THE BRIAR CROWN by Helen Rygh-Pedersen
Review by Shaggy Shepherd and Krystle Matar
They say love conquers all… but can the conquered ever love the conqueror?
Twenty-five years ago, there was life. Twenty-five years ago, there was peace when the descendants of the dryads and naiads kept all life in balance. Until one fateful night when the Oderbergs invaded, executed the royal house of Domonov and took Domovnia for their own, ruling with an iron fist and an edict of fear.
Roslyn Pleveli, like most of the orphans of that night, wants revenge and an end to the persecution of her kind. Yet, even if the Domovnian’s use of magic was permitted, she wouldn’t be much help, able to command only a few lowly weeds. But everything changes when she saves the life of an injured young man in the forest not knowing it was the prince of the Oderbergs himself. Ordered to see to the rest of his treatment, Roslyn is snatched from her home and all that she loves by his soldiers.
Now, in the Oderberg stronghold, she has the chance to change things. With the royal family within her grasp all she has to do to free her people is kill them… but can she do it, or will something more powerful than revenge heal the wounds of the past?
The Briar Crown is a book that I had a lot of feelings about in both directions. It’s a story that I overall really enjoyed and am glad I decided to pick up but that upon closer inspection I had a lot more thoughts about.
Something I loved was the magic system. I’ve been very partial to plant-based Magic systems since figuring out that’s what I want to do in my own book so I’ve loved picking up those books since. I liked that people had different affinities and strengths related to those affinities and how they chose to depict them in their everyday lives. It was such a neat detail to include. The world-building in general was something I really enjoyed. Having two characters from opposing belief systems meet and discuss those beliefs felt well done without making it feel like info-dumping at convenient spots of the story.
That being said, I did feel that there were just a couple of other rather convenient and predictable things in the story that made things much easier for the MC, though overall I felt the flow well done with good details scattered throughout to show the author does pay attention to the little things as well and can tell a good story even with components that might be well known to some readers already.
My other big issue relates to the characters. The majority of the supporting cast felt a little one-dimension and almost entirely negative for the majority of the story. I don’t mind an Us Against the World type story but a little more variety would’ve been nice. Roslyn also accepted her new identity pretty quickly but maybe that’s just me thinking so because I would be freaking out a whole lot more in her situation. Hah.
Other than that, this was an excellent reading experience and I really enjoyed myself. It has a very easy to read prose that I quite enjoyed and that propels you through the story quickly. It had a couple of really funny lines that had me laughing out loud. I also liked the spicy bits but for those readers that aren’t really into that, I would say to still give the story a try because there isn’t a ton of that. As I said, I really enjoyed this book and hope you guys will give it a try. I’ve already bought Waking Ursa Minor by this author because I want to read more of her writing!
I listened to the audiobook of The Briar Crown, and I very much enjoyed it! I understand the author herself narrated, and it was delightfully delivered. I started this book while I was at the gym, and it had me laughing literally out loud in public! I then finished it while I was away on my road trip, and thank the merciful gods for earbuds. The Briar Crown continued to be funny and entertaining, and it also became deliciously horny.
Roslyn, you wonderful minx you.
The Briar Crown checked a lot of boxes for me. Earth Magic, yes. Humour and never taking itself too seriously, yes. Big themes about colonialism, and illegal magic?! Hell yes! Romance that was at times so hot it made part of my spine melt? Omg yessssssssss.
No one can deny that The Briar Crown is well written with beautiful but accessible prose. It’s thoughtfully world built with original ideas, delivered with familiar fantasy staples that are well loved for good reason. Roslyn starts as an underdog, but rises to the occasion under pressure. Any quibbles once again lay within the realm of my personal taste, and were not a reflection on quality. For example, perhaps I’m too much the grimdark author and reader, and I found myself wondering why enemies repeatedly left each other alive, especially during the culmination of the last section. There is also a push-pull will-they-won’t-they between Roslyn and her love interest, and at times I found myself wondering why Roslyn was so fast to forgive him. I think this choice was made for the sake of pacing — The Briar Crown runs tight and short and for the most part this works very well — so I can understand the decision (and forgive me, Helen, if I’m being overly presumptions and I’m wrong), but also sometimes I wanted just a little bit more meat to chew on.
These quibbles aside, I did very much enjoy The Briar Crown, and it left an impression on me that makes me think fondly of it even now, these many weeks after I finished listening. And so it’s with great joy that I offer my congratulations to Helen Rygh-Pedersen: The Briar Crown has been selected as a Before We Go semi-finalist for SPFBO9!
If Shaggy and I have caught your interest on behalf of The Briar Crown, check out Goodreads or better yet, hop over to Amazon to grab your copy! The audiobook is also available on Spotify for all my fellow audio lovers!