Review: “Bryony and Roses,” T. Kingfisher

Pros: Fantastic version of Beauty and the Beast
Rating: 5 out of 5

T. Kingfisher’s Bryony And Roses beautifully captures the folk tale feel that she writes so well in other volumes. In this tale, Bryony is a gardener who wanders into a seemingly deserted manor house during a killer snow storm. She takes shelter, and food and warmth are mysteriously provided for her and her pony. When she’s ready to go, she decides to take the rose from the breakfast table as proof of her insane side-trip, only to be told by a horrifying Beast that now her freedom is forfeit and she must live in the manor with him. She’s given one week to return to her two sisters, and he suggests she bring her gardening needs back with her. As she settles into the odd magical manor and grows used to the Beast, every day after dinner he asks if she’ll marry him, and every day she says no. By the time she figures out how to leave, she realizes there’s more at stake than just her own freedom.

The manor house itself is a wonderful character. It lays out ‘hopeful’ dresses for Bryony, wanting someone to dress up for dinner. It practically seems to pull up its own sod to allow her to plant her seedlings. Yet at the same time, if the Beast tries to tell her anything about his own past, candles start going out, a cold breeze blows, and the demeanor of the house becomes threatening. There’s a rose plant in a courtyard that seems important, but Beast can’t really talk about it, and it’s strangling a beautiful tree. Bryony isn’t very fond of roses, so she has to resist the urge to rip it out. Meanwhile, there seems to be an intruder who occasionally paces her room at night, and in Bryony’s dreams a seductive man asks for her help but won’t tell her what kind of help he needs.

Bryony and Roses is also a great contender for best first line:

She was going to die because of the rutabagas.

Doesn’t that just make you desperately want to know what death-by-rutabagas means?

The dialogue is wonderful, as always seems to be the case when I read a Kingfisher tale. The same is true for the relationships between characters–romantic and not. As well as the characters themselves. She has so many wonderful strengths as a teller of tales.

“Trees are good at dying, you know, we practice it for many autumns.”

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