…Maybe less a review than a calling attention to as I read this short novel weeks ago, and given the scarcity of my patience to focus on novels for the last several months, a book that I read in a single afternoon deserves remarking upon. Bryony and Roses, a 2015 retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” by T. Kingfisher (also known as Ursula Vernon), is a rather ephemeral sort of book, one that isn’t likely to inspire Deep Thoughts but rather perfect for a comfort read to get you out of a funk — this fun, whimsical story stands out amidst all the, shall we say, sad bastard SF/F.
Protagonist Bryony begins in a shit position insofar as traditional fairy tale logic goes — she isn’t conventionally attractive, whatever family fortune she once had is entirely lost, and she and her sisters live alone out in the boonies. But despite living at the rawest edge of security, she’s happy as long as she has her garden; an ill-advised quest to acquire rutabaga seeds is where her troubles begin.
Suspense, romance, and mystery follow — what does this House (a character itself) want, and why is enigmatic Beast trapped there? — but the memorability of this story lies in its quiet humor, with moments like this appearing every few pages:
Lace foamed over the bedskirts and pillows and down from the canopy like pink lianas. The bedposts were carved with climbing roses. There were silk hangings about the bed embroidered with more flowers, all in shades of red and pink and vermilion.
Bryony had never before had occasion to contemplate what it would be like to find oneself inside a uterus, but she suspected that sleeping in the bed would be rather like that. Except with more flowers.