This Poison Heart – Kalynn Bayron – This Poison Heart #1 – Bloomsbury YA – Published 29 June 2021
Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.
When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.
When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.
This Poison Heart starts with a magical realism vibe but by halfway becomes a thoroughly fun paranormal title with myths, eternal creatures with super speed and strength, and centuries-old feuds. I love books about plants and gardens. I love the vibe they give to books and This Poison Heart brings with it that same plant and garden goodness I adore, with the added benefit that Briseis can control the plants around her – or sort of. She has long hidden her gift and isn’t sure how to master it when she fears it and what it can do.
When Briseis and her mothers receive news that Briseis has been left an estate as an inheritance by her birth family, they think it might be the thing to save their struggling finances. Moving to the country also gives Briseis the first chance to really stretch her powers of controlling plants. Away from the city, she discovers that her birth family have a strange affinity with plants, especially poisonous ones. As Briseis revives the gardens that surround the estate, she begins to learn there is far more to her powers and far more to the secrets that surround her family’s history.
There is a lot to like about This Poison Heart. It kind of felt like two books joined together. The first half is focused on getting to know Briseis, her two mothers, their florist business and their struggling finances. The inheritance is a welcome reprieve for them, as is the move to the country. The banter between Briseis and her mothers is lots of fun, as is the banter the two older women share. They are full on mother-embarrassing, which Briseis pretends to hate but really loves. The move also allows Briseis to experiment with her powers, bringing the garden back to life, learning about the apothecary business her aunt and birth mother were running. She also meets Carter, who works at the bookshop in town and she finally makes a friend who knows the extent of her magical powers and doesn’t shun her for them.
At this point, the book takes a paranormal twist and while the root of the magic in this book is the same, the vibe shifted for me and reminded me more of the paranormal books I know and love. Briseis meets Marie, a beautiful young lady who seems to know more about Briseis’ family than she is saying. She also seems to be far older than her looks would have Bri believe, is super fast, super strong and super lethal. Briseis is immediately attracted to her, but isn’t sure she can trust her.
Enter the bad guys and Briseis learns that her powers and what is happening in her new town is actually centuries old and far more serious that she could expect.
This Poison Heart definitely ticks the #WeNeedDiverseBooks and is super genuine and authentic. Briseis and her mothers are black, Carter and his mother are also black and Briseis notes this amongst the sea of white people in her new town. There is also LGBT representation. Along with Bri’s mums, Briseis references a previous boyfriend and is now hugely attracted to Marie. Hopefully we will get more of this in book two.
Romance, betrayal, mythology, magic and poisonous plants – what more could you want. This Poison Heart is clearly the start of a series, as the ending nicely sets up what is sure to be an epic quest in the second book.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Genre: Fantasy, paranormal.
Themes: Gardens, plants, magical powers, LGBT, relationships, florists.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, f*** (5), sh** (23), as***** (4), pi** (3). Violence, injury and death. Vague sexual references – attraction.
Published: 29 June 2021 by Bloomsbury YA.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 384 pages.