BRIAR AND ROSE AND JACK, by Katherine Coville, Clarion Books, June 11, 2019, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 10-12)
Sleeping Beauty and Jack and the Beanstalk get a royal mashup in Katherine Coville’s Briar and Rose and Jack.
Once upon a time, a queen gave birth to twins — one disfigured and homely, the other full of grace and beauty. Fearful of what people will think, Briar’s true identity is hidden, and Rose takes her place as crown princess.
Lady Briar’s appearance is jarring, but her brain and musical talents more than make up her looks. Princess Rose is the most beautiful creature anyone has ever seen. The sisters don’t know it, but one or both of them may be cursed, and only a true love can break it.
The girls aren’t worried about mysterious curses, though, because they’ve got bigger fish to fry. A giant has plagued their kingdom for years, and they think that — with the help of their friend Jack — they can take out the colossal man. Together, these friends will set out to prove outward appearances are only skin deep.
Briar and Rose and Jack is a clever mashup that has more depth than source material, but never really reaches full potential. Though the three friends receive top billing, Briar outshines the others. And while I did like Briar, Rose feels a bit too one note for my taste.
The book is written in third person present tense, which can make it off putting. It took me a good third of the book to really get into it. The story also unfolds at a languid pace, although things do pick up toward the end. Middle graders may find themselves frustrated with this one. I suggest it as a library read, followed by purchase for those who fall in love.
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