Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas
Published by: HarperTeen on September 15, 2015
Review Source: Personal Copy
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Plot: What if fairytales weren’t simply stories, but the product of slavery and sorrow? Would you still trust the Godmother in a tale such as this? Pin doesn’t.
Review: Once upon a time an author took all the notable bits and pieces of fairytales and blended them together to make something sinister and scary. At first, the reader was captivated. Could it be? A fresh take on retellings in an overly saturated genre?! The reader pressed on. Sadly, not every story has a happy ending…
Ash & Bramble started out with so much potential that it hurts a little. I hate putting spoilers in my reviews, but to really dig into this I’m going to have to. Turn back now if you don’t want to know…
The story kicks off with the main character, Pin, awakening to amnesia and slavery. Think magical sweatshop where all the pretty bits of fairytales are made under physical abuse and zero labor laws. It’s raw and intriguing. Also, Pin isn’t having it. She hustles some other workers into helping her escape and drags Shoe (as in shoemaker) with her. They flee, there is a smidge of insta-love, but eventually things go south. Pin ends up in the hands of the evil Godmother who fries her memory and slaps her into Cinderella.
Up next we have the Godmother. She will make you an offer you literally cannot refuse, because she wipes your memory and makes you live-action classic fairytales. You become the fuel for this mystical force known as “Story” that just has to keep going and going. It’s like a literary organ grinder, and everyone will be a part of the Story burger by the end of it. Pin (now Penelope) has to fight against slipping into her character role and figure out who she really is. The story progresses, Pin rejects being just another princess, and without ever really finding out who she is or what her purpose is it ends with everyone single and awkward.
Here’s the kicker: I was down for reading all about a strong female lead who doesn’t need a prince. I was super invested in this world of Ash & Bramble. It was going so well, and well… Prineas has a real pretty way with words. I was even all geared up for a Pin and Shoe OTP. Sounds good, right?
Enter phase two: Pin goes to the city and everything changes. Prineas rips away Pin’s memories, and with them loses control of the pace and plot. All the qualities that endeared Pin to me where gone when she became Pen. Yes, I understand that was the point, but it was too much of a bad thing. The dialog switched from girl power to hormone riddled confusion, thus annihilating all street cred Pin had. Should she love the prince? Does she have feels for Shoe? Girl. No. You are up against some stepford wives ish going down. There’s no time for donuts and crushes. You pray that she will pull herself together, but when the time comes for Prineas to bring Pen back into herself, it’s too far gone. The heroine this book needed doesn’t roll up on that white unicorn of awesome.
Then there is the issue with an overabundance of detail. I like description as much as the next girl, but when it takes you 450 pages to tell me what I can wrap up in a paragraph we have a problem. When that detail does not contain answers to the majority of questions that naturally occur, it leaves me regretting my reading decisions. It made the last half of the book feel rushed, unfinished, AND incredibly longwinded all at the same time. How does that even happen?!
Still, the most heartbreaking part is that Prineas has the imagination and skill needed to create a story worthy of fandom. We’ve even seen her do it before, so I know she can do it again. I truly believe that the dismay I feel for this title is so intense because she is so talented. I’m praying that she works out the kinks in the sequel, because Pin’s world has something really special at the center of it all. I just don’t want to have to claw through a lot of thorns to get to it.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Who Should Snag It: If you are looking for a retelling that goes off the beaten path might want to give this a try.