Rating: 1.5 / 5 stars
I love a fairy tale retelling, but Ash & Bramble does not deliver. From the very beginning, I could tell it wasn't going to be one of the better retellings I've read. After all, though this is a Cinderella story of sorts, there are no elements of the original tale until quite a bit down the road. I think Prineas would have been much better off just trying to be unique instead of trying to pull popularity from the retellings angle.
I do not like how half of this story is written in first people from Pin's view and half is written in third person to follow Shoe. Either make it first person from both their perspectives, or third person and don't have a character narrative. It almost feels like cheating, since each POV has its advantages, and Prineas is trying to capitalize on both.
The storyline is also kind of confusing. I get that it is supposed to be a fractured fairy tale of Cinderella, but the whole thing with the Godmother and the fortress, and then the punishment being what it was? None of that really made much sense at all to me. As the plot comes together, the storyline becomes a little less confusing, but it still doesn't make much sense to me. The whole thing about Story just seems... I don't even know the word for it. But it isn't really gripping at all. I think the best thing I can say about this novel is that I kept limping along because I kind of/sort of wanted to know what the ending was going to be. Be it definitely doesn't really hold my interest, and I don't think the ending is really worth it since it's isn't that spectacular in the end.
The characters certainly don't help matters either. I realize that the Godmother takes away their memories of Before in order to get them to be obedient slaves in the fortress for the cause of Story or whatever, but that seems counterproductive for Prineas. Without a gripping plot you need gripping characters. And these characters have no depth at all! They don't really even have any characteristics to speak of! It honestly feels like reading a children's fairy tale or watching a Disney movie, where the time is so short and the plot so condensed that there isn't time for development. Prineas can't use that excuse, though, because we have 450 pages for her to give Pin, Shoe, and Cor some depth. But we get nothing.
The other thing that really, really annoys me is the incessant correction of "Pen" and "Pin". Am I the only person who thinks they sound EXACTLY THE SAME? It is probably irrational, the amount of fury this ongoing thing causes in me each time I come across it.
It seems like retelling of fairy tales are becoming more and more popular in the YA genre these days, probably thanks to Disney remaking every animated classic into a live action story these days. With the abundance of talent in the genre, this is definitely a novel that can be skipped.