Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas

Ash & Bramble
Sarah Prineas
HarperTeen
2015
✯✯✯

Official Backpage Synopsis

 A prince.

A ball.

A glass slipper left behind at the stroke of midnight.

The tale is told and retold, twisted and tweaked, snipped and stretched, as it leads to happily ever after.

But it is not the true Story.

A dark fortress.

A past forgotten.

A life of servitude.

No one has ever broken free of the Godmother’s terrible stone prison until a girl named Pin attempts a breathless, daring escape. But she discovers that what seems to be freedom is a prison of another kind, one that entangles her in a story that leads to a prince, a kiss, and a clock striking midnight. To unravel herself from this new life, Pin must choose between a prince and another—the one who helped her before and who would give his life for her. Torn, the only thing for her to do is trade in the glass slipper for a sword and find her own destiny.


My Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
I love fairy tales and I rarely like a lot of re-tellings. But Ash & Bramble grabbed me with its unique take on the classic Cinderella story. Imagine a world where Story is a living thing with the power to govern the actions of other people, force people into molds to fulfill its own needs. That is the world of this book. These people with their happily-ever-afters don't really know each other. They've been plucked from their own stories and dumped into what Story wants them to do, all at the hand of the Godmother. It's a brutal and scary tale, but intriguing enough to keep me reading.

The Characters
I pretty much loved Pin and Shoe from the very beginning. Yes, I know their names seem silly, but since neither of them had any memory of their Before, they simply chose names based on their profession in working for the Godmother. Pin as a seamstress and Shoe as a shoemaker (duh). But the characters are both delightful and enthusiastic. I especially loved Shoe. His nature reminds me a little of Peeta from The Hunger Games. I was always a sucker for that character.

So yes, I loved the main characters.

However, the secondary characters, not so much. I feel like that required homosexual set of characters just keeps pushing its way into every story, and this one actually has two sets. I wasn't offended, simply bored at the monotony and obviousness of adding them. It made the story tedious, especially since it seems like in this world, love is love and no one took any interest in whether it was heterosexual or homosexual, which struck me as weird because it's still an old-fashioned setting. The addition of these characters just threw the tale off.

The Writing
This is Sarah Prineas' first YA novel, and I'd say she did a great job. I thoroughly enjoyed most of it, especially Part 1, which I thought was just brilliant. Being in the Godmother's fortress, not remembering your Before and not really planning for an After, two characters meet and suddenly escape is a worthwhile venture. It's a great storyline, and I thought a terrific twist on the classic Cinderella.

But I do think the plot lost some momentum, especially once Part 3 finally rolled around. I'd almost stopped investing in the characters a little bit. The love triangle between Pin, Shoe, and Cornelius was completely unnecessary and really bogged down my reading headway. It was just one thing too much. Part 3 almost felt like it could have belonged in a different book, it was so distant from the beginning of the novel, and that's sad to say about anything.

Final Thoughts

On the whole, Ash & Bramble is a solid YA offering from an author breaking into the genre. I enjoyed about 70% of it, and always liked the lead characters, which for me is sometimes a challenge. I just hope that in future offerings, Sarah Prineas tightens her story so it doesn't do quite so much evolving, and that maybe she tones down any love triangles. And just because homosexual marriage is legal now doesn't mean they need to be in everything because then it simply feels like cheap pandering.

Because this is a secular novel, let me also mention that it really is quite clean. No language that I can remember and no real sensual scenes or make-out sessions (homosexual or heterosexual). It is a bit on the gruesome side, but nothing overly bad, just some moderate violence and overall scariness.

I do hope that Sarah Prineas continues publishing YA fiction because she's actually quite good at it. I wish I'd wholeheartedly loved Ash & Bramble from start to finish, but even though I didn't love it, I still like it.

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