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  • The Fairy Tale Magazine

Book Review: The Briars by Stephanie Parent

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Stephanie Parent, the poet behind Every Poem a Potion, Every Song a Spell, has created a fascinating narrative that blends mystery, ghost legends, folk lore, fairy tale, poetry, and sexuality in her new novel The Briars. The book follows the experiences of Claire and her friends who are submissives and dominatrixes in a BDSM club called Briars and Roses. The club, which looks like an ordinary house covered in briars and roses from the outside, is full of secrets, and for years the dungeon in the attic of the club has been haunted by a benevolent ghost. When a new submissive named Mara begins working and an old client named Jack returns to the club after a twenty-year absence, the gentle haunting turns sinister.

This book is for adults and is filled with graphic depictions of BDSM and some scenes that feature sexual assault, but the book is much more than just a steamy read. Parent artfully reveals the backgrounds of her characters, illustrating how their tumultuous pasts have informed their situation. She intelligently explores the impact of slurs directed toward women and their bodies. She gives her readers a touching queer love story alongside a riveting, ghostly mystery. Parent likens submissive and dominant sexuality to art itself, showing how the giving and taking of pain are related to ballet dancing and poetry, and she uses fairy tale, folk lore, and literature to spin memorable images that complement her fast-paced plot.

Although contemporary sexuality has often been directed and dominated by the desires of men, Stephanie Parent offers readers a novel that celebrates female relationships and the bonds formed between women who are find themselves in difficult circumstances. Haunting, romantic, and superbly crafted, this story will stay with readers long after they have finished the final page.

You can find the book here.

Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.

Kelly Jarvis is the Special Projects Writer and Contributing Editor for The Fairy Tale Magazine. Her work has appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer, Blue Heron Review, Forget-Me-Not Press, Mermaids Monthly, The Chamber Magazine, and Mothers of Enchantment: New Tales of Fairy Godmothers. She teaches at Central Connecticut State University.


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