Author: Kalynn Bayron
Publication Date: June 29, 2021
Length: 384 pages
Read Date(s): May 22, 2021 – May 26, 2021
Darkness blooms in bestselling author Kalynn Bayron’s new contemporary fantasy about a girl with a unique and deadly power.
Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.
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.
From the bestselling author of Cinderella Is Dead comes another inspiring and deeply compelling story about a young woman with the power to conquer the dark forces descending around her.
The gorgeous cover of this book grabbed my attention immediately and demanded that the book be read. Upon reading the synopsis, I was even more intrigued because it sounded incredibly interesting and unlike anything I had ever read before. Unfortunately, the book wasn’t as good as I hoped, but I still enjoyed many elements of it.
The representation in this book was fantastic. I enjoyed reading both a Black and LGBT perspective on the issues touched upon in this book. I especially enjoyed seeing a family with two moms presented in such a loving and real way. The portrayal and interactions of this family was one of my favorite things about the book. Furthermore, the main character’s struggles with anxiety and accepting her powers, and herself, without fear were compelling. The author also adeptly handled current social topics, such as defunding the police, by interweaving them throughout the narrative in ways that made sense. It made me think about some of the topics in a different way than before, which I always appreciate and enjoy.
The premise of this book was fascinating. The powers of the main character were really cool and unique, and I loved every bit of getting to explore them with her. I was captivated by the imaginative re-telling of certain Greek myths and I greatly enjoyed how the author used them to explain the history of the main character’s family. However, I felt like I walked away from the book without a clear understanding of how Briseis’s two powers were related; it seemed the author treated them as one thing when they came across to me as two separate types of magic (nurturing the plants vs. protection of the host). The mystery of the house and garden, as well as the town and its residents, were riveting and kept the tension high, especially toward the end of the book. The plot twists, however, were fairly obvious. So obvious, in fact, that it made Briseis seem somewhat unintelligent for not picking up on things quicker.
The pacing of this book was a major problem for me. A majority of the book was incredibly slow. There were several points in the first half that I considered DNFing the book because I was bored. Then things swung in the other direction, with the ending of the book being so fast that I had trouble keeping up and was confused by some of the plot elements that felt really rushed. For example, out of nowhere the house is being foreclosed even though they said several times that the house was paid for. Then somehow a bank got involved even though there was no mortgage, which didn’t make any sense. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if so much of the plot and forward movement at the end of the book hadn’t been tied to what happened with the bank.
I enjoyed some of the characters and relationships in this book. I particularly liked Mo and her relationship with Briseis. She just really came to life for me in a way many of the other characters didn’t. Her humor, and the genuine way she interacted with Briseis, made her stand out. Briseis’s other mom, and Briseis’s new friends, came across as one-dimensional, and I did not find myself caring much about any of them. The relationships between Briseis and her new friends, including the romance elements, seemed forced and rushed, with Briseis missing some pretty obvious red flags in those relationships that any sane person would have given more attention. Despite the flaws, though, Briseis was an interesting character, and I enjoyed seeing her thoughts on many of the issues the book covered, including dealing with accepting herself and being a kid in a family struggling to make ends meet.
Overall, the book was not bad. It just was not as good as I wanted it to be. I have no doubt many people will love this book because of its refreshing perspective on timely issues, interesting re-imagining of old myths, positive LGBT representation, use of plant magic, and mysterious undertones. If these things sound like something you’d be interested in, I suggest you give it a shot. However, the book just didn’t really work for me despite all of the good elements, and I probably won’t be picking up the sequel. Therefore, I rate it 3 out of 5 stars.