Review: Briar Rose – Jana Oliver

Release Date: September 12th 2013
Published By: Macmillan Children’s Books
Pages: 470
Goodreads: Add it to your reading list

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


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.

Review: Thank you Pan Macmillan Australia for this copy of Briar Rose by Jana Oliver.

Briar Rose is a fresh retelling of Sleeping Beauty with a few twists along the way. This is not your standard fairytale filled with cliché evil queens, a lovely kingdom waiting and a prince on his white horse coming to save the damsel in distress. It is imaginative, different and dark. There was also a steampunk edge to this novel that I wasn’t expecting.

On the night before her 16th birthday, Briar finds out that she is cursed, and that at midnight she will die. Believing she cannot fight the curse and is going to die, Briar prepares for her fate and says her final goodbyes to her parents and her best friend. Although, instead of dying, Briar wakes up in a dream of her own making - but will she be able to get out of her own nightmare?

Briar enters a strange fairytale, with monsters that she could never have imagined; and when these monsters try to attack her, she is saved by Ruric. Ruric is handsome, helpful and chivalrous - could he be the charming prince she is searching for? Ruric assists Briar on her journey, and tries to help Briar survive - even though he does not understand what she needs saving from. Ruric is the prince straight out of Briar’s dreams, but it is clear that he is not only helping Briar hide her secrets, but he is hiding many of his own.

Using Hoodoo (not Voodoo), Briar’s best friend Reena and childhood friend Joshua, find a way to get into Briar’s dream so they can help her escape. However upon arriving into the dream, they find they have accidentally transported Pat (the local jerk) with them. Their arrival into this world is rather enjoyable, and the only problem I had with it was how quickly the adapted to the “lingo” of their environment - I just don’t find it convincing that a couple of teenagers who just found themselves into a whole new world automatically slipping into language such as “swine” and “tavern wench”. I did however find the relationship between Reena and Pat to be extremely entertaining, as Reena was not afraid to tell Pat exactly what she thought of him, and he seemed to respect that.

Along with Ruric, Briar has another man who is trying to save her - her old childhood friend Joshua. Although Briar and Joshua have not been allowed to be friends since a near-drowning incident when they were children, it is clear that Joshua has always had feelings for Briar. I must admit that I didn’t really feel it from these two characters. Joshua proved that he had real feelings, he was caring, loyal (at times jealous) and even though guilt may have been a part of it, he was also fiercely protective of Briar. But most of the time, I didn’t feel it from Briar.

Briar seemed somewhat flippant with her feelings for both of these charming guys. I actually think I got a little whip-lash from her constantly changing thoughts and feelings. I must admit, that I did not find Briar to be an extremely enjoyable character, and I felt that she was extremely self-involved and impulsive. Her feelings for both Joshua and Ruric seemed to flick around so quickly, and without a lot of justification, as she was so hooked up on finding her “prince” that her vision of her fantasy was easily projected onto anyone who happened to vaguely fit the bill at the time. But, all was not lost, she did redeem herself in the end by showing that she does not in fact need a prince - that she can fight for herself; and maybe she can even save herself, and her prince, at the same time.

The twists and turns in this story, both when awake and asleep, kept the storyline interesting. This is a multi-part story of Aurora, Briar, Ruric, Joshua, Reena and Pat, who may be living in a dream, but it is no fairytale. In this world of enchantment, magic, metal and curses - who will be able to wake up and face their worst nightmare?


“Walt Disney would not have approved”

“Just live your own story, not someone else’s. I made that mistake. I won’t ever do it again”

“You are most peculiar, Briar Rose”

“So, what else can go wrong?”

“Welcome to Briar’s nightmare, dude”

What do you think?

  • Andreea says:

    This book is on my wish list.

    Thanks for the review!


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