Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Review: Briar Girls by Rebecca Kim Wells

Today's read dives into a rich, fantasy world, which is supposed to go along the lines of a Sleeping Beauty retelling. It includes curses, blood magic, evil tyrants, betrayal, lies, friendship...and well, all sorts of grabbing things, which promise a great adventure. The blurb definitely caught my interest...

Well, let's take a peek, shall we? 

by Rebecca Kim Wells
Simon & Schuster
Young Adult Fantasy
256 pages


Lena has a secret: the touch of her skin can kill. Cursed by a witch before she was born, Lena has always lived in fear and isolation. But after a devastating mistake, she and her father are forced to flee to a village near the Silence, a mysterious forest with a reputation for luring people into the trees, never to be seen again…​

Until the night an enigmatic girl stumbles out of the Silence and into Lena’s sheltered world. Miranda comes from the Gather, a city in the forest brimming with magic. She is on a quest to wake a sleeping princess believed to hold the key to liberating the Gather from its tyrannical ruler—and she offers Lena a bargain. If Lena assists her on her journey, Miranda will help her break the curse.

Mesmerized by Miranda and her promise of a new life, Lena jumps at the chance. But the deeper into the Silence she goes, the more she suspects she’s been lied to—about her family’s history, her curse, and her future. As the shadows close in, Lena must choose who to trust and decide whether it’s more important to have freedom…or power.



Curses, a touch which kills, deceit, hidden magic, and a girl, who needs to figure everything out...this one promises everything to make an amazing adventure.

Lena is on the run with her father again, thanks to the curse a witch cast on her when she was born. Everyone she touches dies a horrifying death. Their new hiding spot sits on the edge of a forsaken land, the Silence. The mysterious forest calls to those who draw too close and makes them go insane if they don't give in and enter the deadly realm. Lena feels drawn, too, but not in the way others seem to be. When an injured girl crawls out of the forest, Lena learns that her father has been keeping the truth from her, and that her history isn't what it seems. In hope of finding a way to break her curse, she follows the girl into the forest. But deceit lies thick with those who seek power.

The writing in this book is very well done and drew me into the world from the very first page. In some ways, the atmosphere reminded me of  Shadow & Bone by Bardugo with it's dark tones, a girl who is more than she appears, a dangerous barrier, and those who lie and want to use her for their own power, but in a way mixed between true feelings and selfish interests. There is tons of potential in these pages and the tale does lure in. Combine that with the well-done world building of shadows and unexpected secrets, and it is a lovely read.

While this has so many aspects to make it a wonderful read, there were simply things which distract...and I think that much of this is due to the problem of trying to pack so much into one book. This could have made an awesome series. While we get to know Lena during the first chapters and gain sympathy for her situation, other characters are introduced a bit too superficially. Character depth and even the necessary depth to ground and explain many of the Lena's decisions is lacking. Several scenes come in and disappear again too quickly, leaving the sense that something more is missed and me wondering why they even happened in the first place. 

Lena's scars, thanks to the lack of physical contact, are well done and especially came across in one aspect of the romance. This also explained some of her over-willingness to find a friend in the beginning, but the deceit and betrayal should have impacted her more as the tale went on, and made her much more wary. This also caused issues with Lena's decisions concerning her final choice on the romance end.

I definitely enjoyed this author's writing style and did find many wonderful moments in these pages, which made it, despite the problems, more than an enjoyable read. 

And here she is...

Rebecca Kim Wells grew up in California before moving east in search of crisp autumns and snowy winters. She is the author of the Shatter the Sky duology and Briar Girls. Her debut novel, Shatter the Sky, was a New England Book Award Finalist, a Bisexual Book Award winner, a Rainbow List selection, an Indies Introduce selection, and a Kids’ Indie Next Pick. When not writing, she works at a fiercely independent bookstore in Massachusetts and spends too much time singing along to musicals. Learn more at