Friday, August 21, 2009

Briar Rose, Jane Yolen

I've been wanting to read this book for some time, but because of what I've heard about it, I put it off several times: I needed to read something happy, I needed something light and mindless because I was traveling, I didn't feel up to a "deep" book ... etc.

When I finally got around to it, I was surprised by several things. I'd built up a picture of this book in my head and for the most part, it didn't match said picture.

First and foremost - it's not a fantasy novel. I had assumed since it was printed by Tor (fantasy line) that it would have some cohesive fantastic element. I suppose this is because it comes from Jane Yolen who is well-known in her genre. I kept waiting for something to sneak magic into the story, and it never happened.

Secondly - I always assumed that the story was from the point of view of the character who turns out to be the grandmother, that it was told from inside the camp. Instead, it's the story of her granddaughter unraveling her history.

(Neither of these is a problem or detracts from the book! It just surprised me.)

Now that confusion cleared up, I really enjoyed Becca as a character and the path her search for grandmother took, even the romance side-story that slips in between the lines - very well done for not a lot of words committed to it.

However -- when, with about two-thirds of the book finished, another character finishes the tale with an eye-witness account ... it becomes sort of an anti-climax, despite the intense and memorable images. (It doesn't help that the character is *so* much a survivor-not-hero that after reading about plucky Becky, he irritates by comparision.)

It comes off feeling unfinished somehow. Maybe this is partly because the entire framing fairytale isn't related in the italic chapters interspersed amongst the rest. Maybe because, even as a person who doesn't mind some loose ends, I felt that one question too many went unanswered after such an extended search.

I enjoy Yolen's craft as ever, but this book left me feeling a bit disconnected.

(Next stop: the SF/F/H edition of Emerald Tales #1.)

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