A glass slipper left behind at the stroke of midnight.
The tale is told and retold, twisted and tweaked, snipped and stretched, as it leads to happily ever after.
But it is not the true Story.
A dark fortress.
A past forgotten.
A life of servitude.
No one has ever broken free of the Godmother’s terrible stone prison until a girl named Pin attempts a breathless, daring escape. But she discovers that what seems to be freedom is a prison of another kind, one that entangles her in a story that leads to a prince, a kiss, and a clock striking midnight. To unravel herself from this new life, Pin must choose between a prince and another—the one who helped her before and who would give his life for her. Torn, the only thing for her to do is trade in the glass slipper for a sword and find her own destiny."
Carolyn's thoughts on the book:
Dystopia and fairy-tale retellings are two of the biggest trends in YA right now, but no book perfectly combines the two the way Ash and Bramble does. The first third of the book is set in an oppressive fortress of the Godmother, who kidnaps her workers from the countryside, wipes their memories, and forces them to produce items for the people within Story. Pin is different from the rest of the workers, though - she secretly possesses a magic thimble, and when her job as a seamstress overlaps with the job of Shoe, she falls in love - and the two escape. But no one can escape Story, the oppressive force that imposes a set fairy tale onto the lives of other kidnapped people, and soon enough Pin once again has her memories wiped - but this time her prison is far more insidious. Pin, now Pen, is forced to live out the titular role of Cinderella, trapped within the oppression of Story; meanwhile, Shoe (who managed to escape relatively unscathed) manages to find Pen, and together they join the storybreakers in their rebellions against the Godmother and Story itself. The novel is a brilliant mash-up of the enticingly glittering and saccharine story Pen is lived out and the harsh reality of the dystopian oppression behind it. Pin is emotionally complex - she honestly doesn't know if she loves Shoe or the prince she's been assigned to love, if she wants to know her past, if rebelling against her new life as a potential princess is worth it; it is that complexity that elevates Pin from other dystopian protagonists, who often lack that sense of emotional ambiguity in favor of strong but blind political beliefs. One of the aspects of the book I enjoyed most was how Story is essentially symbolic of patriarchal European ideas - in order to break Story, the storybreakers must change the story they are living within to such an extent that Story can no longer continue on, and for one of the storybreakers (forced into the role of Rapunzel), falling in love with another woman is enough to stop Story in its tracks (at this point in the book I imagined a robot with steam pouring out of it, screaming "LESBIAN PRINCESS DOES NOT COMPUTE WITH HETERONORMATIVE EUROPEAN PATRIARCHY," Dalek-style); in breaking the stories, the storybreakers also often force princes to confront the idea that they're entitled to women (as seen within the Rapunzel story as well as Pen's Cinderella story). The book ends on an ambiguous note - there is still a world filled with potential out far beyond the reach of Godmother, waiting for the storybreakers to discover, but I'm content with that - Pin and Shoe have their own story now, and whether or not the reader is privy to that narrative, the reader is left with hope, which is ultimately far more satisfying than a blandly happy ending.
Ash and Bramble is a brilliant read, great for those who enjoy dystopia, fairy tales, or both.
Carolyn is a teen blogger who shares her favorite YA reads and favorite book related finds with readers on Fridays.