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A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

By 13:00:00 , , ,

Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl--Isabel, the one the señoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.

Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers--and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life.

✱ Pages: 288 (hardcover)
✱ Publication date: 12 April 2016
✱ Provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

A YA début that features magical realism? Sold.

The Setting

Maybe my favourite thing about this book: the setting was lovely. Reading this book kind of feels like being transported to Puerto Rico. It's rather wonderful, really. The descriptions are lush, and give a really nice picture of what life is like for our characters. The writing is enjoyable and works for this story really well.

The Characters

This is where my opinions get a bit mixed. Isabel - the girl filled with poison - is an enigma. I like those. She kept me reading - I had to find out more about her. She is interesting, and her circumstances just make you wonder, make you want to know everything. But the protagonist, Lucas... I guess I didn't find him all that likeable? Which is fair enough, and actually might just mean that he's quite a realistic portrayal of a teenage boy. I just couldn't quite bring myself to care about him. Potentially because he sometimes seems like he doesn't care about things.

The Mystery and the Plot

Isabel may be the first mystery in the story, but there is also another pretty important one: girls are disappearing. This storyline works well enough to drive the plot, but overall it ended up being a bit confusing. I wanted something slightly more from the plot because there was so much potential in the premise of the cursed girl. On the other hand the magical realism is a cool part of the story.

Overall, I'm glad to have read A Fierce and Subtle Poison but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a few problems with it.

An interesting feat of magical realism with a pretty intriguing plot, wonderful descriptions, and characters that will keep you turning the pages to find out what happens to them (even if you're not overly fond of Lucas).
Have you read A Fierce and Subtle Poison? Do you enjoy magical realism?

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