I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by HarperTeen on September 15, 2015
Source: the publisher
A glass slipper left behind at the stroke of midnight.
The tale is told and retold, twisted and tweaked, snipped and stretched, as it leads to happily ever after.
But it is not the true Story.
A dark fortress.
A past forgotten.
A life of servitude.
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 picked up Ash & Bramble four times before I finally read it. The first three times, I couldn’t even get through the first chapter. The fourth time, I almost DNF’d in the exact same spot. But for some reason – mostly curiosity – I pushed through and finally finished it. Some sections of the book were intriguing, but there were also big chunks that were meh. Though I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped to, I’m still glad I finally got to read it!
Part one of this book was strange and confusing. We’re thrown into this world, we meet these characters and then… Nothing. Nothing is explained. Nothing makes sense. I felt very disconnected from the story and the characters throughout this whole section of the book. The transition from Shoe’s third person POV to Pin’s first person POV was really messy and confusing, as well. In several spots, the transition happened abruptly within the same chapter, with no notation indicating who was speaking. Even if the author didn’t want to do a new chapter for each POV switch, she should have at least noted which character was speaking or done some kind of page break. I was reading an eARC, though, so maybe this is corrected in the final book. Still, it made for a VERY confusing read.
Part two was interesting at first, but something was still missing – something that kept me from connecting to the story and characters. The pacing seemed really off – it took a long time for Pin to realize what had happened, yet it didn’t take Shoe that long at all to find her – it was ridiculous how easily it all happened. Other than that, I don’t even really have anything to say about this section. It basically followed the outline of a typical fairy tale… Oh, but I will say Shoe’s chapters were really boring and hard to get through. I really just wanted to be in Pin’s mind for this section because it was really interesting and could have been even better if it had been more fleshed out (and, again, with less Shoe chapters).
As far as pacing goes, part three was the absolute slowest, most agonizing section of the book. Yet it was the most intriguing, the one forcing me to ask the most questions – How will this end? What will happen? But curiosity was (still) the only thing that kept me reading. I literally couldn’t put the book down for more than a few minutes before I had to pick it up again, dying to know how it would end.
The concept of this world, of Story and the Godmother doing its bidding, was definitely intriguing and original – I’ll give it that! But the execution was seriously lacking. As I mentioned, I had a terrible time connecting with the story and the characters. There really wasn’t a lot of character growth, either. There was a bit in part three, near the end, but not much. I also didn’t ship Pin and Shoe at all. I’m not opposed to instalove when it’s done well. But the instalove between Pin and Shoe was ridiculous. Plus, the love triangle was barely a love triangle. It was incredibly obvious who Pin would end up with. And again, I had no ship feels for Pin and Shoe, nor did I ship Pin and the Prince. Zero ship feels. Sad panda!
Really, this whole book made me a sad panda. I love fairy tale retellings, especially dark, twisted fairy tale retellings, but this one was just off the mark. The book was way too long, yet the ending felt rushed and unfulfilling. I heard there’s a companion novel, but it’s set fifty years into the future. It’s very unlikely that I’ll read it, though never say never, I guess! But I’m doubtful. The one thing I can say is that, confusing parts aside, Sarah Prineas was a great writer who will get even better over time. So even though I might not read the Ash & Bramble companion, I’d definitely be interested in seeing what else she writes over the next few years!
Would I recommend this book? I’m honestly not sure. I’d never say, “No, don’t read this!!” because everyone should read whatever they want and no one should ever tell someone else not to read a certain book. I never want to think my reviews stopped someone from reading something they might have loved, but this one really fell completely flat and, after speaking with some friends, a lot of people had the same issues with this book as I did. If you’ve been dying to read this, I say go for it! Judge for yourself. If you love it, let me know in the comments and tell me what you loved about it! I’m always open to hearing bookish opinions that vary from mine! Maybe you picked up on something that I didn’t!