“You aren’t the Aloriyans I imagined. You trekked among the beasts and briars, and the deep heart led you all the way to Voryn.”
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.
This book originally caught my eye because it contains some of my favorite tropes: a plot that is driven by a quest and a strong human-animal connection. A kingdom that falls to an arboreal curse and a main character armed with magic in her blood and a fox and bear by her side? I was instantly sold.
Among the Beasts and Briars is an excellent choice if you are looking for an easy and quick standalone fantasy. Cerys is our main character and she has magic in her blood that makes things bloom to life. She is the daughter of the royal gardener and she is best friends with the royal princess. On the day of the princess’ coronation, the woodcurse—which has been kept at bay for centuries thanks to the powers of the crown—suddenly infiltrates the kingdom of Aloriya. Everyone in attendance quickly becomes woodcursed and Cerys is forced to flee into the woods with her beloved fox. From there, they are tasked with finding the long-lost kingdom of Voryn somewhere in the cursed woods in search of answers, and most importantly, a cure.
The plot, world-building, and character development in this book are uncomplicated. It follows a man-in-the-hole story arc where the book begins with action, lulls in the middle, and ends with action and resolution. The world consists of the Kingdom of Aloriya, the cursed woods, and the Kingdom of Voryn within the cursed woods. The characters are (mostly) simple and the book is told from both Cerys’ and Fox’s points of view.
All and all, this story is quite simple. If you’re looking for a more complex read with a developed magic system, this is most likely not the book for you. But if you’re okay with a simple design, this will likely be a breeze!