Author: Bridget Zinn
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: March 2013
Hardcover: 288 Pages
Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?
Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.
Stand alone or series: Standalone novel
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher
Format (e- or p-): Print review copy
Why did I read this book: I’ve had my eye on this book for a while – the premise of teenage potions master-turned assassin sounded amazing, and I really like the Disney-Burton-ish Alice in Wonderland feel to the book jacket. Needless to say, when I got a review copy in the mail, it immediately went on my “must review soon” shelf.
At just sixteen years old, Kyra is one of the most powerful and celebrated figures in the kingdom – one of the Master Trio of Potioners with exceptional talent, Kyra is also the best friend of Princess Ariana, who just so happens to be the direct heir and future ruler of the land. But one day, Kyra does the unthinkable: she attempts to kill her best friend by way of poisoned blade, and misses.
Now Kyra has fallen from upstanding member of society to villain, and she takes to the road, trying to stay ahead of the royal guard as well as tangling with other dangers that face a girl on the run (goblins, thieves, witches, handsome and charismatic traveling companions, etc). Though she’s on the outs right now, Kyra is single-mindedly dedicated to her mission to find and kill Princess Ariana – the future of the kingdom depends on it. Luckily, she has the help of an adorable, magical scent-seeking pig (named Rosie) and one handsome and charismatic traveling companion (named Fred) and his wolfish dog to help her on her mission.
The debut (and sadly, last) novel from Bridget Zinn, Poison has a killer premise: smarmy and talented girl goes rogue and repeatedly tries to find and assassinate her best friend for specific reasons unknown.1 Surprisingly, given the novel’s core premise, the book isn’t all doom and gloom; rather, Poison is a diverting, frothy romp of a fantasy novel. Written in a contemporary voice and featuring a snarky, strong female protagonist, this book feels and sounds very much like a fantastical Meg Cabot book (as many other reviews have pointed out before me). And, like Meg Cabot’s books, Poison will certainly appeal to many readers – particularly those looking for some wit, lighthearted banter, and a sweet romance.
From a plotting perspective, Poison also does a fine job, creating a captivating mystery and chase story, as readers wonder why Kyra is so dead-set on killing the Princess – the reveal is solid, too (although the end of the book feels a little unresolved). On the whole, the romantic angle is of the instant variety, but sweet, the characters and world also of the fresh-faced, Pretty-Prince-and-Princess (of the western European) mold. And there IS an adorable magical pig who plays a main part in the story. Cute. Right?
These praises said, however, this is not exactly a deep or meaningful book – and the comparisons to the meatier works of Tamora Pierce or Kristin Cashore are, in this reviewer’s opinion, way off base. Heck, even in comparison to some of the more lighthearted YA/MG fantasy novels – my favorite Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest books immediately come to mind – Poison can’t quite stack up. The contemporary voice is intensely off-putting, and the haphazard, imagined magical rules and power structures (even at a very basic level) is frustrating. And yet, for those criticisms, I can’t really fault the book because it is exactly what it presents itself as: fun, silly, with all the sweetness and airiness of strawberry shortcake.
Which is to say, it won’t fill you up, but if you’re in the mood for shortcake, you can’t go wrong with Poison.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
The Master Trio Potioners’ flat didn’t look impregnable.
From the outside it just looked like an enormous ramshackle old house. One in bad need of a paint job.
But Kyra knew better.
The first-floor doors and windows bore elaborate magic wards that would alert the Potoners as soon as Kyra touched a windowsill or doorknob. And – unless the Potioners had disabled the bellows contraptions Kyra herself had set up – the wards would knock her out with a puff of sleep potion. Only charmed residents could pass when the wards were in place.
No, there was no getting in on the ground floor.
But Kyra also knew there was a window on the second story that had been stuck for years. That would be her way in.
Rating: 6 – Good
Reading Next: The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Chris Healy
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