My first book review of 2022 is Briar Girls by Rebecca Kim Wells (Young Adult, 342 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.”
I found this book at the local bookstore while looking for books on the list of wlw with dragons. Since I couldn’t find Shatter the Sky, but I did see Briar Girls, I decided to at least look at it. And I’m so glad I did! The summary sold me on this maybe being a good wlw story and maybe even one with a happy ending (because, honestly, I’m exhausted of bury your gays, queer trauma, and otherwise unhappy stories). Anyway. I brought the book home and finished it in one go.
The story was well-written and easy to read and events flowed naturally. Briar Girls reminded me of some of the more fun stories from my younger days.
You’ve got running and mystery, moving to a new place unexpectedly (which just happens to be a tiny village in the middle of nowhere where everyone clearly knows everyone else’s business), curses, magic, an enchanted forest, and characters who make reasonable decisions, then actually talk to each other when mistakes and miscommunications happen.
This book was so refreshing in so many ways. Lena wasn’t a passive character, though she was caught up in the actions of the story, she never made excuses. When she made mistakes, she owned those mistakes, apologized where necessary, and learned from the experience. She was honest with her actions and her thoughts and she worked to see things from not just her perspective. She understood when she hurt those around her and she worked to respond responsibly instead of allowing her reactions to make things worse and she acknowledges her feelings. I very much enjoyed reading a story with a main character who does the best she can and learns and grows.
I also really enjoyed the other characters in the story. Miranda clearly has a very interesting story but we only get the parts of it she shows and shares with Lena. I’m hoping there will be more books in this series and we’ll get more of Miranda’s story as they continue to adventure around the known (or unknown!) world.
Overall, I am very glad I purchased this book and I look forward to buying more books by this author and from this series in the future. This is definitely at least a 4 on my rating scale and I am definitely going to read it again.