Poison’s Kiss by Breanna Shields
Rating: 2 Stars
I’m so disappointed!!! This book has been on my radar for about six months. It looked like it would be so good. The cover is pretty. But this book was SO unremarkable.
There was like no worldbuilding. I started out thinking Sundari was some ancient, fairytale-esque kingdom inspired by Indian folklore. I mean, there were assassins and a mysterious raja and it all just seemed old. But then suddenly the main characters were taking showers and wearing hiking boots. I was left wondering where these people were. When they were. Etc. How can you have snake worshiping rituals and a government that doesn’t notice dozens of people being murdered in picturesque markets, and then within the same chapter have the characters take a shower and live in cookie cutter suburban neighborhoods with sofas? Why does one main character call his girlfriend’s brother “pal” while another gets shackled and thrown in a dungeon? I guess there was a lack of consistency. You can blend times, and magic can definitely be a part of a modern world – if it’s done right. But everything about this world was so vague.
And this is just a pet-peeve of mine – the characters don’t really go anywhere. They kind of orbit between the MC’s house and a random bookstore. I wanted to see more of Sundari and didn’t get to.
The whole idea of the vish kanya and the nagaraja was fascinating and well incorporated into the story. I liked the mythology and folklore behind it. Honestly, that’s why this book gets two stars. I truly wish I could give it more. Poison’s Kiss did not live up to its potential.
And because this is YA we MUST have a romance. Blech. So there’s this guy, Deven. The blurb makes it seem like Marinda already knows him when the book starts and is faced with a major dilemma when told to kill him. But Marinda doesn’t actually meet him until a few chapters in. Which is fine – I was optimistic that even with their stilted, contrived dialogue and awkward meetings they would get to know each other well enough that Marinda would have a compelling dilemma. That’s not how it happens. They talk twice (?). He is an amazing guy. Marinda knows this because one time he carried her brother home. She falls head over heels for a guy she really doesn’t know. And when she’s told to kill him she decides she knows enough about him to decide that he shouldn’t have to die.
The problem is not that she questions whether Deven should die – you’d expect her to, right? It’s that she’s never done that before. Marinda has never truly questioned whether the people she kills should die. Sure, she feels guilty afterwards, but that’s not enough. She makes excuses to help herself feel better – like feeling slightly justified when a boy she kills refuses to give food to a beggar. But Marinda knows Deven is different. He’d never turn down a beggar. She feels she knows Deven so well after only a couple meetings that she can sacrifice everything to save him.
I guess the main problem is the instalove. Too fast, too contrived, too unbelievable, too lackluster. The characters really never get to know each other and there was nothing to convince me that they even liked each other, let alone loved each other. This doesn’t feel like a romance. I like romance. Just not this one.
There really weren’t that many characters. There’s Marinda. We don’t know a lot about her. She feels guilty for being a visha kanya and she loves her little brother. She’s self-conscious about the scars on her wrists and ankles. I had no issues with Marinda until Deven came along. Then her focus was on Deven. Saving Deven. Being sad because she couldn’t kiss Deven. Sacrificing EVERYTHING for Deven. She’s kind of selfish; there were some issues in her relationship with Ilya (which I won’t discuss to avoid spoilers) that were actually legitimate problems llya had every reason to be angry over. Marinda really didn’t try to understand Ilya or change. And then later with Deven there’s a pretty big conflict (any guesses what it is?) between them and she doesn’t acknowledge how it might affect him. She did care about he brother, Mani, still, and that was sweet. BUT that’s it.
Then there’s Deven. This guy is the equivalent of plain pasta. Uncooked pasta. Uncooked, slightly damp, plain pasta. I felt like he had zero character development. I don’t know anything about him. Does he even like Marinda? I’m still not sure. He says weird, annoying things like pal. I hate that word.
Ilyais the friend, and is kind of confusing. I actually like her the most, and think her character is the most intriguing, but sadly that’s not saying much in this situation, and she’s not given the attention she needs to have her character developed. I feel like the author tried to paint her as a villain of sorts, or at least a minor antagonist, but she really isn’t. Actually, making her a villain might have been cool IF it was done right. It wasn’t.
Gopal is the villain. It’s almost funny how mean he is.
The others just kind of fade into the background…
The first three quarters of the book are really slow. Normally I don’t mind slow books; actually, I enjoy them – if the writing is really special and the characters are developing. Then the last quarter is super rushed and all the reveals come crashing down (I guessed almost all of them, by the way). I think the problem is that what appears to be the plot of the duology doesn’t develop until very near the end of the book.
Poison’s Kiss is also extremely short.
Anyway, it all had so much potential. The premise was so good and so exiting. It just didn’t deliver.
Synopsis – Poison’s Kiss by Breanna Shields
Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It’s a miserable life, but being a visha kanya, a poison maiden, is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.
Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she s really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose.
This rich, surprising, and accessible debut is based in Indian folklore and delivers a story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
There was no language/sex at all.