Author: Scott Mooney
Publisher: Bleeding Ink Publishing
Publication date: August 13, 2019
Summary: Briar is summoned to meet with Count Grimmour and hired to find his daughter’s boyfriend, a Know Not that doesn’t know about the fairy tale world hidden from view in New York City. The boyfriend, Rick, has been kidnapped, and Briar is tasked with using her unique magic to find him as all the wizards have failed. At her side is the knight Antoine, who both protects her and divulges important information about the Royals. With time working against them (they only have three days to find Rick, and it’s actually less than that as some of that time was taken up with wizards failing to locate him), they must work fast to prevent a war between two Royal families that has the power to wipe out fairy tale world.
This is heavily fantasy with a good dash of mystery, the mystery being, of course, the questions of where Rick is and who has him and why. The fantasy was well done with a unique world parallel to our own, magic, and fairy tale elements. I was a little disappointed that there were only fairy tale elements and no real fairy tale retellings, but I suppose it’s simply a world where fairy tales exist and it still must be a self-contained city with more than princes, princesses, and the commoners turned royals with their wicked stepmothers and stepsisters trying desperately to stop them. The mystery part was strong, but also lacking as neither Briar nor Antoine had any real clue of what they were doing, kind of like bumbling detectives. It was amusing, had plenty of action, and kept the plot moving, but they felt more like elephants trampling into the mystery.
What bothered me the most was the mystery part. It was well laid out, and I expected a fair amount of breaking and entering, lying to gain access to information, danger around every corner, and a fair amount of exciting action. Yes, all that was there. But what bothered me were the roles Briar and Antoine played. They both leapt headlong into the mystery and were seemingly on a never ending dive into finding Rick. They kept going forward, pushing onwards even when they should have stopped to think. If they had stopped to think, they probably wouldn’t have gotten themselves in so much unnecessary trouble. All the clues were right in front of their noses. Ironically, Briar caught literal whiffs of it, but was unable to put it together. But I suppose it was fair for a character in her young adult years who wasn’t going to be a crime solver at all and a character who was a knight and more used to fighting and defending that deep thinking.
I find myself on the fence about Briar’s magic. On one hand, it’s unique. It involves emotions and roses, and I haven’t read anything like it before. At first, it was a little hard to understand, but, as the book went along, the idea of imbuing a rose with emotions to cast something like a spell on people became easier to understand and swallow. On the other hand, it makes her out to be a dog who can sniff out emotions. It was a little bizarre and kind of too ordinary for someone with such unique magic. I did like that her abilities grew, but it felt like it was done more to help the plot and ensure the good guys prevail. There was also a lot left unexplained, which was frustrating and annoying, though I suppose a second book could help explore it as the end leaves it open to possibilities.
I would have loved to get to know the fairy tale world a little more. We get excellent glimpses of an interesting place heavily influenced by fairy tales while also being entirely self-contained. But, since so much of the story took place in our world and the characters referenced pop culture rather than fairy tales, it felt like an odd patchwork of stories plunked down next to each other.
Overall, this was an intriguing mix of fantasy and mystery with a healthy number of red herrings thrown in and conflicts galore between the characters. The magic was interesting, if a bit bizarre, and the setting was imaginative, though could have used more development. There were hints at romance, including some triangles, but it clearly wasn’t a focus, which I liked.
This is great for someone who enjoys fairy tales, but wants to create one for themselves. Not so great for someone looking for a retelling.
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 should be more than sufficient.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy. All opinions are my own.
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