Friday, July 22, 2011

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black

Publisher: Big Mouth House
Age: Young Adult
Species: Werewolves, Faeries, Humans, Devils, Maenads, Unicorns, Vampires
Rating: 5/5
Interest: Holly Black/ Fairytales/ Rappacini's Daughter

Poisonous girls whose kisses will kill. A fateful eating contest with the devil. Faeries who return to Ironside, searching for love. A junior prom turned bacchanalia. In twelve short stories, eerie and brimming with suspense and unexpected humor, Holly Black twists the fantastical creatures you thought you knew in ways you’ll never expect. (Summary from

This is going to be a bulleted post. There are 12 stories total in this book and I'm going to concentrate on my 6 favorite.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown- I think this story might have been my 2nd favorite of them all. I loved the idea of vampires in this story, how they evolved and came out. An especially unique aspect was that alcohol could stave off the transition into a vampire and instead of an instantaneous infection, the vampire virus took time to marinate. The main girl was fierce, touching and naive all at once. She sacrificed herself for friends (and a former boyfriend), but almost burned in the sun and eventually went public about the real and unglamorized life of vampires. She pretty much rocked my world. I wish there was a series about her, I loved it so much.

The Night Market- I'm not certain why I love this story. I think it was liking the potential for the story arc. The main girl tries bargaining with an enkanto (some kind of faerie or nymph I believe) for her sister's health. There was definite chemistry with the older sister and the enkanto, their barbs were perfect. It would have been so conventional and good to pair them together. However I think I liked it more that they didn't. The elder sister chose to love herself first, and not another which I felt was a fantastic message for readers.

The Dog King- This story relished in the fairy tale voice of the book. I practically saw the tale play out in medieval- looking snapshots. Dog fighting with werewolves.... somehow it's strange and medieval that it fits the story. The descriptions and imagery were rich and never overly flourished. It simply flowed. I was very intrigued by the king's pet werewolf. He was clever and ambitious, possibly a little sick in the head, a perfect ruler for the kingdom. I was proud of his manipulation of the circumstances.

In Vodka Veritas- I'm just going to take a moment to bask in the perfection of this title. It is so epic I might start making my credo. Perfection. The story was a fabulous tongue in cheek piece about maenads. Maenads themselves are horribly under-utilized in fiction, especially Young Adult. This is of course due to their violent sexual and alcoholic nature, but they are still a captivating branch of the mythical world. I'm dying for there to be a proper book about them. In Vodka Veritas was a fabulous and fun romp set at prom. I wish I could read it again.

The Coat of Stars- This was a fabulously romantic tale between two men. There are too little really good fairy tales about two men together. I liked the way Raphael had to rescue his love from the faeries, a boy he'd been in love with since he was a child. The test to get his lover back, the way Raphael bartered beautiful clothes for time with his lover, the way he finally got him back. It felt like a real fairytale, in spite of the fact that it was set in a rundown area near a river with a soggy mattress. This was my favorite story of them all, because of the tenderness and memories it talked about.

The Poison Eaters- In high school I read a story called Rappacini's Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was about a scientist who had somehow bred his daughter to be a beautiful but poisonous girl. Over the course of the story he manages to also turn his daughter's love into a poisonous being as well. It had a sad ending but was still a spectacular story. The Poison Eaters could almost be a modern re-telling of the story. I like this version better because of the more fairy tale type telling, the sisters and the sinister plot. The main daughter was tragic but still moving. She accepted her lot in life and decided to be obedient to whoever held her fate in their hands. She was okay with whatever happened, because it didn't matter. She'd never be able to love, have children or do as she wished. It's sad, but freeing in a very odd way. The circumstances the story is being told under is ironic but hilarious.

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black is a dark but imaginative read full of fantastic supernatural beings.  I would recommend the book to anyone who likes the harsher side of fairy tales. Plus, there is a story featuring Black's characters from Tithe, Rioben and Kaye. If you have money or a library card or a well-stocked book friend make sure to get your hands on this book, it is well worth it. Two honorable mentions for stories included in this post is Virgin (about unicorns, very depressing) and A Reversal of Fortune (smart, funny and full of candy).

Teaser Lines: "Farewell, Father," she said. He fell back upon his chair, choking. She laughed, not with mirth or even mockery, but something that was closer to a sob. "You crafted me so sharp, I cut even myself."

Happy Reading,


  1. Ooo, we're glad to see another author doing a collection of stories. Laini Taylor's LIPS TOUCH was sooooo gorgeous. Definitely check that out! We're gonna check this one out now, thanks for the review!

  2. Laini Taylor did her own collection? I'm so excited! I've been wanting to read her writing since Kiersten White talked about her obsession with DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE which I can't wait to read.


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