I have to say I wasn’t set alight with excitement when I began reading Bristles, the beginning was very slow, but quite competently told with a reasonably refined style, with that slightly faux-Victorian bent that’s so popular with fairy tale re-telling’s, so I gave it a chance to draw me in, everyone loves a good Cinderella story, after all.
Now I will stop for a moment for a small disclaimer, if I appear to be talking about the protagonists’ hair a lot, it’s because it’s brought up in every chapter. Characters, who have previously been established to have no interest in fashion and physical appearance, manage to make comments on it constantly, even a dying man manages to talk about her hair in the process of expiring. That is not me over stating, it comes up an extraordinary amount.
I understand that her hair is supposed to be representative of her lack of agency in her situation. Forced to cut it by her step mother into a style she feels humiliated by, yes, isn’t very nice. However, this leads me on to a point of the book I found very difficult to stomach. Her supposed physical abuse, which is just casually mentioned in a conversation (about her hair) that our protagonist has with her friends, the fact she was so badly beaten she could barely sit is brushed over in favour of discussing her bangs. If you have been beaten so badly you can barely sit you have bigger problems than a hairstyle, and I find treating the subject of child-abuse in that manner nothing short of insensitive (at the very least).
But, on with my review.
I’ve already mentioned the books opening and I must say it is by far the strongest point of the book, despite being very slow. I cared little for Bryssa, or Bristles (named for her hideous haircut), our protagonist. She stated a desire to escape her unfair circumstances near the beginning. I thought we were in for a ride with a spunky young protagonist, but her emotional range gets smaller as the book goes on and she actually does very little to achieve her own goals, being content to wait for an idea when another character suggests vaguely that he might be able to help her, just later.
The only time I ever got any sense of passion from Bryssa was when she was talking about Ayden, her love interest. It takes a mere three pages of physical description and three, perhaps four, lines of dialogue from Bryssa before he declares her ‘so different from other girls’. From there he fixates on her, follows her and skips out on his very fancy school for her – despite being nearly Adonis in appearance, from what I understand, the very rich son of a very important official, and her terrible haircut.
None of the characters develop far, there was one particularly badly handled fellow who was ‘like a brother’ to our protagonist. Of course madly in love with her, and irritable when she gets herself a boyfriend, however once he’s been annoyed at her, he’s dropped from the billing after a line-long lament from Bryssa that she upset him. I would have forgotten ‘her brother’ completely had he not turned up later. I won’t even start on the villains, whose logics are nothing short of inhuman.
The world is flat and does absurd things that Bryssa actually points out makes no sense within the lore of the world and as the book progresses I get the feeling the writer gets bored with her own story, grammatical errors and typos start to appear and the reader gets catapulted from event to event. I am not even joking when I say that one chapter ends with her beginning a journey, and the next opens with her waking up at her destination.
I wouldn’t give this book a recommend, even if you have a weakness for trashy romance fiction, there’s much better out there.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.