Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review: The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood

Tags: YA, magical realism, plants, love, historical fiction, poisons, evil


Jessamine lives alone with her father. Her father is an apothecarian and botanist obsessed with unraveling the secrets of plants. He forbids Jessamine to enter the poison garden, in which he keeps all the most dangerous plants he has managed to acquire from around the world.

Then a strange boy is dumped on their doorstep. The boy, who goes by the name of Weed, is peculiar, with a nearly miraculous sensitivity to plants. He seems frightened of the poison garden, calling it an unnatural collection that can do no good. Yet as Jessamine and Weed fall in love, they are drawn into the poison garden in more horrifying ways than they can imagine…


Just when you think it’s all been done before, here comes Maryrose Wood to blow everything out of the water. THE POISON DIARIES is the start of an ambitious series that combines history, magic, romance, and evil into a fast yet resonant read.

THE POISON DIARIES unfortunately starts out rather slow and off-putting. The writing feels a bit stilted, the setup hard to believe. Jessamine was unappealingly weak, and her father difficult to define in his hardness and obsessiveness. I honestly did put the book down a number of times in the first fifty or so pages.

But I’m glad I stuck with it. With the arrival of Weed, we are slowly but surely pulled into their mysterious, slightly terrifying, but definitely enthralling world where evil comes in more forms than we can imagine. Weed is captivating from the start, and he slowly develops into a character we not only wish to observe but also sympathize with.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but the back third of the book definitely makes up for its less than stellar start. You will find it impossible to put down at this point, horrified yet also fascinated at the way events are unfolding, and be impressed that Maryrose Wood has come up with this crazy-cool concept.

THE POISON DIARIES ends rather abruptly, which feels slightly gimmicky but will definitely induce readers to grab the next book when it comes out. Overall, Maryrose Wood’s new series is a departure from her previous books, not as solid and masterful as the unique premise could be, but an entertaining and gripping read nevertheless. This book is definitely worth the look!

Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 2 out of 5 - With such a tantalizing title, I was expecting something more, I suppose. But this one kind of falls short of my expectations. There is little movement, little personality, I think.

Balzer + Bray / July 20, 2010 / Hardcover / 224pp. / $16.99

Borrowed from Doylestown Bookshop's Advance Reviewers Program.


  1. Great review! I want to read this book but I am going to try and get the other cover, it looks more artistic in dark as opposed to this cover which is basically a picture and title.

  2. Great review! Yeah, the UK version of the cover is a bit different.

  3. Awesome review. I'll be careful with this one.

  4. I had the same problem with the beginning of the book - I've put it down a few times since it was such a slow start. Since the last part of the book sounds good maybe it's time I pick it up again ;)

  5. This was a good review. I wanted to read this, but 3.5 rated books tend to irritate me at times. Since you had nice things to say about it, I'll probably end up giving it a try.

  6. I'm really intrigued by this book! I can't wait to check it out. Nice review.

  7. I had kind of the opposite problem. I really loved the first 3/4 of the book, and the last quarter which was much more supernatural than the firt part, really threw me off. I think I just didn't like the execution--all the italics, etc. Great premise, though. Loved everything about the gardens and all, and I really enjoyed learning about the real Alnwick Gardens.


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