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Kingdom of Ash and Briars, by Hannah West | Book Review

The Children’s Book Review | November 8, 2016

kingdom-of-ash-and-briarsKingdom of Ash and Briars

Written by Hannah West

Age Range: 12-16

Paperback: 358 pages

Publisher: Holiday House (2016)

ISBN: 978-0823436514

What to Expect: Fantasy, Magic, Enchantment, Fairytale

So much on offer in the fantasy genre is formulaic: the handsome wizard, the beautiful enchantress, castles, dragons, dwarves, and castles. How refreshing, then, to read a classic fantasy novel which not only utilizes the familiar tropes of classic fairytales, but also tells a story that is complex, fresh, and gritty. Hannah West’s Kingdom of Ash and Briars is one of the best fantasy novels – child or adult – that I have read in a long while.

The Kingdom of Nissera is no stranger to magic, but for many centuries there have been very few powerful magicians around. In fact, there have been only two. Ever since the catastrophic civil war in which the Elicromancers wiped themselves out, the four kingdoms have been largely safe from magical interference. However, when the orphaned kitchen maid Bristal is chosen by magical forces to be the third elicromancer of the realm, she finds herself caught in the middle of a violent war between her two companions, each of whom has a radically different view of the role elicromancers should play in the fate of humanity. Tamarice is beautiful, powerful, and compassionate, but a childhood of deprivation and abuse has left her determined to exact revenge against mortals, and only Bristal has the power to stand against her as she attempts to destroy the kingdoms and create a new, magical ruling class. The question is, can Bristal resist the temptation to give in to her power and embrace the dark arts that Tamarice has shown her? Only fate knows the answer.

Kingdom of Ash and Briars draws on a wealth of literary treasures, from Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, to Jane Austen’s Emma, Shakespeare’s Henry V, and the Chinese legend of Mulan. This rich tapestry of influences creates a tale that feels both comfortingly familiar and hauntingly new and exciting. I was gripped from the moment I started reading, and every page drew me further into West’s world of magic and deception. For any lover of fantasy, this book is a must-read.

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About Hannah West

Hannah West began Kingdom of Ash and Briars as a college junior while studying abroad in France. This is her first novel. She is a freelance writer who lives in Rockwall, Texas, with her husband Vince and their rambunctious blue heeler.

Kingdom of Ash and Briars, by Hannah West , was reviewed by Dr. Jen Harrison. Discover more books like Kingdom of Ash and Briars by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with  and .

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Dr. Jen Harrison currently teaches writing and literature at East Stroudsburg University. She also provides freelance writing, editing, and tuition services as the founder of Read.Write.Perfect. She completed her Ph.D. in Children’s and Victorian Literature at Aberystwyth University in Wales, in the UK. After a brief spell in administration, Jen then trained as a secondary school English teacher and worked for several years teaching Secondary School English, working independently as a private tutor of English, and working in nursery and primary schools. She is an editor for the peer-reviewed journal of children’s literature, Jeunesse, and publishes academic work on children’s non-fiction, YA speculative fiction, and the posthuman.

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