Having read, and loved, Shatter the Sky I was naturally so excited for Wells’ latest. Not only does Briar Girls also promise a queer fantasy, but it features a mystical forest with secrets. I ended up reading this one in a few days because I loved the main character. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I was completely immersed in Briar Girls from start to finish. Not only did I love the magic – this idea of a mysterious forest that seems to consume those who enter – but also the heroine. I loved how Wells features a magic world building system which blossoms in front of you. We think, like Lena that we know about the world. But it turns out that the world is so much larger than we think. Not to mention that a magic that prevents contact with someone is one of my favorite types of magic.
Because it so beautifully examines this line between blessing and curse. One which Wells expertly develops as Lena wonders if there is power in what she always viewed as a curse. Wondering if her desire to be ‘free’ is more than she ever thought. Intellectually, this was such a joyful book for me to read as Lena explores this theme. But Lena navigates this power and takes us on a journey of escapism to questioning. And what a heroine because Lena has to figure out her own power – not only what she can do with her ‘curse’ – bu the power of her choices.
Will the cage that Lena has helped construct lead to a life of isolation and loneliness? Despite it all, Lena is brave and curious. She wants to find the answers, no matter the costs only to realize that perhaps ‘monstrosity’ can be power. That there’s immense power in how we see ourselves. Because the world can portray an image on to us, but it’s also in our power to decide if we rise to meet it.
And Lena must not only decide who she wants to be, but who she can trust. Because the secrets she thinks she has discovered is only the tip of the iceberg. Yet, at the end of the day, does not the foundation of trusting others lies in trusting ourselves? In our decisions? When people think they’re protecting us but they aren’t, protection which hurts and wounds, which is ignorant and leaves us without the freedom of true choice.
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Briar Girls is a fabulous and introspective story. It features action from forest chases to sleeping princesses. If you’re in this for a queer fantasy with intrigue and adventure, Briar Girls is for you. At the same time, if you want to read a book about a girl (re)defining who she is and learning her own power, Briar Girls is a must. Find Briar Girls on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.