Saturday, January 27, 2024

Briar Girls, by Rebecca Kim Wells

Lena has spent her life wearing gloves and avoiding close contact with others.  Thanks to a curse from a witch, she is unable to touch people without killing them.  And given that sort of power, she's also had to maintain a low profile to avoid attracting too much attention.  After an unfortunate accident, her father has moved them to a remote community on the edge of a vast forest called the Silence -- a place that people who enter never return from.  And one night, she is tempted to enter it herself by a mysterious girl named Miranda.  

Miranda promises that she can help Lena break the curse in exchange for Lena's help in helping bring down an evil tyrant who holds sway over the city of Gather deep within the Silence -- a feat which requires killing or setting free a sleeping princess protected within a castle surrounded by impenetrable briars. But it quickly becomes apparent that Miranda is not telling the truth and, as various adventures unfold, she's far from unique.  Just about everyone in this story has hidden agendas and is hiding something.  Lena has to figure out who to trust and often must take temporary advantage from unreliable allies.

Featuring dragons, wolves, blood magic, curses, prophecy, and the rather enigmatic Silence itself, Briar Girls is a densely written, fast-paced fantasy adventure.  It sacrifices a great deal of character development in the process.  For while we get a chance in the beginning to meet Lena and to develop her rebellious and largely disobedient personality, most of the other characters are underdeveloped.  A sexual encounter between Lena and a boy named Alaric is sweet but strangely clinical.  A professed love with Miranda goes largely unconsummated, but does feature some brief moments of jealousy that suggest at feelings that are never quite allowed to develop.  As far as side characters, most of all I enjoyed the dragons, who were delightfully sadistic (as well as being snobby epicureans).  A story like this lives and dies on the action and the world building, both of which are stellar so any flaws in the characters can be overlooked safely.

No comments: