I knew of course, with what I can only assume is a chosen pen name.. that Roslyn Briar's 'The Crown of Bones' would likely play with fairy tales in some way. Little Briar Rose is after all, an early version of Sleeping Beauty, written by Margaret Hunt in the 1880s and I was intrigued to see how the author might choose to weave these elements into her story.
Gisela, the main character, is a girl who understands what sacrifice means. After the death of her brother, she gave up everything to provide for her family and care for her little sister. Coveted by a sleazy lord who wishes to make her his bridge, she refuses his offer of marriage and her long time friend, Brahm comes to her aid.
Unfortunately, her suitor has connections and doesn't take rejection well.
Beginning the next day with a visit from one of the Priestesses of the goddess, Bergot.. and a Black Letter, Gisela realizes she and seven others have been chosen as this year's Offerings. Though the yearly sacrifice sends eight Offerings on a quest to find Bergot's mythical crown, none have ever returned.
The author definitely dabbles in the darker tellings of the fairy tales she integrates and I love that. She's not afraid to push into the boundaries of horror, with rituals of bone and blood or people coming to horrific ends.
Though one of the major plot points is telegraphed early and often, Briar certainly packs a lot into the story. Despite its relatively short word count, the characters go through one seriously epic journey. Situationally, there aren't many horrible fairy tale experiences that she doesn't explore in one state or another.
Brahm is extremely likeable and Gisela is okay too, though even when there aren't supernatural forces at play, her emotions tend to swing rather wildly for me. Deep down, she means well and she's relatively smart.. even if it's sometimes just because she has a tendency to save things for 'just in case.'
I enjoyed the world-building, especially the mythos regarding Bergot and her family. There's plenty of page-turning action and overall the story is quite creative. The general structure is solid, the plot points are interesting, and the novel has a ton of potential.
My one and only complaint? Sadly, the writing itself is extremely underdeveloped. I'm not sure how everything else can be so right, and it can still be so weak. It's like she knew exactly how a novel should be put together.. when and where things should happen.. but then lacked the language to really execute it well.
Ultimately, Rosalyn Briar may be an author to watch. I hope when she's done this year, she'll take some time to dig into her craft before starting another project because she shows so much promise.
It was still a fun read though and if you want a bit of light fare, this is a good choice to go with.
Rosalyn Briar is the dark fantasy author of The Crown of Bones. She is a former teacher and enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family.
Follow her on Twitter @rosalynbriar for daily writing questions about characters and world building.