Cerys lives an idyllic life in the serene, prosperous kingdom of Aloriya. She supports her best friend, Princess Anwen; tends flowers with her father, the royal gardener; and befriends a spunky fox who’s taken a shine to her. All seems well, though Cerys wonders whether her future role as royal gardener is what she really wants. But when evil forces invade Aloriya on the day of Anwen’s coronation, Cerys flees into the Wildwood, a dark forest that has already claimed many lives. As everything she took for granted crumbles around her, Cerys must uncover the truth about herself and Aloriya to save the people she loves.
Ashley Poston’s Among the Beasts & Briars reads like a classical fairy tale in the best way. Fantasy readers will appreciate how Poston conjures familiar elements but employs them with thrilling originality and flair. She turns tropes such as the damsel in distress and the dangerous curse upside down: What if the heroic prince disappears before the action starts? Could evil creatures have noble intentions? What if the heroine’s magical power is useless in a battle between darkness and light?
Poston depicts how beautiful things such as flowers or princesses can suddenly become terrifying. She paints a vivid yet dreamlike world of regal palaces, lively festivals and foreboding forests, inviting readers to admire the beauty of ballgowns while forcing them to confront the creepiness of crawling creatures and rotting flesh. But Poston also grounds the book’s decadent atmosphere in realistic, well-drawn characters and the relationships between them, ensuring that the fantastical trappings of her story never interfere with its wholly human heart.