I adored Kalynn Bayron’s debut, CINDERELLA IS DEAD (review available here), and so I had to request THIS POISON HEART when I saw that gorgeous cover. If you like Black girl magic, Little Shop of Horrors and gothic atmospheres, this is the perfect book.
Rating: 5 stars!
Thanks to Bloomsbury YA for the eARC of this book. It has not affected my honest review.
Content Warnings: murder, death of a parent, threat, violence, body horror.
About the book:
Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.
When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.
When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.
What did I think?
I absolutely devoured this book. I didn’t really know what to expect, going into it. I’d picked it up mostly blind, relying on the fact that I adored CINDERELLA IS DEAD from Kalynn Bayron and the fact that the cover for THIS POISON HEART is beyond gorgeous. That was a great way to read this book as I was utterly blindsided by every twist and turn in this contemporary fantasy plot. I didn’t realise this was going to be a series until I got 90% of the way through and had a dawning sense of horror that this wouldn’t be neatly resolved in the pages I had left. And I was right. The ending was spectacular, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.
The Greek mythology elements threaded throughout! My little Hellenic polytheist heart leapt when I realised the main character was called Briseis, and when Circe and Selene were mentioned? My ears pricked up. I loved the way the mythology was used to support this story. It wasn’t a huge facet of the story, but the inspirations were clear and excellently used. I loved the Medea and Hecate mentions, and it was used in a really clever way.
The gothic atmosphere of this book was glorious. In true gothic thrillery style, it felt like the house and the poison garden were characters all of their own and it built so much suspense and tension throughout the story. The whole novel had big Little Shop of Horrors energy, which is something I didn’t realise I desperately needed in a book. The plant magic was so, so fun. I loved the way it was done, and the way it actually made Briseis’s life difficult rather than just being a gift.
All of the characters were fantastic and the sapphic romance made me squeal but I have a particular soft spot for the family relationships in this book. I adored Briseis and her moms. Their family loyalty was incredible and made my heart grow three sizes. The love between them felt so strong and real that it jumped off the page, and I really loved that Briseis investigating her birth mother didn’t cause conflict between her and her moms.
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Release Date: 29th June 2021
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