Red bands around Caitrin’s wrists prove her bond with a spirit. So the last place she would want to go is Croìthe, the city where magic is punishable by death. In Erin Phillips’s A Bond of Briars, Caitrin vows to her dying husband that she will care for his mother, setting up this dark fantasy retelling of a famous biblical story. Caitrin’s magic helps her survive, but her only hope of helping her mother-in-law regain her land is to marry a man who can reclaim that property. If only her new land didn’t also outlaw marriages between its people and a woman who is magically bonded. A Bond of Briars shows a beautiful love story along with the dangers of allegiance to idols that make us feel powerful and worthy. Phillips blends the biblical Ruth narrative with prophecy and hopes of redemption from spiritual warfare that binds the soul.
Best for: Young adults and adults, fans of biblical retellings, fans of dark fantasy.
Discern: Dark magic, blood magic, some violence, talk of a character’s history as a prostitute.