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Audiobook Review: Among the Beasts & Briars

Published October 20th 2020

Author: Ashley Poston

Narrator: Hope Newhouse & Andrew Eiden

Audiobook Length: 8 Hours and 13 Minutes

Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.

Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive. 

Among the Beasts and Briars takes the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast and transforms it with an enchanting twist. In the kingdom of Aloriya, the mysterious and dangerous woods lurk around. The legend of the forest was interesting and the origin of the magical crown that protected the kingdom was very clever.  It is a fast-paced read, as it gets straight into the story with brief descriptions of the world along the way. It is perfect for those readers who want a simpler, yet captivating read, about an interesting fantasy world with a hint of romance.

The story follows Cerys (“Daisy”), a 17-year-old, daughter of the royal gardener. She has some magic that allows her interact with nature and grow things with her blood.  She experienced a very tragic event when her mother, her friend, the royal guard Ceryn, and the crown prince, Lorn were lost to the forest.  She experiences excellent character development throughout her adventure and I loved the balance of her character between her more delicate and tougher sides. She was brave, yet had her moments of being scared and I loved how relatable it made her seem.

The story’s events begin when the dark curse of the forest begins affecting the kingdom more and more. Cerys sets off on an adventure to break the curse and save everyone while being in the company of her trusty fox and a bear, their animal guide named Vala, they meet along the way.  Due to a bite, Fox transforms from an average fox into a handsome human. He was a delight as he tries to navigate his fox thoughts mixed with his new human ones. The story is divided between the viewpoints of Cerys and Fox. Hope Newhouse voices the chapters featuring Cerys and Andrew Eiden voices the chapters for Fox. They brought a lot of fun to the characters.  They gave their individual characters an accurate portrayal of how I would have pictured them. The only difficult part is that each narrator speaks the entire chapter, so it can get a little interesting when they voice the other character. It is the unfortunate part about audiobooks as the narrators record their individual chapters and the narrators don’t mix within a single chapter.

As a fairytale, the audience leans towards younger audiences in the true young adult range. Those older or younger than the intended audience can definitely enjoy it, but it is important to remember the target audience when you analyze the events and/or characters. The writing itself is simple and easy to understand while it is the wording choices that help bring in the whimsy and fantasy. The romance is a slow burn as the two characters slowly build up to having feelings for each other. Both characters are fairly flawed, but experience a lot of their character growth with the help of the other. The plot itself is predictable as the twists are not really twists, but they are still enjoyable.

Overall, it is a fun escape-read as it transports you a captivating magical world. The cursed wood was thrilling as the ancients were creepy and gave the story a darker feel.  Those cursed by the wood were similar to zombies and spirits all mixed into a new type of creepy creature. It is a fairly character-driven novel compared to a plot-driven one, which can mean there are moments where the plot suffers in favor of more time getting to know the characters. There were moments that went slow and others that went fast, so it can be a little disjointing. It was still incredibly fun to listen to and I did find myself to be bored at any point in time. The banter between the characters was well done and very enjoyable. It was a very cute retelling and I would easily read (or listen to) more from this author!

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