Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood and the Duchess of Northumberland

Publisher: Blazer and Bray
Age: Young Adult
Species: Human/ Plant
Rating: 4/5
Interest: Poisons
Source: Library book

In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . .

Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill.
When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . . (summary taken from

Have you ever read a novel that starts one way, but ends another? In the beginning, Poison Diaries seemed like a sweet tale about a kind young woman who falls in love and cares for poisonous plants. It was a nice, if a little bit boring tale. Then, I got a little over half-way in the novel and it was like a floodgate opened. There was murder, poisons, plots, secrets and I was just sitting there like, where did all that come from? In the book's defense though, I got used to Jessamine's innocent voice and treated the novel more like a children's story than I should have.

Jessamine was an... interesting character, but only because of her innocence. She's effectively been locked in a household prison all of her life. She knows next to nothing of the outside world. Jessamine was so timid and fragile, but she tried to be brave. Her openness and general sweetness was a little refreshing. I wouldn't want to read characters like her all the time. However, it was nice to be reminded that not every book character has to be a jaded, tortured soul with a chip on their shoulder the size of Texas. I really enjoyed the moment when Jessamine's point of view had to be switched for Weed's. They were so different. Weed had a raw desire to help his lover in her time of need and he was willing to do anything to accomplish that goal. I'm unable to agree with his methods, but I admire his dedication. I also really enjoyed seeing Weed's descent into "evil." He was doing really awful things, yet knowing what he was doing them for made it a little bit easier to read.

I hated Thomas Luxton. I wanted to like him, really I did. He has an awesome poisonous plant garden and is the father of delicate Jessamine. The second he spoke to his daughter in a patronizing tone, he lost me. I cannot stand people who treat others like they're too dumb, too young or too unsophisticated to understand or help with their "exceedingly important work."

Weed had an odd power. (This coming from the girl who's seen a lot of strange ones, like "lacto-kinesis") I've never considered what it would be like to talk to plants. I mean, they're plants. I was convinced that weeds, flowers and even poisons would not be very interesting conversationalists. That was a mistake. The Duchess and Wood work very hard to give personality and life to each of the plants, from charming fox glove, to impish larkspur and the conniving oleander. I found myself wanting to learn more about and have more talks with the poisonous plants. (In my defense, poisons have always fascinated me. Nightshade AKA belladonna, foxglove and hemlock have always been my favorites.)

The only reasons I marked The Poison Diaries down was for its odd time flow and language. Some of the phrasing did not feel genuine. It was like when commercials or television shows try to mimic teen conversations or situations and it comes out sounding stilted and unnatural instead. Granted, I'm not an expert on language from post Revolutionary War, but I could tell when something sounded off. In the beginning of the book, the pacing was understandably slow. It went a little bit faster when Weed arrived and then slowed down again. At the final part of the book though, everything became rushed which was not enjoyable. I am however, extremely excited to see what happens in Nightshade, this one ended on such a cliffhanger.

The Poison Diaries is a great read, perfectly balanced between older and younger teens. It has a few "mature" scenes, but the book is also appropriate for a younger audience. I'd recommend it to any high schoolers that like historical fiction, or books about poisons. I'd advise getting the book from the library and then seeing if you'd like to purchase it. The book is unquestionably good, but probably one you'll only read once.

Series Order:
1. The Poison Diaries
2. Nightshade 
3. Title to be announced (April 8th 2012)

Teaser Lines: "You flesh bodies are so obsessed with goodness, yet no other form of life on earth is capable of such cruelty. You need only convince yourselves your transgressions serve some 'purpose.' Even if it is only greed, or lust, or the raw desire for power that drives you. You will spill the blood of your kinsmen, lay waste to the earth itself, wreak havoc, and cause unspeakable suffering---any and all sins are justified, as long as they are a means to your precious, righteous 'purpose'."

Happy Reading, 

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