Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking those links, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you.This Poison Heart (This Poison Heart #1) by Kalynn Bayron
Published by Bloomsbury YA on June 29, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, LGBTQ, Mythology, Young Adult Fiction
Format: eBook (384 pages)
Purchase: Amazon • IndieBound
Add Book: Goodreads • Bookhype
Ever since she can remember, Briseis has had power over plants. Flowers bloom in her footsteps and leaves turn to face her as though she were the sun. It's a power she and her adoptive mothers have spent her whole life trying to hide. And then Briseis inherits an old house from her birth mother and suddenly finds herself with the space and privacy to test her powers for the first time.
But as Briseis starts to bring the house's rambling garden back to life, she finds she has also inherited generations of secrets. A hidden altar to a dark goddess, a lineage of witches stretching back to ancient times, and a hidden garden overgrown with the most deadly poisonous plants on earth. And Briseis's long-departed ancestors aren't going to let her rest until she accepts her place as the keeper of the terrible power that lies at the heart of the Poison Garden.
Cinderella Is Dead author Kalynn Bayron brings a message of proud inclusivity to this empowering fantasy about a young woman finding the strength to challenge everything she has been told is true.
Proceed With Caution:
This book contains mentions of death and murder, attempted murder, parental death, and violence.
This Poison Heart is narrated by seventeen-year-old Briseis, a girl with power over plants. She helps out her moms with their flower shop, at least until a lawyer gets into contact to let her know that her birth mother’s sister has left her her estate in her will. Bri and her moms go to check the place out for the summer, and it seems too good to be true. It looks like a place where they could make their new home, except for all of the strange and dangerous happenings.
I was super excited about This Poison Heart despite not being a big fan of Cinderella Is Dead. I love plants so Briseis’ ability seemed really interesting to me. Unfortunately, this book is super boring for the first 90%. Then everything is jam-packed into the last few chapters, and nothing makes sense. Much like this review, most likely.
At the very beginning, Briseis tells us a story about how she ate a handful of poison berries in second grade and nothing happened while the other girl was sick for a week. Now, she cuts her finger while handling hemlock, freaks out, then wonders why she hasn’t died from the poison. What? You just told us that plant poison doesn’t affect you! I could understand wondering WHY she’s not affected, but to completely “forget” about that ability seemed strange. It was a forced way to drill into the readers’ heads that it’s important, because it is important…later.
This Poison Heart really starts when Briseis inherits an old house from her biological aunt, whom she’s never met nor knew about. It’s like a cross between The Addams Family and The Little Shop of Horrors, but it’s full of even more secrets. Secrets and Greek Mythology! I wasn’t sure about this combination at first, because it felt kind of random and messy. And the further I got into it, the weirder it got. All of it just did not mesh well for me, especially that “surprise” ending.
Another issue I had with This Poison Heart was the characters. Or really the lack of development of any characters. Briseis is basically a loner. She had two friends but they “grew apart.” We get a one page summary of events that happened a million years ago that strained their relationship, but it just fell apart now? But they’re never mentioned again, so I don’t even know why they were brought up at all. But she immediately makes friends upon moving! Two of them! Immediately! And she trusts them with her life and her family’s deepest darkest secrets after just a day! I’m sure you can guess how that turns out.
The rest of the side characters were weird. Not weird as in quirky small-town folks who are charming and strange. No, they were literally just weirdos to pop in and scare Bri and her moms or to say cryptic nonsense, causing Bri to wonder about what other kind of secrets her birth family is hiding. Or they have the exact knowledge of Ancient Greek that she needs to unlock a secret. Or they’re a tantrum throwing villain.
Basically, This Poison Heart didn’t work for me. It has some of the same issues as the author’s debut, mainly that there’s an amazing premise but none of the details fit together.