Foxglove, Oleander, Moonseed and Belladonna… in the right dose these plants could either be a cure or a poison, but at the end of the day, no poison proves greater than that of human greed.
Where can I get it: Kalahari.net
What we thought:
When I first read the synopsis, I immediately thought that the concept of a poison garden sounded interesting because it was something I haven't really heard of done in YA fiction before and because I was curious to see what the author would do with the subject matter.
For those who don't know (and I was one of them), The Poison Diaries is actually based on a concept by The Duchess of Northumbarland, who happens to be responsible for creating The Poison Garden at the Alnwick Gardens which is situated adjacent to Alnwick Castle.
I wasn't sure what to think of this book at first, because I haven't read all that many historical young adult fiction novels and the formal writing and tone, at first, felt rather stiff and affected to me. It didn't take long before I changed my mind though.
Written loosely in a diary format, Maryrose's writing actually works quite well in this format. There is such a simplistic and subtle beauty to her writing that you can't help but feel as if she herself took a trip back in time in order to authenticate the world that she writes about in The Poison Dairies.
What I also adored about this novel, is the description of the plants. Moonseed. Belladonna. Foxglove and Oleander - beautiful names are they not? I never actually thought that plants could be alluring and sinisterly seductive until I read this.
The plants really come alive under the hands of Maryrose and I often found myself getting sucked in and wishing I could enter the forbidden gate to experience the enticing call of the plants myself - even if it meant that I would have to forfeit my life in the process.
Character wise, I thought Jess and Weed are incredibly likeable characters, but I have to admit that I felt as if I wasn’t given enough time to get to know them properly. But, I'll explain why when I get to the criticism of this novel.
As for Thomas, Jessamine's father, I found him to be stern and unyielding and developed an instant dislike for him. Turns out that there is a very good reason why, but I can't really add anything further without spoiling it for you. The story also has a supernatural element to it that really caught me off guard, but which I found incredibly intriguing and that I really hope to learn more about.
As much as I loved this book, I did find that Jessamine accepted Weed's gift almost too quickly. I suspect that the fact that she has lived without anyone else but her father's company for so long, could probably be a reason for this, but I would have like to have seen her struggle a little more with the knowledge. To go back on my previous criticism, I also felt that this book was a rather short read.
It's not a bad thing per say, but for me it felt like the action was just beginning to really take hold, when the story came to the cliffhanger ending that it did.
Luckily, I found out that this is the first instalment in a trilogy, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the characters develop and learning more about that supernatural element that intrigued me so. Of course, I'm also very curious as to just what happens with Jess and Weed, so I'll be on the lookout for any news about the next instalment in this book!