The Kinder Poison was one of my favorite fantasy reads of 2020 (all lush world-building and delicious court intrigue), and with its sequel (The Cruelest Mercy) hitting YA shelves June 15th, what better time to share this review that somehow never made it onto the blog amid all the pandemic trauma last year.
In a land where people’s worth is measured by their magic, Zaruh’s (Whisperer) ability to talk to animals barely registers. Zaruh and her father don’t have much. In terms of upward mobility, there is none. Classism in Orkena is rampant. When Zaruh decides to crash the party of the decade with best friend Hen, all she wants is a bit of fun (and good food). Unfortunately, every action has a reaction (at least in fiction). And before Zaruh can make off with a few pieces of extra chocolate, she’s become the next (human!) sacrifice in a race called the Crossing, in which Orkena’s three heirs (with help from their teams) battle it out for the crown.
As the Crossing begins, the sibling rivalry ramps up (political intrigue galore), and we get to see funny, resourceful, and strategic Zaruh in action. Society might view a Whisperer as disposable, but she quickly proves otherwise and fiercely speaks up for those considered lesser. Characters here are multi-layered and often morally gray, taking the story from one twist to the next as the siblings play capture the flag with their sacrifice across leagues of unforgiving desert landscape. There are the beginnings of a love triangle here; Zaruh’s life, however, is no less in jeopardy for it. The writing is excellent, leading to a satisfying finale, with an ending that has me craving the sequel like something fierce.
A high-stakes fantasy adventure with a gripping plot and pace that had me hooked from the first page.
Book: The Kinder Poison
Publication Date: June 16th, 2020
Age Range: 14+
Penguin Teen kindly sent me a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.