Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Poison Diaries: Nightshade by Maryrose Wood and The Duchess of Northumberland

Publisher: Harper Collins
Age: Young Adult
Species: Human/ Exceptional Human*/Plants
Rating: 4.5/5
Interest: Poisons/ Series/Requested Review
Source: Finished copy from publisher

A dark, gothic tale of romance… and murder.
The latest book in the grippingly dark series, The Poison Diaries.

Our heroine, Jessamine, has lost her faith in the men she loved, and her innocence as well. She turns to the dark side and plots to kill her father, using his own poisons, before becoming an assassin, a poisoner for hire. Can she recover from her heartache and reunite with her true love, Weed? Find out in this thrilling story where poisons, darkness and horror are a part of everyday life, and love is the only cure.( Summary from

I was iffy about reading Nightshade at first, because while liking the first book, The Poison Diaries, I wasn't deeply invested in it. I thought Nightshade would be easy, but a little boring to read. I was so, so incredibly wrong: this last book has gotten me hopelessly addicted to the series. Wood and the Duchess have grown by leaps and bounds as writers and it seriously shows in this book. I loved almost every single page.

True to Poison Diaries form, the beginning was slow, but not uninteresting. I felt it was a good decision to show how Weed and Jessamine's lives had been impacted since the last book's ending. I needed to know where the characters stood in the aftermath. Jessamine ended up shocking me. For such a sweet and naive girl, she certainly adapted to murder, lies, and secrecy very quickly. It was like reading a completely different person. I could see the very bad path that Jessamine insisted on going down easily and so could she, but she hardly made an effort to stop herself. It was a weird sort of disconnect to know that Jessamine needed to make these mistakes, but I still wanted to scream at her and shake her until she woke up from all of the bad influences she was under.

Weed also surprised me. As in the first book, the point of views are split between Weed and Jessamine, but this time we get a much healthier dose of our hero. If Jessamine was intent to ruin herself, Weed was hellbent on improving himself. For every wrong Jessamine committed, Weed would do any virtuous act that would get him back to Jessamine. It was almost like the two had entirely switched roles. I really liked that.

One of the major improvements to the series was the addition of side characters. Thomas Luxton had always been one, but I never felt any sort of love for him. Oleander.... could be a side character, but he feels too... "force of nature" to call him that. I adored Jessamine's companion Rye. I really wanted him to stick around. He was roguish and sweet, with a swoon-worthy accent, I sincerely wished Jessamine hadn't ditched him so quickly. The Persian rug traders made me smile as well. I felt Maryam rekindled or awakened a part of Jessamine's kindness and healing nature that she believed long gone. Signora Baglioni, I loved her! She was full of Italian fire and calm intellect. I want her in the next book so badly! She made some of the horrible parts more bearable just by being there.

SPOILER ALERT: One thing I know I'm not supposed to confess to is the... relief I have that Weed and Jessamine got to experience other people. I honestly liked Rye with Jessamine more than I ever thought I would. True, she used him and let him do intimate things, but I still liked the chemistry they had, the fire and danger he brought out in her. I hated, loathed and despised her affair with the king, that simply felt wrong. I liked Weed and Baglioni, I don't remember the Signora's age, but I still enjoyed the sweet relationship she had with Weed. I wouldn't have minded if it progressed to a more romantic engagement. END SPOILER ALERT

Nightshade utterly shocked me with the detailed imagery and sense of the macabre. I had mentioned in my Poison Diaries review that I was impressed with all of the "wickedness" that seeped into the novel. With Nightshade, that feeling was increased two fold. I definitely won't be mistaking it for a younger book series again. There's a palpable feeling of darkness, sharp as glass, cutting through the novel: it's both thrilling and sickening. I couldn't believe all of the plots, evil deeds and trickery abounding in Nightshade. I loved it even as it made me cringe.

Not to get too into the novel and spoil it, but I was completely impressed with the themes of the book: No matter what you do, you always have a choice. There is always a chance to redeem yourself. Sacrifice can be painful, but worth it in the end. True love always, always finds a way. All of it was beautiful to me. I became enchanted by what the book wasn't saying, just as much what it was.

There is no doubt in my mind that The Poison Diaries series is one to watch out for. It might take a little bit to grow on you, but once it does, you'll be captivated by the chilling imagery, moral dilemmas and the exquisite agony of first love. This is a series you need to start reading!

Series Order:
1. The Poison Diaries
2. Nightshade
3. Untitled

Teaser Lines: I am a healer, I think, blocking out the voice of evil. I will not kill.

But it is oddly comforting to know that I can.

Happy Reading,

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