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.
*This ARC was sent to me by Bloomsbury YA, please read our disclaimer policy for more information.
Kalynn Bayron knocked this one OUT THE PARK!
I’m not sure what I was expecting but that wasn’t it!
But before I get into this phenomenal book, can i just say that bloomsbury deserve awards for the covers their providing Kalynn Bayron with. First, Cinderella is Dead and now, This Poison Heart??
Kalynn Bayron has discovered the cheat code with these covers.
This feminist fantasy retelling of the classic ‘The Secret Garden’ mixed with Greek mythology is filled with themes of love, loss, death and most importantly, family. Through our main protagonist, Briseis, Kalynn take us on a journey to rediscover ancient myths and uncover hidden secrets…all behind the gate of a mysterious garden.
Firstly, Kalynn Bayron’s growth from Cinderella is Dead to This Poison Heart deserves applause. For me, the writing improved and the characters were suddenly more detailed. None of the characters fell flat to me and I’m incredibly impressed in how well written I thought they all were. They all had different personalities that came across through her writing. The depth they all had was excellent and I can tell she’s going to take it to the next level with the next book in this duology.
I adored Briseis relationship with her Mums. Their love for Bri was so incredibly beautiful. Mo and Mum’s relationship actually made me laugh out loud at certain points. Mo, in particular, was hilarious but I loved how much they wanted the best for Bri. They moved out to the middle of nowhere just so Bri could discover more about her birth mother. Something that takes a lot of bravery to do so. Especially when you have no idea what you may find.
The modern references of Get Out to Tiktok brought this book sharply into the urban fantasy genre. Something that I always love in fantasy books.
Briseis intrigued me from the very start. Kalynn wrote her character so well. You could tell she was on the younger side based on some of the decisions she makes. Nevertheless, her bravery and determination is unmatched. We were taken on such a journey of growth with her, and I’m sure I learnt so much about plants as a result. From Water Hemlock to Poison Ivy, through Briseis, the reader discovers it all.
“Death is only painful for the living…”
I found the Greek mythology slightly confusing. I could tell alot of research had gone into it. But it got towards the last 100 pages and I was still confused on everything. However, I’m 65% sure that the next book will clear up alot of my confusion as we delve deeper into it.
It also brings me onto another problem with the book…
which is a typical YA fantasy issue of Insta-Love as a trope.
I get instinct attraction. More often than not, it’s sexual attraction and it’s clear to see. But straight into serious over-arching feelings? For me, it’s just not believable and often places unnecessary emphasis on the fictional elements of the book. I wanted to like the main character’s love interest and I did find her intriguing separate to her relationship with Briseis. However, when they were together, the insta-love trope just brought me firmly back into the reality of things and I felt, in places, it disrupted the flow of the plot.
If anything this book emphasises the power of nature and natural resources over anything else. My grandparents are always telling me to drink herbal tea when I’ve got an upset stomach or to boil some ginger with lemon on the stove when I’m sick. They grew up using natural remedies as medicine.
Personally, I believe there are natural remedies for most sicknesses/illnesses. When I’m in Jamaica, the island is so green that I can’t help but think there has to be natural remedies for everything. From diseases to infections, I’m so sure that the cure can be found in plants. Or that plants can help to aid us all in some way.
I looked it up and there are about 391,000 plants known to scientists.
And that number is insane when you think about it. I’m sure there are thousands of plants that we haven’t discovered or really taken the time to explore the true properties of it.
Briseis’s gift and even Mum and Mo’s love for plants goes to show perhaps how much we take plants for granted. And how much we rely on them to simply breathe. They are the lungs of the Earth.
I don’t want to get into a rant about Climate Change and I recommend checking out ‘The Yikes Podcast‘ and Mikaela Loach on instagram to really find out about how you can make a difference individually.
Anyways, back to this book…I was really surprised as it also played on themes of legacy and history. (Which is quickly becoming one of my favourite themes). The burden of carrying centuries years old resposibilites weigh heavily on Briseis. We see her begin to break that generational responsibility towards the end of the book and I wonder just how much further she will go.
“Legacies are a complicated thing...especially when something of value is involved…“
That ending was spectacular and I can’t wait snatch up ‘This Wicked Fate’ in 2022.