I feel like I was well into my adult years before truly appreciating the warmth and familiarity of fables, fairy tales and folklore. I find this funny because in my life and studies as a young man, I was very much entrenched in several very rich cultural traditions of story telling and lore.
Regardless, the genres now hold a very dear place in my heart and Ms. Poston really scratches that itch with Among the Beasts & Briars.
This is the tale of the Kingdom of Aloriya: a place of perfect wonder with no drought or disease, and a happy population looked over by a magical royal bloodline to prevent the horrors of the woods from overtaking them.
Our protagonist, Cerys, is the daughter of the Royal Gardener and best friends with the soon to be queen: Princess Arwen. Cerys also hides a very special gift that should only be able to be wielded by the royal family: she can do magic.
As Arwen stands ready to be coronated Queen, things get really interesting as the monsters and magicks of the woods attack. Escaping with barely her wits and the magical crown of Aloriya, Cerys runs into the woods to attempt to find the hidden city of Voryn and possible help from the magical Lady of the Wilds.
This story has some incredibly tense moments. There are some major themes of trust and bravery, along with what I read into a xenophobia. With a storyline that relies heavily on the impending doom of Cerys — and her traveling companions — being overtaken by the horrors in the woods, the story gets a little stress-y, but in that “I’m just going to keep flipping pages” way.
The thing that makes Among the Beasts & Briars so great to me is the consistency with which the story and settings develop and unfold. I love a good book with a map in the front because that tells me that the author has thought about the bigger aspects of their created world, and possibly considered what the ramifications of their storytelling might wreak on the bigger picture.
Most importantly, and it really takes a good portion of the novel to get there, Among the Beasts & Briars is a story about redemption and trust. Yes, there is some predictability in how the story unfolds, but that, for me, is a comforting aspect in a fairy tale. The dawn after the harrowing night is the reward.
I really do hope Ms. Poston has some more stories hidden in the depths of Vaiyl. I feel there is so much more potential.