Mini Review: Briar Rose by Jana Oliver

Monday, March 17, 2014

Title: Briar Rose
Author: Jana Oliver (Twitter)
Publisher: Macmillan Children's
Publish Date: September 12, 2013
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 470
Source: Publisher
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.
I was in the mood for a break from some heavier reads this past week, and when I stumbled past Briar Rose on my review pile, I knew I needed to give it a go. When done well, I'm fairly certain that there's nothing quite like the pure imagination and excitement of a fairy tale retelling. Jana Oliver gives us the world from our childhood, merged brilliantly with the world of fairy tales, broken dreams and the chance that magic might just come alive through the pages of this novel. 

In some ways, I feel as though Briar Rose really succeeded in its task. There was a definite magic about our protagonist, Briar Rose. Stubborn and headstrong, it was easy to paint her in the light of our traditional fairy tale heroine. She had an aura about her that transcended the modern setting and brought me back to the familiarity of Sleeping Beauty's tale, which was both a strength and a bit of a hiccup for me. In some ways, Briar felt entirely modern. The circumstances were tangible and traditional contemporary, but her character felt a bit like a throwback at times, which threw me off a bit. It's a tricky feat, merging past and present tales, and while I think Ms. Oliver managed a good balance, at times I wished that we stuck solely to the more modern and contemporary approach that the author touches upon.

Briar Rose, unfortunately, fell a bit flat in terms of the perspective of the novel. Written from a third person point of view and switching between characters, I felt as though I never really got to know the characters past the shades of grey that are provided by for every character in a novel. Just as I felt I was getting a grasp on Briar, we were thrust into another point of view, which felt extremely jarring. I also had issue with the relationship between Briar and Josh. Perhaps it's merely me, but the two seemed to loathe one another - openly, mind you - but the trials and tribulations of Briar's fate sealed some sort of cosmic bond between the two that healed any rifts that might have existed before. While fantasy asks you to suspend your disbelief, I still look for a truth in any relation ship between my characters, and I really struggled to reconcile with their connection.

In the end, though Briar Rose isn't the best fairy tale retelling I've ever read, I did enjoy it, nonetheless. It's the type of book that asks you to separate what you've read in the past from a loose basis of what you're reading in the present. It's a risk, but it will definitely pay off for some. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy loosely-based fairy tale retellings.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. That's a shame about not being able to connect with the characters emotionally, Melissa. I can see why that could happen though. I find it a lot harder to enjoy characters when books are written in the 3rd person POV too.
    I'm glad you enjoyed it overall! Lovely review, Melissa.

  2. Eh, I do need a bit more from my re-tellings

  3. Third person POV can be hard sometimes, especially when you're switching those POVs. There isn't always enough time to get to know the characters, I don't think.

  4. Hmm, too bad some parts didn't work for you. This sounds like it could have been a great retelling.


  5. I'm not a huge fan of fairy tale re-tellings and about the only one that ever appeals to me are Beauty and the Beast RTs. Sorry this didn't wow you, Melissa. Third person can make it hard to connect. Great review! :)

  6. I was immediately drawn in by the title - Briar Rose - as I'm a sucker for fairy tales, and this instantly struck me as a retelling based on that alone. I do love seeing how authors twist the fairy tales I know and love and make them somewhat their own, so I would read it just for that. But I'm sorry to hear that it wasn't executed as well as it should've been!

  7. I do enjoy fairy tale reads but for some reason Briar Rose never really called out for me. That's the problem with third person novels, you can't really get inside the characters head unless the author is skilled in conveying it. I hope your next read is better Melissa!

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence


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