When Hamish Beasly is evacuated to the quiet countryside village of Brombury he is taken in by Mrs. Platts and her daughter Penny. At first Penny is far from happy with her new house guest, but after she and Hamish discover and befriend the Briarmen, four fantastical creatures living in the forbidden Woods Beyond The Railway, they are bound together through a shared secret. Then comes the Blitz, and with it rumours of a German plane crashing into the woods. This sparks concern from the village and puts Hamish and Penny’s secret at risk, a secret they soon find out is no longer their own…
The synopsis and cover of The Briarmen sounded really appealing to me and very intriguing and the opening chapters instantly drew me into the story. Set in World War II a young boy is evacuated to the countryside to a quiet little village called Brombury and I anticipated we were heading off on a fabulous and exciting adventure. Although it started well towards the middle of the book things became decidedly odd and try as I might I couldn’t engage with the storyline. Unfortunately, it’s slow pace and lack of suspense and tension in the plot did nothing to compel me through the story.
I enjoyed the historical aspects very much, as well as the folkloric and fairytale elements. I also enjoyed the whimsical writing style and some of the descriptions of the forest and magical elements are imaginative. However, the story itself is not complex enough, there is not enough attention to detail or explanation as to why certain events occurred. Amongst other things I couldn’t understand the significance of the giant geese or why in fact they were there because they played no significant role. The man-eating catfish were also just as mystifying and out of all the amazing mystical creatures the author could have created for his enchanted forest bizarrely we are presented with geese and catfish. The Briarmen themselves are an interesting and unique part of the book but I was hungry to learn more about their origins and background information. Much more detail was required in order to flesh out the characters and forest dwelling inhabitants.
I couldn’t quite decipher the age range of the audience the author was aiming for and although deemed by some an adult fairytale it erred more towards a children’s book, but didn’t quite fit either category. It took me several weeks to mull the book over in order to write my review and I even revisited some of the chapters convinced I’d missed something poignant in the storyline. On the whole, the Briarmen started off well and had an all encompassing and heartfelt ending but the overall content had so much more potential and unfortunately it didn’t work for me. I dearly wanted to love this book, however I’m honest in my reviews and although it didn’t captivate me there are other readers out there who have really enjoyed and given it fabulous reviews. My reviews are subjective so please bear in mind when reading it what I don’t like others may really enjoy!
Publisher: Crescent Swan
Publication Date (UK): 14 April 2021
Page Count: 480
Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Thank you to the publisher for the gifted advanced copy of this book to review in exchange for an honest opinion.
Please do not hesitate to comment below if you liked my review or have any comments about this book 😊