Cover of Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Briar Rose

The idea for an adult novel on the subject of the Holocaust came to me when I was watching the documentary “Shoah” in which the concentration camp Chelmno was described. It was a camp in a castle. Castle, barbed wire, and the gassing of innocent folk. It suggested the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” in a horrible way. Yet I had recently done a YA novel about the Holocaust–“The Devil’s Arithmetic“–and wasn’t eager to visit that awful research again. But when I had lunch with Terri Windling, the editor of a series of adult novels all based around folk tales, I told her about this camp. She urged me to write the book. The very first printing had, in the ad cards, my name as Jan Yolen. Next printing it was corrected. There are English and Danish editions. The book was a Nebula nominee and won the 1993 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It was a nominee for the 1994-6 South Carolina Junior Book Award. It is taught as a core book in many Holocaust courses and has been under option for the movies many times.

Movie star Kirsten Dunst has listed it as her favorite book.


  • Science Fiction Chronicle: Best fantasy novel of the year.
  • Locus Best Seller List, debuting at #10.
  • Won the Mythopoeic Award

Around the Web:

  • The Year 12 English curriculum at Loreto Normanhurst, a Catholic secondary school for girls in Normanhurst, NSW, Australia, has a web resource for Briar Rose with supporting links.
  • And a Sydney, Australia teacher sent along this brilliant link.
  • A blogger talks about the book.

What reviewers have said:

  • “A terrifically moving story of the Holocaust, one that finds hope and bravery behind the barbed wire and reminds us of love’s power to heal even the most terribly and enduring wounds…Briar Rose takes on the timeless quality of a true myth, with its depiction of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the face of nearly incomprehensible evil.” — The Washington Post
  • “Windling’s Fairy Tale series has produced several excellent fantasy novels inspired by classic fairy tales. This is one of the series’s most ambitious efforts, and only a writer as good as Yolen ( Sister Light, Sister Dark ) could bring it off. . . .Yolen has created an engrossing novel. She handles a difficult subject with finessein a book that should be required reading for anyone who is tempted to
    dismiss fantasy as a frivolous genre”–Publishers Weekly
  • “The latest in the “Fairy Tale”series showcases Yolen’s skill at transforming the real world into a realm offantasy. A good selection for adult and YA fantasy collections.” –School Library Journal
  • “In keeping with such a journey, Linda Stephens’s reading vibrates with imaginative characterizations and bold feeling. Like a sculptor with her chisel, Stephens shapes Yolen’s story with her voice, flawlessly interprets mood and tone, and breathes personality into her characters. From old Prince Potoki to eager, young Gemma, there is magic in the listening.”– AudioFile
  • “The latest in the Fairy Tales series begins with a provocative premise: retelling the story of Sleeping Beauty as a Holocaust memoir.” –Kirkus
  • “Surpassing feeling and resonance.”–Analog
  • “Utterly superb”–Interzone
  • “Yolen’s latest book is her hands-down best, a marvelous and affecting tale of. . .fairy tales.. . The book is rich in human value, all the characters caring deeply and experiencing the pain of others. On another level, this book is a commentary on the fairy tale itself, how the most basic stories and fables can reshape out lives and make harsh reality a little easier to deal with. . .Jane Yolen has long been a writer expert at the beautifully turned phrase, and masterful in conveying a character’s pain, but never has she seemed so committed to a piece of fiction. . . .”–Locus
  • “Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, Yolen’s novel is a compelling reminder of the Holocaust as well as a contemporary tale of secrets and romance.”–Booklist
  • “A brilliant and very emotionally powerful short novel you’ll have to read in one sitting.”–Science Fiction Chronicle
  • “Jane Yolen is a national treasure. Briar Rose is an exquisite and heartrending story that fulfills the promise of the finest fairy tales: truth, pain,and entertainment.”–Greg Bear
  • ” This superb blend of fairy tale and modern fantasy is told with the uncluttered style of a pure storyteller who truly loves her subject matter. I loved this book.” — ALBEDO

Online Review: Rambles Review

Review: Crescent Blues Book Views

An interview on the writing and censorship of Briar Rose.

Recording: There is an audio recording of BRIAR ROSE from Recorded Books Inc. (ISBN # 0-7887-0505-9)