AUTHOR: Bridget Zinn
FORMAT: Digital ARC (NetGalley/Disney Hyperion), 290 pages
RELEASE DATE: March 12, 2013
This ridiculously excellent book tells a tale of subterfuge, unfortunately lacy underwear, a magical pig, a heroine with a tendency to resort to poisoned throwing needles, and an assassination gone wrong. If these things don’t manage to instantly pique your interest, I don’t know what will. They certainly had me hooked. In fact, I enjoyed Poison so much that all I want to do is give everyone in the world a copy. It’s clever, terribly funny, and a joy to read.
We meet our heroine (she of the throwing needles) for the very first time while she’s in the middle of breaking into her former flat. The Master Trio Potioners were once the kingdom’s premier poison-makers, and Kyra was the founding member. Business was booming, she was engaged, and everything was going extremely well. That is, until Kyra tried to kill the kingdom’s crown princess — and failed. Now she’s on the run, determined to finish what she started. Being the only one in the realm who knows how to avert a cataclysmic tragedy was hard enough without also knowing you have to kill your best friend in the bargain. It’s a race against time, and Kyra will need all of her wits, poisons, potions, and willpower in order to prevent her kingdom’s collapse. Well, and a magical pig. The pig is very important.
There isn’t a dull character in this entire book. (Even the pig is imbued with personality.) Kyra, ornery and headstrong, is a memorable heroine who never becomes annoying. She’s burdened with an awful quest, and she’d rather not be the one who has to go through with it, but she also knows it will never get done if she doesn’t handle it herself. She’s my kind of girl. Also, she has an appreciation for pie. Again, my kind of girl. What I love about Kyra is that she is definitely not the kind of heroine who waits for everything to happen to her. More often than not, Kyra makes her own decisions and chases down her own fate. Yes, she makes mistakes, but I prefer this to a heroine who sits around simply reacting to stimuli. Plus, Kyra is far from helpless. Her brain is like a massive index of potions, poisons, and alchemical properties. She knows what she’s doing.
And then there’s Fred. I love him. There are enough brooding heroes out there, so I was thrilled to encounter one who spends his time wandering the countryside with a tame wolf, communing with nature and being incessantly cheerful about everything. It’s hilarious. He’s a perfect foil for Kyra.
The plot flies by with lightning speed. I found the pacing to be just about perfect. There’s never a lull in the narrative, no long and needlessly drawn out moments or scenes. And did I mention how funny this book is? I was laughing like a moron throughout the entire thing. These all combine to create a plot that keeps you hooked until the very end.
Not So Much:
Problem #1: I WANT MORE. When I turned the last page, I wanted to cry. This book is like crack. And you’re going to be thinking about it long after you finish.
But anyway, my main issue was with the magic system in the story — well, I guess I should call it the poison/potion system, which I gathered to be related to magic but never felt completely certain of. I read a lot of fantasy and it’s become pretty rote for me to figure out what the rules and limitations are when it comes to magic, if it’s involved in the story, and with this one I kind of felt like potions were much too powerful. I feel like there ought to have been more boundaries, more consequences, to using them. I admired the combination of alchemy and magic, DEFINITELY, but I also felt like it was a bit much for potions to be able to unlock doors, function as convincing disguises, AND be lethal at the same time. I realize that there are plenty of magic systems out there, in other fantasy books, that accomplish many of the same things… but I feel like they needed to be more limited. I’m not sure if that complaint will make sense to anyone, but there it is. For me, it was kind of overkill that potions could be so all-encompassing in scope. The only thing they couldn’t do was bring back the dead, which is pretty standard when it comes to magic in most stories, but aside from that it really didn’t seem like there was much they couldn’t manage.
There’s so much to love about Poison. It was an unforgettable experience for me; I got everything I like in a book, all in one package. I stayed up late to read this — all in one sitting — and then I got to the end and just wanted to keep going. As with most books I love, I immediately did some midnight investigations online, searching for the author’s blog and hoping to find out about a possible sequel. Guys, I can’t even describe to you how devastated I was to read that the author, Bridget Zinn, passed away a few years ago after a battle with cancer. I don’t know how I missed the news, but I was floored. She never even got to see her amazing novel published. And it’s such a tragedy to me that I won’t be able to read more of her novels in the future… I really wanted to cry. I still want to cry, as I write this several weeks after finishing Poison and learning all this. There’s just this tremendous sense of loss. All who love good books and the people who write them should understand how I’m feeling. That being said, the book is worth reading. Bridget Zinn crafted it with obvious love and a lot of skill, and it’s more than worth your time. She left behind an incredible legacy. Read it because it’s an amazing book. Hands down, one of my favorites for 2013, and just plain forever. It’s a book I see myself coming back to again and again.
An immense amount of gratitude goes to Disney Hyperion and NetGalley for letting me have an advanced reader copy of Poison!
Paola is a teacher, blogger, and book devourer currently living in Las Vegas, NV. She has an unhealthy obsession with popcorn, office supplies, and Target.