I swear, it’s as though every single time I read a new Ashley Poston novel, I fall more and more in love. And the funny thing is that the books she writes always have some sort of element to them that would typically make me steer clear away from it. But somehow they just keep getting better and better. I said it with Bookish and the Beast some months ago and I’m saying it with Among the Beasts & Briars now. This is Poston’s best book to date. In fact, something that blew my mind completely out of the water and everything else is the fact that I fell so in love with this book I actually found myself referring to it as my new favorite book. Now, I’m still massively in love with Marissa Meyer’s Cress and The Lunar Chronicles, but this book? It’s right up there with those ones for me.
The truth is…I picked this book up for the fox.
I saw the fox on this cover and, despite my NetGalley ban, instantly requested it without any further information. I remember feeling excited when I realized that this was written by an author whose books I’d genuinely enjoyed in the past. Considering I had only ever read Poston’s Once Upon a Con series, I genuinely wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Among the Beasts & Briars.
In fact, just due to my associations for the word Briar and my knowledge that Poston has done retellings in the past, I kind of expected this to be a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Either way, I knew I was going to read the story at the end of the day. I’d read anything for a fox.
Among the Beasts & Briars follows Cerys, the daughter of the royal gardener who lost both her mother, her young friend the Crown Prince, and their friend and guard at a young age to the beasts of the forest. Of everyone involved in the incident, only Cerys and Princess Anwen survive. Years later, when the old King dies and Princess Anwen is to become Queen, the monsters of the forest see it as an opportunity to attack now that no one is using the power of the magical crown to hold them back.
Soon Cerys and her fox companion find themselves braving the horrors of the forest in order to break a centuries-old curse to save her kingdom, her family, and the only people she’s ever loved.
I am not, I repeat not the kind of person who likes anything scary, horror-esque, creepy, or bone-chilling. Stories like that are most likely to result in me noping my way out of sight rather quickly, much like this fox. As a result of this, it’s actually pretty surprising that I fell in love with this novel as much as I did. You see, Among the Beasts & Briars is very much an incredibly scary story. So much to the point that I had to find a less scary place in the book to stop and watch a happy show that one time I decided it would be a great idea to read it before bedtime. Quite simply, I am not the kind of person who enjoys stories like that.
And yet there was something so immensely compelling about this book, to the point that I actually found myself loving how scary it was. The dark and extremely disturbing monsters that peppered the pages of this book left you wonderfully terrified and engaged. The fear you feel is visceral and gripping, this way largely because Poston has managed to get you so invested in her characters in such an incredibly short time. In an astounding turn of events, you find yourself invested not only in Cerys and her charming fox companion but in the very beasts that haunt her as well.
Though I will say that many of the plot elements in this novel are fairly easy to predict–for example, I knew right away what the secret was behind the fox–there are still enough mysteries surrounding them to keep you guessing. While you might not wonder what the secret is, you’ll certainly find yourself wondering how it will be revealed to the characters. And, in that sense, the predictability is wielded expertly.
It helps, I think, that the plot itself is so fascinating and the characters so easy to fall in love with. Even the monsters, whom I never once would have expected to love, I did. I found myself desperately praying for a resolution for them, very pointedly wishing for specific outcomes. One such character that I loved who periodically broke my heart and built me up with hope was Seren. And even now I still feel in a sort of limbo with how much I loved him.
Of course, then there’s always Cerys and her fox, both perfect in their own respective ways. I adored these characters. And it’s a good thing, too, because they were the primary focus of the entire novel. You become incredibly invested in Cerys and the fox early on and spend each moment of the book falling more and more in love with them. Their drives, their personalities, their histories just filled me with so many feels that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do with them…other than spend literally all night–a work night, mind you–to finish the book.
And then there’s Anwen who, while I did not have as strong of feelings as those I felt for Seren, makes you shake with fear whilst simultaneously inciting you to sob with hope and despair. Damn, this character was so friggin’ scary. And yet you were constantly wishing for her wellbeing.
Among them all.
The stakes in this novel are incredibly high, which builds in readers an intense sense of urgency and concern for the characters. I don’t think I spent a single moment of this novel not tensing up over something. The read was such a whirlwind, so amazing that I was enticed to preorder myself a copy immediately after finishing it. I’m probably going to be buying the audiobook as well.
I cannot stress enough how amazing this book was, how beautiful the story, or how affecting the characters are. Pre-order links are available above. I could not recommend a book more.
P.S. Ashley did a rom-com reimagined cover and it is gorgeous!!!
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.