A Fierce and Subtle Poison – Some mysteries might be better unsolved

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A Fierce and Subtle Poison – Some mysteries might be better unsolved

This sounded so close to one of my favorite short stories, “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, that I couldn’t resist.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Lush prose, exotic Carribean culture  and ghosts tangle with unhinged science and poisoned kisses for a dark, magical atmosphere, and a mystery that you might not want to solve.  Throw in some seriously complex complications for a seemingly doomed love story, and you have a book that is hard to put down.

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Goodreads Summary

Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the señoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.

Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers–and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life.

My Thoughts

My only complaint was Lucas, the narrator.  He tried not to be the trust fund jerk his father wanted him to be, but he still came across as over-privileged, cocky, and too much of a player for my taste.  His latest hook-up dies and he seems concerned, but he still keeps romancing girls in the midst of the mess?  I found it hard to take.  I do understand some of the decisions that shaped his character – they were necessary to develop the rather intriguing and light commentary on modern day colonialism.  I just didn’t like those parts of him.  Most readers will forgive him by the end and forget that such an intrinsic change is a little hard to really believe. Overall, this is an engaging mystery and a beautifully written book.  It is a little more magical realism than Hawthorne’s dark romanticism, but it didn’t have that over the top weird or the hard to follow plot twists that I associate with that style.  I think it has an audience for high school readers and adult readers of YA as well.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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