Ash & Bramble // by Sarah Prineas


//published 2015//

Pin remembers nothing.  Her past life is a blank.  Her current life is being a Seamstress for the Godmother.  Despite not remembering her past, Pin is convinced that she has one and is determined to escape the fortress ruled by the Godmother.  But for Pin, escape is just the beginning of her problems.

This was a twisty fairy tale retelling, and I really liked the concept.  The Godmother has a castle full of slaves she’s stolen from their homes, wiping their memories so they don’t remember their pasts.  She forces them to work for her – as Seamstresses, Candlemakers, Cooks, Spinners, etc.  It turns out that the reason she has these slaves is so they can create the items she needs for the fairy tales she is living – except the main players in those fairy tales are also being forced into the Story against their wills.

Pin’s determination to fight back against the Godmother and the Story is great.  She works with a Shoemaker (/love interest), and throughout the book they instigate a rebellion against the Godmother, even as the Story is trying to force them into its Happily Ever After.

But despite a great concept and some decent storytelling, there were still several moments where things just didn’t really make a lot of sense to me.  The love triangle (of sorts) felt very contrived, and I had some issues with the the villain situation, which I’ll discuss in the spoiler section below.

Still, I was leaning towards a 4/5 read until, literally, the very last page.  It was at that moment that I realized that what had been bothering me about this story was really its overall message – this concept that while you may find love and some brief moments of happiness, “happily ever after” is really just a fairy tale that you can never hope to achieve.  And I guess I think that’s wrong – although maybe that’s because I don’t think that “happily ever after” means “zero problems for the rest of your life.”  I think that “happily ever after” is the moment in your life when you are comfortable and content with who you are, and while you will continue to work to improve and learn throughout whatever time remains to you, that overall sense of contentment and peace stays with you, whether you are single or a couple.

So to me, being told (and telling the YA audience of this tale) that happily ever after is unattainable – all love fades after a time – there will always be more hard times than good times – any sense that you are having a happy ending means you’ve been tricked into complacency – well, I found it borderline offensive.

In the end, 3/5.  There is a loose sequel to this book, apparently, set fifty years after this story’s conclusion, and I think that I will read it, because much of this writing was good and the concept was really well done overall.  But the message, combined with the villain scenario, ended up aggravating me too much to bump this book up another level.

Spoilers concerning “the bad guy” – and that aggravating last page – below the cut (although I honestly don’t think they are spoilers that would destroy the fun of reading the story) –

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