Friday, March 4, 2011

Wood, Maryrose: The Poison Diaries

Poison Diaries, #1
288 pages, 2010 Balzar + Bray

Rating: 4/5

Summed up: The daughter of a reclusive village apothecary falls in love with a boy who can talk to plants. 

(click post to read more)

Publisher summary:

In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . . 

Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill. 

When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined ... 



With an upcoming event and a possibility of being a "job shadow" for Maryrose Wood, I instantly started reading up in order to have something to talk about besides the usual pumping about story development, outlines, and so forth...don't look at me that way. When you have a group of famous authors arriving for one whole day - all that knowledge and publishing know-how in your grasp! - you know that you'd do the same thing.

I'd heard of The Poison Diaries previously, due to the contest Inkpop was hosting when it first came out. The majority of reviews on Goodreads and LibraryThing weren't quite encouraging - "yet another Twilight-esque romance rip-off" was one particularly scathing accusation. After I read the first of the author's juvenile series, The Incorrigable Children of Ashton Place, however, I was enthralled by her style of writing...quite old-fashioned with the right dash of wit and whimsy, just the way I like it...and I was willing to give this one a try.

Developed off a concept by the Duchess of Northumberland - the owner of the real Poison Gardens - the story is based around young Jessamine Luxton, the daughter of an eccentric village apothecary. Since she was a child, she's known of her father's mysterious garden of poisonous plants; what he sees as a possible boon for humanity, a gift of healing just waiting to be harnessed. Like Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden, Jessamine's constant desire is to be able to join her father beyond the locked gate and join him with the plants that she is only allowed to care for as seedlings.

That all changes - of course - when our hero enters the scene: a young stray called Weed whose previous owner accuses him of healing the mad and addling the sane by tampering with the village water. Even as he and Jessamine draw closer, her father schemes of using the young man's knowledge and mysterious gift with plants in order to discover the knowledge that eludes him: poison against poison.

What unravels from there is a well-written foray into the dangerous world of poison, where even human emotions can kill. Jessamine is a rather predicable heroine - attached to her lover from first sight, and at times, a bit naive - but quite tolerable. I was relieved to see the author did not model Weed after the increasingly annoying Edward Cullen; he stands on his own as a boy both burdened and blessed by his gift, as well as a
man seeking to keep his true love from harm.

The ending of the story, though quite vexing to the reader - and possibly where that reviewer hinted at a Twilight allusion - does allow the author to add another sequel, which is hopefully in the works.

Despite this small drawback, I do believe that readers from middle school onward will enjoy this story and the unique plot that the author has created.

Bottom line: Don't compare it to Stephenie Meyer, and you'll be fine.


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