This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend. Read the full disclosure here.
Book: “Bryony and Roses” by T. Kingfisher
Publishing Info: Argyll Productions, April 2017
Where Did I Get this Book: from the library!
Book Description: Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city.
But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor, or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard?
Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she—or the Beast—are swallowed by them.
Review: The day I discovered T. Kingfisher was a happy day, indeed. The day I realized she had written a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling? Ecstatic! It’s also worth noting that this will be the second book that I’ve read in the last month where the author has written an afterword citing Robin McKinley’s influence on their work. Here, Kingfisher notes McKinley’s less well-known “Beauty and the Beast” book, “Rose Daughter,” as her direct inspiration for this story. And then the author of “Echo North” also referenced McKinley’s “Beauty” as one of her beloved reads. “Beauty,” of course, is well-known and beloved by many fans of this fairytale. “Rose Daughter,” however, is less popular, so I was excited to see that, of the two, it was this work that sparked Kingfisher’s inspiration for this story.
On her way home, Bryony is caught in a storm and finds her only option for shelter in a mysterious manor filled with invisible enchantments. When she unwittingly takes a rose, she finds herself caught in the magical house itself alongside a Beast. But as she spends her time there, she begins to question whether the Beast is also trapped in this strange manor, for while the house seems kind and giving one moment, it’s forces turn dark and violent at the flip of a switch. Determined to get to the cause of this, Bryony sets out to discover the secrets of the Beast himself.
Both Kate and I are firmly on record as loving the “Beauty and the Beast” fairytale. Honestly, I think most librarians prefer it simply because of the library themes. And, luckily, there are a decent number of good retellings of this story, most notably, Robin McKinley’s “Beauty.” There are also, sadly, some that I haven’t enjoyed. But that doesn’t stop me from immediately jumping into the next version I come across. Given how much I’ve enjoyed other books by this author, I was unsurprised to get to the end of this book and find that I had another great one on my hands!
There are so many things to like about this book! While it follows the standard tale fairly closely, there were a few notable differences. One, the curse itself plays out in a way that is completely unique, with the house itself taking on a role that I haven’t seen before in a tale like this. When the reveals come with regards to the curse itself, this, too, was a surprising twist on the way the story is often told. There were few particular surprises here with regards to the classic tale that I thought were absolutely fantastic! Can’t really go into much detail without ruining it, but you’ll know it when you see it.
Fans of McKinley’s “Rose Daughter” will be familiar with a very important twist at the end of that book, and I was pleased to see T. Kingfisher take on this route as well. I have my own preferences for the end of a “Beauty and the Beast” story, but I think there are a solid number of fans in each camp. And Kingfisher pulls off this particular twist in an excellent way, fully earning this final choice.
I also loved Bryony as a character. She was funny, strong, and determined. She was also flawed and not the most creative of thinkers. There were times when I was reading that I came up with solutions for some of the problems she was facing. But, in one of the best aspects of Kingfisher’s writing to date, the author recognizes this about her character and has Bryony’s sister especially point out some of these flaws in our heroine. It was gratifying to know the author was well aware of what she was doing the entire time, and these things that I had thought were plot holes were in fact intentional parts of the story.
I also really liked the slow-burn romance at the heart of the story. This is, of course, a crucial part of any “Beauty and the Beast” story. Beast and Bryony are both hilarious, sweet, and equally trapped in the horrors of this curse. I liked that the story pretty much side-stepped the whole “Beauty is afraid of the Beast for a while” bit. Bryony is quite a different heroine in that way from the other Beauty’s we’ve seen. Beast, too, played a more active role in attempting to solve the curse they are both living with. It was nice to see him actually trying to help Bryony figure out how to save them both, rather than the more passive Beast character that we often see.
Overall, I loved this book. It was so well-written and refreshing. Any fan of this fairytale will love it, and I can’t recommend it enough for any fairytale fantasy fan!
Rating 9: With an endearing heroine, a lovely romance, and a refreshing take on the original fairytale, this one is sure to please all “Beauty and the Beast” fans!