Bristal is penned in such a way that she is incredibly likeable. I strongly rooted for her to rise as the victor the entire time. I would have liked to actually see Bristal struggle in choosing good over evil, or in other words, be a bit more dynamic. However, with that being said, the world right now could certainly use a heroine that is pure of heart and well-intentioned. Additionally, the other characters, specifically Brack, Elwood, and Drell, more than make up for it with how complex and complicated their personalities and choices are.
The magic in this book is incredibly fun. The elicromancers, those who survive the Water and receive an elicrin stone, have great powers, all of which vary from person to person. In many ways, this is reminiscent of the graces in Graceling by Kristin Cashore, and those who liked Cashore’s novel will love Kingdom of Ash and Briars. What makes the magic so interesting in West’s book is that the power is limited. For instance, Brack has the ability to heal serious wounds, while Bristal must deal with injuries for the most part like a normal human. Therefore, there is a great vulnerability to each magical being, which makes the stakes higher and more serious.
Additionally, there are many other wonderful elements of the book; the world that West creates is so picturesque and vibrant, the love story between Bristal and Anthony is sweeping and epic, and the villain is absolutely terrifying. Overall, Kingdom of Ash and Briars is romantic, electrifying, maddening, and worth the read. It is an absolute page-turner and impossible to put down. While it works beautifully as a standalone book, I cannot help but want to read a second and third novel set in the same place.