Goodreads: Ash and Bramble
Published: September 15, 2015
No one has ever broken free of the Godmother’s terrible stone prison until a girl named Pin attempts a breathless, daring escape. But she discovers that what seems to be freedom is a prison of another kind, one that entangles her in a story that leads to a prince, a kiss, and a clock striking midnight. To unravel herself from this new life, Pin must choose between a prince and another—the one who helped her before and who would give his life for her. Torn, the only thing for her to do is trade in the glass slipper for a sword and find her own destiny.
I can envision the birth of Ash and Bramble. Prineas sat down and thought, What if you don’t want to be in a fairy tale? What if it’s more exciting to write your own story instead of following the pattern of everyone else’s? The result: a gutsy YA novel that capitalizes on the popularity of fairy tale retellings even as it tries to argue they’re boring and overrated.
I kind of loved it.
The prose, I admit, is a huge turn-off and something I actively strove to ignore throughout the novel. All of the book is in present tense, which I hate, and uses short, choppy sentences, which I despise. Worse, however, is the lack of consistency in points of view. Protagonist Pin’s chapters are all in first-person, while love interest Shoe’s chapters are in third person. I never understood the reason for the switch; I don’t know if there was an artistic reasons. I only know it drove me mad.
If one can tolerate the writing style, however, there is a very interesting story buried beneath. Large swaths of it will be predictable—like which man is going to win in the love triangle—but others are quite unexpected. The whole point is that Pin wants to break away from a perfect, contrived life as a Cinderella with a happily-ever-after, so she tries to do the unpredictable.
The multiple layers of the story mean that sometimes the pacing is off. The book starts in media res, except the readers don’t actually know what happened before the action started because none of the characters really know either. From there it’s a quick sprint to get from the opening scenes to the part where the Cinderella story is supposed to play out to the part where Pin has to decide if she even wants her Cinderella story. The result is a bit chunk-like, even though the book tries to head this off by dividing itself into parts and signaling something new is about to start. However, the plot and the characters are interesting enough that I tried to ignore my discomfort with this, as well.
Though Pin is supposedly the star of the novel, and the other characters spend a lot of time observing how unique, how unexpected, how like a flame in darkness she is, I was more captivated by the side characters. Shoe is definitely a fascinating, complex character, and I was glad he got his own sort-of POV chapters. I also enjoyed reading about all the other characters who had been caught up in the dangers of their world, who were kind of broken but persevered. Even the last character in the love triangle was multi-faceted. Pin just feels contrived compared to them, especially when she goes stereotypical YA protagonist and suddenly discovers she possesses a bunch of kickass skills that will help her in her fight.
In many ways, I fought with Ash and Bramble more than I really enjoyed it. Half of it pulled me to liking it while the other half pushed me away. However, I found it interesting, and I think it will appeal to anyone who normally enjoys new takes on fairy tales.