The Briar Book of the Dead by A G Slatter

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The Briar Book of the Dead by A G Slatter

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Olivia Tierney
Reviewed by Olivia Tierney
Summary: In The Briar Book of the Dead Slatter creates a dark, gothic fairytale which sparkles with strong but flawed characters; an exploration into unusual magics and ancient mysteries; and a story that flows seamlessly from one chapter to another. It's the perfect escape - a wickedly, cozy read that will be one of the highlights of 2024.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: February 2024
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN: 978-1803364544

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There's a part of me that wants to keep this just to myself for however long I can. This secret magic of my own, all mine, at last. I just want to enjoy it for a while.

Within a remote mountain pass, far away from the world, lies Silverton; a town under the protection of the Briars, a family of witches who protect the town and the wider world from the Darklands. Though she has always wished for magic, Ellie Briar is the first non-witch to be born into her family for generations and as such since she was young, her training as a steward revolved around letters and administration rather than spells and potions. When her grandmother suddenly dies, Ellie's cousin Audra becomes the Briar Witch, the town's leader, and Ellie takes her place beside her. As challenges come her way left, right and centre, Ellie uncovers the rare ability to communicate with the dead, putting her at the heart of a maelstrom of chaos. Reeling from one family secret to another, Ellie must decide who to trust and determine what to do as the Briar witches' legacy, everything they have sacrificed to survive, is under threat.

The novel's characters are wonderfully imagined and developed, so much so that it's easy to forget they are merely a fabric of the author's imagination. Ellie, the protagonist, is a young woman who is endeavouring to find her place in the world, battling with the fact that without magic, to those around her she is without definition. She was young and flawed, clever and courageous but stubborn and misguided. She, like the protagonists of all great fantasy novels, was a heroine who proved they were worth rooting for. Slatter weaves some magic with other characters, notably Maud and Gisela, whose commanding presence and relationship with the Briar girls, shadow every scene they aren't in. At its heart, the novel revolves around female relationships – between sisters, cousins, friends, mothers and grandmothers – and the love and complexities that underpin them.

The story seems to dance from one event to the other. It isn't action-packed in the generic sense, but the plot moves along at a smooth pace, careful to never linger too long on one particular event. Intricately crafted and irresistibly executed, The Briar Book of the Dead is a masterclass. The worldbuilding is detailed without being heavy, the magic well-developed without being confusing, which makes the Sourdough Universe one that is requires little effort to dive into and enjoy.

Thanks to these elements, the novel truly comes alive and sets a glorious standard for the fantasy genre. There is romance, there's a whole lot of complicated family relationship and there are glimmers of ancient magic and unresolved mystery – the result of which is a book which is unputdownable.

Many thanks to the publishers for providing the Bookbag with a copy to review!

With worldbuilding to die for; characters to root for and writing that shines, The Briar Book of the Dead will turn A G Slatter into one of your must-read authors! We at the Bookbag could not recommend the newest addition to the Sourdough universe more – it will delight, shock and enthral.

In terms of further reading, if you enjoyed The Briar Book of the Dead we know like us you'll also love Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which is as spellbinding and as darkly enchanting as A G Slatter's latest novel.

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Buy The Briar Book of the Dead by A G Slatter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Briar Book of the Dead by A G Slatter at

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