This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron Review

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron (TPH Duology #1)

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Release Date: June 29, 2021

Pages: 384

Available through Bookshop

If you’d like to support a Black-Owned BIPOC Bookstore, you can also purchase through MISSREADBOOKS

Cover Illustrator: Raymond Sebastien

Summary: 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.

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: This Poison Heart evokes a wonderfully atmospheric story propelled by wonderful protagonist Briseis, who has the power to control plants! Intriguing lore with threads of Greek myth, alongside a compelling personal journey as Bri soon finds herself inheriting a family estate and unlocking family secrets about her magic, makes for a character-driven, gothic contemporary fantasy tale that immerses you!

I’d been planning to read this book for quite a while because the premise just drew me in and I think plant magic is a unique power not explored enough in fantasy! Briseis grew up with the ability since she was young and now lives with her two adopted mothers (Thandie & Angie) in Brooklyn, then she soon receives information about an inheritance from her birth family, traveling to upstate New York for the summer to see the family estate. Firstly, the aesthetics and descriptions of the plants from the very beginning creates such a clear picture in your mind of the atmosphere, bringing forth such great imagery throughout the novel.

In the strength of the story’s gothic ambience, I loved Bayron’s descriptions and how it pulled me into the world, it created a very vivid picture of the setting. The supportive presence of her moms also leaves the reader with a sense of comfort knowing that Bri always has someone to talk to about her inquiring questions + theories about the estate plus what she uncovers throughout her investigation, in addition they also bring fun, comedic moments to the tense ambience of the story.

The plot is very much a personal, character-driven story as Bri carries such wonder & curiosity about her heritage, in addition to understanding more about powers and protection against poison plants, which is established early on in the novel. A slow-building scavenger hunt unfolds as she tries to figure out who she is and the origins of her abilities! This underlying thread to the story of Bri finding her place among her family’s secluded lineage is rekindled through the apothecary located within the crumbling estate as she slowly uncovers secrets within the house. It’s established that Bri’s family had connections to the plus the residents, however this brings about new dangers as Bri’s presence spreads throughout the small town of Rhinebeck.

Bayron seamlessly brought together so many elements from the underlying uncertainty about the town, to even the establishing of Greek mythology within Briseis’s family line, alongside the general magic and mystery of the story. The supporting cast of characters from Bri’s moms were wonderful to learn more about, alongside seeing their unwavering support of Bri (always ensuring she’s comfortable with being introduced to all this info about her other family). In general, the strong bond between the three of them was a standout part of the story! Dr. Grant, Mrs. Redmond and her son (and Bri’s new friend) Karter, and a mysterious girl named Marie, we’re also interesting characters that we learn more about.

Delving more into my critique…look I’m in awe at how Bayron brought in all these different elements from myths (despite me know, truthfully not much), family ancestry, the mysterious atmosphere and connecting all these pieces in a way where it’s never too overwhelming, but makes so much sense! However, I believe there could have been further strength to the novel with more plot threads because, the magic system while explored in a personal, emotion-fueled way was something that I would have loved to see more description or expansion on. I won’t spoil it either, but there is a romance that develops and while yes, it’s great to see more f/f, queer rep., it wasn’t developed enough in my opinion. The structure of the plot for me would have also been much stronger if Bri used her powers more to propel the external mystery, in addition to bringing more active energy to the story with the clues she uncovers. I enjoyed piecing together these clues, yet with a tighter plot (from my perspective), the last chunk of the story could have been less rushed.

However, if you enjoy atmospheric mystery novels full of intrigue and family secrets, you should definitely pick this one up. While it wasn’t the prefect read for me, there’s a lot I did end up enjoying about it, primarily Bri as a character, I loved her journey in this book.

This Poison Heart is a YA Contemporary Fantasy that flourishes among its descriptive, atmospheric ambience and the character-driven story. While more plot threads could have delivered even more on the fantastic elements introduced, the root of mythology, lore, mystery, and intriguing story of a mysterious estate keep you wondering how it all connects. Alongside compelling protagonist Bri bringing the story together, you’ll be left eager to see how the story concludes in the sequel!

4 thoughts on “This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron Review

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