Friday, 1 November 2013

Review: Briar Rose by Jana Oliver

Briar Rose by Jana Oliver
Publisher: Macmillan
Released: September 12th 2013
My Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

A dark and sexy reimagining of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale from the author of THE DEMON TRAPPERS.

For Briar Rose, life is anything but a fairy tale. She's stuck in a small town in deepest Georgia with parents who won't let her out of their sight, a bunch of small-minded, gossiping neighbours and an evil ex who's spreading nasty rumours about what she may or may not have done in the back of his car. She's tired of it all, so when, on her sixteenth birthday, her parents tell her that she is cursed and will go to sleep for a hundred years when the clock strikes midnight, she's actually kind of glad to leave it all behind. She says her goodbyes, lies down, and closes her eyes . . . And then she wakes up. Cold, alone and in the middle of the darkest, most twisted fairy tale she could ever have dreamed of. Now Briar must fight her way out of the story that has been created for her, but she can't do it alone. She never believed in handsome princes, but now she's met one her only chance is to put her life in his hands, or there will be no happy ever after and no waking up.
(from Goodreads)

I was a big fan of Jana Oliver's Demon Trappers series, so was really looking forward to Briar Rose, especially since I love fairy tale retellings. However, Briar Rose just really was not for me. The writing style felt really different and as much as I tried to like it, I just didn't enjoy it.

First of all, the characters. I didn't like any of them. I mean, I liked one character for a certain period of time, but then he seemed to have a personality switch, so that went out of the window. Some characters I didn't actively dislike, but I didn't like them either and it was Briar was immature and underdeveloped. I felt like we knew barely anything about her. Josh, who was one of the love interests, was so whiny and sappy and always felt so sorry for himself for things he could easily fix ("my dad wants me to do this, but I want to do something else - oh no, what an unsolvable problem I have! I couldn't possibly make my own decisions in my own life, what a ridiculous suggestion! I will just wallow in my own self-inflicted misery and lament my life, because clearly I have so many problems and deserve to be pitied"), and even though we were supposed to like him and root for him to end up with Briar, I have to say, I preferred Ruric (the guy we weren't really meant to root for, or so I assume). At the beginning, I liked Ruric infinitely better; he was funny and charming and caring and a little mischievous, and he really looked out for Briar. I really liked their banter at the start of their relationship! But then Ruric randomly decided he actually liked Aurora, for no reason (though it was obvious that he would never actually end up with Briar) - he'd barely spoken to her and she treated him like crap! - and then it got all cheesy and he became as sappy as Josh and I stopped liking him from there on. It was just weird the way all the characters acted, and I found myself sighing at them more often than not. Pat was one of my least favourites. I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that such an utter prick could suddenly turn around and become a really nice guy because of the influence of one person over an extremely short period of time. Too many personality switches in this book!

Plot-wise, I was so confused. First, everyone just accepted magic was real (it wasn't set in a magical land or anything - so much so that the beginning felt like a contemp book) and accepted this weird curse really easily, didn't try to find any explanation for it, and it seemed very odd. Then when the curse was activated, we kept getting told that Briar "fought the curse" and that's how she HOW did she fight the curse? I didn't get it all, they just SAID that's what she did without explaining what "fighting the curse" entailed. And then when the curse's origin was finally explained, it was so anticlimactic and I still had a lot of questions about it that weren't answered . Secondly, the beginning was such a typical teen drama scenario that I almost gave up. When the curse first activated, I thought maybe things wouldn't be so bad, because I liked Briar's meeting with Ruric - but it went even more downhill after that. And the curse world was left a mystery - was it real? Was it a dream? Would Briar ever be able to get back? The ending was also really meh - after years and years of hating each other, Briar and Josh's family just seemed okay with them getting together (the relationship was so bland - apparently Josh had "always" loved Briar, and Briar seemed to switch to liking Josh randomly so yeah, insta-lovey and boring), Pat actually ended up with someone instead of falling down a well, like I wanted him to, and honestly, by that point I just wanted the book to end.

Overall, I really didn't enjoy Briar Rose, and while it wasn't the worst book I've ever read, it wasn't the book I was hoping for. I feel like there was so much potential for a dark and exciting retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but instead we ended up with some cliché, confusing, teen melodrama read.


  1. I've seen a ton of not-so-great reviews for this one. I don't think I'll be checking it out. Sorry it didn't work out for you, especially since you liked the Demon Trapper's series.

  2. Yeah . . . I didn't feel much for this book unfortunately. It was okay but it wasn't the book I was expecting it to be which is a shame too because I love the author's other series - The Demon Trappers. Great and honest review! :)

  3. I was nodding my head whilst reading your review! Briar was so annoying and teeny boppy and what was with all the change in personalties? The plot was just all over the place. It just wasn't good. Such a shame as I was really looking forward to this one!

  4. Your description of Josh's character made me laugh :D Characters are important to me, so I think I'll have to take a pass on this one. Thanks for the honest review, Liz!

  5. oh no, i'm sorry this one didn't work out. i usually love retellings, too bad this one didn't live up.

  6. I will have to agree with you on this one. I'm only half way through the book, but I don't think I can make it to the end. I am trying real hard to finish the book, but I find the story to lack depth or emotion. I honestly didn't find this retelling dark or sexy, rather I found it to be a confusing, boring, typical cliché teen melodrama like you stated. I've not read any of Jana Oliver's other books, but I am sure this is not her best. Oh, and the blurb is really misleading. She is not living a fairytale, firstly. There's also no mention of her certainly doomed to sleep for a hundred years. The Fighting the curse part was confusing, like how exactly she did it. I also found the language use very irritating, with Briar's frequent 'Ohmigod!'s and how they said 'fave' instead of favorite. Seriously, not all 21st century teens talk like illiterates. In a nutshell, I didn't find this book refreshing, and I absolutely love retellings as they are very refreshing and offer new perspectives. I'm sorry, but this book just isn't up to the mark for retellings. It just wasn't new or refreshing. I'd rate it a 2.5/5 at most. But for 'Once Upon A Time' fans, you might enjoy it.

    1. However, I do have to commend her for her effort. It wasn't entirely terrible, just the delivery was not there. It really isn't easy to reimagine stories, and I felt that her idea was kinda interesting, just she could have made it little less melodramatic and more dark, not all rainbows.


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