Book Review | This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

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. – Via Goodreads

I was anxious to enjoy this book, due to seeing it everywhere on social media and the fact it’s magical realism, a genre I absolutely adore. Thankfully, though it’s not a new top-favourite read, I did have a fun time with this novel!

The beginning of This Poison Heart was quite slow-going. The first quarter or so takes place in Brooklynn, and it talks about Bri and her family making big decisions and learning about things, filled with clunky and awkward dialogue (the dialogue was my biggest pet peeve!). It’s a lot of information and quite slow in terms of plot, but it does pick up later.

I then loved it right up until the final 20 pages. The pace picked up as soon as the characters arrived at the house, and I loved the scenes of Bri exploring the area. The descriptions were quite vivid, and I felt like I could picture the house in my head. The house itself seemed like its own character, and I kind of wish there were more scenes of Briseis and her family just learning the layout.

When Bri finally went into the garden, the writing really came alive; it was like Bayron was waiting for this, and that unfortunately showed in the earlier parts of the novel! Anyway, the garden was luminous. The plants were described in such visceral detail. I really wish This Poison Heart had maps, so I could see in even more detail what Bri was experiencing. I don’t normally look at maps too often in books whilst I am reading, but I think I would have flicked back and forth with this one!

The final 20 pages bordered on the ridiculous and convenient. I won’t spoil it, but I did think it was a disappointing ending to the novel. Nevertheless, I do want to pick up the sequel, because the middle of the story was still worth it: I was completely hooked.

The Greek mythology in this novel was thoroughly enjoyable, and I really want to go back to my Greek myths and read them again! I also want to explore deeper into some of the myths I have always taken on face value. These stories, written so long ago, have so many more layers than we know.

I also want to read more about Briseis! I enjoyed her story, and her characterisation. I wanted to see more internally, though it was first person. She never seems to react to things in a human way, and I didn’t always find her convincing – for example, who trusts people with their life when they’ve known them for like a week?! But, I think she’s going to go through a lot of growth in the sequel and I can’t wait to see it!

Whilst this review seems to have a lot of negatives, they were quite small. Ultimately, I gave this book 4/5 on Goodreads. It was action-packed, fun, and full of all the kinds of tropes I love. It’s also got a lot of LGBTQ+ rep, poison plants, and a creepy house setting – what else would you want?!

Have you read This Poison Heart? What did you think of it? Or have you added it to your TBR?

Until next time!

Hannah

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