tasked with using her Clandestine abilities to unite the kings of the realm for impending battle.

Engrossing, fast-paced and with enough political intrigue and a sprinkling of romance, this teen fantasy is a cut above average. “West mixes fairy-tale charm with contemporary mysticism to create a world both terrifying and wonderful” (Kirkus).

 

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