Book Review

Book Review: Kingdom of Ash and Briars (The Nissera Chronicles #1) by Hannah West

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy Retelling
Length: 352 pages
Author: Hannah West
Publisher: Holiday House
Release Date: September 15th, 2016
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads


Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two – now three – after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince’s band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut. 


Oh I gave this a try. And oh, I feel disappointed.

I think this book and I got off on the wrong foot. I was thrown into a scene knowing absolutely nothing, and nobody was telling me anything. We went from there to full on info-dumping for chapters about Bristal’s new magical powers, her duty to the world, and all of these countries kings/queens/offspring. I was very confused.

Once I caught a better grasp, things did take a turn for the better. The story settled in and I could see all of the fairy tales being woven in. I thought maybe too many were shoved into the story to help carry it along, but it was fun seeing the take on each of them.

I wish the romance had more build-up and that the story was more about Bristal. Yes, she was our main character narration, but her entire focus was on other people. I wanted more for her and wished she wasn’t so sidelined in her own tale.

There’s a lot of action and things really do start happening in the second half. Even if I was at the skimming point of reading this book, I know it might be a hit for others (which is why I was a little more lenient on my rating).

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy + retellings
  • Language: very little, light
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: animal attacks, magic, physical altercations, swords/arrows; not overly bloody/gory

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