Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood — 288 pgs

Jessamine Luxton is a quiet and retiring girl who lives with her father in the crumbling abbey on the outskirts of town. Her father is a master healer, adept at making healing potions and in caring for the sick and injured in his vicinity. But he’s not the loving and doting father that a girl like Jessamine needs, and with her mother having died many years ago, Jessamine is a girl hungering for love, understanding and affection. When a local ruffian arrives on their property with a very slight young man named Weed, Jessamine’s father takes in his strange tale like a healing draught. It seems Weed has a gift that Jessamine’s father wants badly, for he has the ability to create potions and use plants in a way that is long thought to be lost. When Jessamine’s father takes Weed into his locked garden that houses all the poisonous plants he has ever collected, he shares with the boy his desire to use these plants for his healing arts. Before Weed can begin to use his knowledge, a horrible fate falls upon Jessamine, and soon his feelings for her begin to blur the lines of what is noble and right and what is alien and dark. Soon Weed is on a quest to save the one person in the world who truly knows what he is, and what he will uncover will shock and electrify readers. In a world where things are not as they appear, Weed will come to make the ultimate sacrifice for love, honor and goodness.

When I read Beth Fish’s wonderful review of this book about two weeks ago, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. Not realizing it was a YA title, it arrived from the library and I happily sat down with it one afternoon and didn’t look up until it was finished. It was a strangely quixotic and utterly engulfing read that I have a feeling will impress both younger and older readers alike, and I enjoyed the brisk pace of the book in addition to its style, which was similar to a fairy tale. As I wound my way deeper and deeper into the story, I felt as though I knew what was coming, but the fact that I could spot the villain didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the tale at all. I credit this to the book’s deftness for keeping its readers caught in an unfamiliar world, where magic and mystery walk hand in hand.

There are really two different plot conceits going on in this tale, and both were enriching in different ways. On the one hand, there’s the blossoming romance between the neglected Jessamine and the unwanted Weed; on the other, there’s the notorious secret that’s locked behind the gates of the poison garden. As both of these plot elements mature and begin to twist around each other, there’s a deep romantic and tragic resonance that gains strength and is expertly built upon by the author. This isn't the sort of story that the reader can remain disengaged from for very long, and because of its tender representations of young love and dastardly misdeeds, it’s a book that will keep readers racing through the pages to discover what the final outcome will be. The book doesn’t present the reader with a story that can be kept at a distance, choosing instead to keep the characters’ interactions and the secrets of the villain and the garden very tightly enmeshed.

Two things I liked most were the imagery that was such a focal point of the story and the fluidity of the writing style. This was a book that was almost effortless to read, and stylistically, the story was arranged in a way that kept me on tenterhooks wondering where it would go next, replete with a gnawing sense of tension and anticipation. The story is somewhat timeless, and though the book exists in a historical time frame, the protagonists and their feelings echo what today’s young adults might feel if they were falling in love for the first time and were somewhat removed from the influencing aspects of society. There was also a tremendous gentleness in this love story, and the way it was juxtaposed with the evilness of the antagonists seemed perfectly balanced and scrupulously created a sense of the forces of darkness being pitted against the forces of light.

When I quickly got to the end of the book, I groaned aloud, for this volume is the first installment of a trilogy. This frustrated me because I wanted a more full resolution and conclusion, not just a stopping point. I was also unhappy that my library doesn’t carry the second book and I’m going to have to go out and purchase it to find out where the tale goes. This development made me a little frustrated, but also excited that there will be future installments. Beth Fish has already reviewed the second book, called Nightshade, and I can say that I’m really eager to find out what’s next in store for the characters I’ve grown attached to.

This book was surprisingly complex while remaining streamlined and compact, and I enjoyed the journey that it took me on. As I mentioned before, this is a book that will entangle readers of all ages from adolescent onwards. The book is like a wonderful confection, in that it’s very easy to gobble up all at once and leave you hungering for more. I’m thankful that I read this one and will be able to pass it to my daughter, who I think will love it too. A very diverting read that has innocence shot through with touches of raw darkness. Recommended.

16 comments:

Kaye said...

This would not seem to be a book I would pick up but after reading your review, excellent btw, I want it! NOW! Glad you liked it so much.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I want to read this so much, but am so afraid to do so before the rest of the trilogy is available! I almost always end up having to reread before the next installment!

Amy said...

Ah how frustrating that the library doesn't carry the second in the series! Sometimes I think that is what YA does best - we may be able to spot the villain and etc but it just hooks us in!

Nymeth said...

This sounds good, but I'd share your frustration with the ending. I love a good series, but I DO wish more books were stand-alones.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I didn't know this was a YA title. Great review! I'll have to add this to my wish list.

Andi said...

I didn't have such luck with this book, but I'm glad you liked it. I was much more taken by the true story of the Poison Garden on which the idea for this book was based. It's worth a Google!

reviewsbylola said...

This one is new to me so I am happy to read your review, especially considering how much you liked it!

Darlene said...

Oh my, this does sound good. I may have to check if my library has it. Thanks for the great review and adding yet another book to my wishlist. Lol.

bermudaonion said...

I know you don't read a lot of YA, so the fact that you loved this one really makes me sit up and listen.

Beth F said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I don't know why, but I too got caught up with the characters and needed to know what happened to them. I'm always a bit nervous when someone reads a book on my recommendation.

I have an extra copy of the second book and will send it to you. Look for email.

Aarti said...

I must admit that based on the title and cover of this book, I would probably not touch it with a ten-foot pole. It seems Twilight-esque to me. But if you like it so much, maybe I should give it a go!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

"crumbling abbey" ?? It has my interest already. I am glad u enjoyed this one as well.

TheBookGirl said...

The fact that you were so affected by this book, and that you cannot wait to read the second one is high praise indeed. It's good to know that there are YA titles out there that are really quite complex in plot and rich in imagery.

Ti said...

I've not heard of this title before but what you've shared here sounds pretty good. When you said "gobble it up" I seriously had a picture of you gobbling up the book. LOL! I love when a book grabs you. When it does, your enthusiasm for the book really shines through. Another reason why I love your reviews. Because you tell me how it makes you feel and that is so important to me.

Cath @ Constance Reader said...

Like Kaye says, I wouldn't have picked this up either but Beth Fish's review drew me in and yours cinched it. I'm going to have to read it and then wait on pins and needles for the rest of the books!

Vasilly said...

Now I want to read this book! I'm going to see if my library has the first two books. It sounds so interesting and different. Thanks for such a great review!

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