Thursday, September 13, 2012

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

book cover of Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Title: Briar Rose
Author: Jane Yolen
Release date: August 31, 1988
Publisher: Tor
Pages: 239
Source: Bookstore
Reading level: Upper YA / Adult

A powerful retelling of Sleeping Beauty that is “heartbreaking and heartwarming.”

An American Library Association “100 Best Books for Teens”
An American Library Association “Best Books for Young Adults”

Ever since she was a child, Rebecca has been enchanted by her grandmother Gemma’s stories about Briar Rose. But a promise Rebecca makes to her dying grandmother will lead her on a remarkable journey to uncover the truth of Gemma’s astonishing claim: I am Briar Rose. A journey that will lead her to unspeakable brutality and horror. But also to redemption and hope.

Briar Rose is not really what I would call young adult but I’m going to make an exception and review it because it’s such an amazing book. This retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale is unlike any retelling I have read and it’s one that will stick with you.
Becca’s grandmother has always told her and her sisters the fairy tale of Briar Rose. It’s the story they grew up with and none of them took it seriously until their grandmother passed away. Right before she died she told Becca that she was Briar Rose and that Becca needed to uncover her true history. Everyone in Becca’s family just assumed that these were the ramblings of a crazy old lady but Becca promised her grandmother that she would find out the truth and she is unwilling to break that promise. Her promise leads her across the globe and into a very dark past. Not every fairy tale has a happy ending, apparently.
I knew this was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty but I had no idea how the story was going to be told or how it would tie in with Becca’s family. I was amazed at how deeply woven the story was and how it truly did correlate with the original Sleeping Beauty tale. The whole time I was reading I kept trying to piece things together and no matter how hard I tried, I never quite got the story put together exactly until the very end. Briar Rose was full of surprises and I truly never saw any of them coming. It’s not a book you would originally think of as suspenseful but it definitely is.
Becca is in her twenties and she is the only one in her family who still believes in her grandmother’s stories. When her grandmother dies she is the only one left to piece together her true history and she takes her promise to heart. No matter what her family tells her she sticks with her promise and what she uncovers is truly fascinating. Becca is sent on a modern day quest that takes her all over the world and while the story’s ending isn’t necessarily a happy one, it’s a satisfying one. Becca really isn’t your typical young adult character but she did have some of the qualities. She was smart, funny, a little awkward, and quite stubborn. She was very easy to like. The secondary characters were a little harder to like, at least when it came to Becca’s family. However they didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.
The historical aspect of the book was by far my favorite part. I knew going in that Briar Rose had something to do with the Holocaust but I had no idea how it would all tie together. I was fascinated from the very start and I learned so much about the Holocaust that I didn’t know before. While Briar Rose is a fictional story there is quite a bit of truth to it and I was both horrified and completely hooked. This is one story that will stick with you long after you finish reading.
Overall, Briar Rose is part fairy tale, part historical fiction, but completely awesome. I have to recommend this one to everyone! It does touch on some more mature subjects so be warned but definitely read this one. You won’t regret it!

Looking for more reviews of Briar Rose?
Medieval Bookworm’s review
The Book Smugglers’ review

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  1. Bookworm1858

    Thanks for mentioning the Holocaust part-that and the Sleeping Beauty retelling were all I knew about this book and I was wondering how it all tied together. I am definitely planning to read this sometime since I adore fairy tale retellings and this is one of the good ones.

  2. Orchid

    Yay! So glad that you enjoyed Briar Rose, especially Jane Yolen is such a fantastic author.

    I am definitely looking forward to reading this one myself when I get my books back. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on it. =)

  3. Christina Kit.

    I didn’t know there were adult retellings too – and this sounds like a hugely successful one!!

    There are more Sleeping Beauty retellings coming out, one by Jana Oliver who did an awesome job with her Demon Trappers series.

    Lovely review

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