Audrey II Meets Percy Jackson: A Review of This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
I do not have time for an intro today. My excitement for today’s book cannot be contained! I have been counting down the days for this book to release. I sat at my desk and tracked my order until it arrived at my door. That is how excited I’ve been for this one.
Please welcome to the stage the beauty that is This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron! She’s beautiful, she’s magical, she’s full of plants willing and ready to harm your enemies, and she’s chock-full of Greek mythology. She truly has it all. I love her.
That’s it, review over. Go read this book, it is seriously amazing! I’ll see ya next week with another review.
I’m just kidding. My verdict is go read this book though. I’m not joking, when I’m done writing this review I’m going to reread the book already. Kalynn Bayron has knocked it out of the park once again.
Let me give you all a little synopsis before I return to my gushing over this book. As always, a spoiler alert is in order.
Meet Briseis Greene, a young woman who has just inherited a large estate from her birth mother’s sister. Is this a dream come true for Briseis and her adoptive moms? Or is this massive inheritance going to turn into a nightmare?
There is no way to know until the small family arrives in Rhinebeck, New York. At first, things do indeed seem like a dream. The estate is fully paid off, there is a small, charming, tight-knit community just a few miles away, and any money problems the family has are seemingly righted thanks to this inheritance. Sure, the three women are out in the middle of nowhere, random strangers keep appearing at night, and there is a garden full of poisonous plants that only Briseis can enter, but the charming main street certainly makes up for all that.
Yeah, not really. The estate is dangerous on so many levels. And it soon becomes clear that there is someone out there who doesn’t want Briseis and her moms in Rhinebeck. The reason why? Unknown. But it does seem that these dangers may have something to do with the powers Briseis has over plants.
I truly don’t know where to start with my review. This book is a massive ten-out-of-ten. I genuinely enjoyed every aspect of this novel. So I guess we’ll start with the characters.
First up: Briseis. Briseis is your pretty standard teenaged girl. She struggles in school but enjoys, and does well in, her science classes, has some friend group drama going on, has overprotective parents who will gladly embarrass her without a moments notice, and she certainly has her secrets; some bigger than others. On top of her teenaged angst and drama, she has a mystery to solve: the mystery of her family’s past, and how, and where, her abilities come from. I’m on board. Briseis is sarcastic, witty, and on a mission. She’s rolling with the punches that come her way, and she fights back ten times harder.
I’m a fan. Bayron has written a main character, and a world, that is so lifelike that I feel like I’m right there beside her. I am on this journey with Briseis and am puzzling over the clues as they appear.
Is Briseis the best character is this story though? No. Please allow me to introduce Mom and Mo, Briseis’ adoptive mothers. They are the best! Neither of them take shit from anyone. They’re ready to fight for their daughter at the drop of a dime. They’re embarrassing as hell in the best way possible, but they are definitely the cool moms. And they have some of the best dialogue out of the whole novel. Bayron creates a lot of great scenes and lines, but Mom and Mo definitely have the best ones. These two are also my new OTP, no other fictional couple can compare! We stan happy, healthy relationships like theirs in this house!
Before I move on from the characters, there are two others I’d like to introduce you to: Karter and Marie. These two are the first friends Briseis makes in Rhinebeck. Both are also possible love interests for our main character, but I don’t fully trust either.
Karter is a clumsy, endearing boy who works at the bookstore on main street. For running the used bookstore, he gets a point in his favor. Plus two additional ones for giving Briseis a box of free books the first time she enters the shop.
Marie is pretty much the opposite of Karter. Marie is an athletic, rich girl who is keeping some secrets that rival Briseis’. But unlike Karter, Marie knows a bit about the secretive past of Briseis’ family and can actually offer help where Karter can’t in some situations. Two points for Marie then.
But like I said, I don’t fully trust either of them. There is just something off about Karter that I can’t quite put my finger on. Is his clumsiness just a routine to get Briseis and readers to trust him? I don’t know. And I don’t fully trust Marie due to her shadowy past. She knows a lot more about Briseis’ family than she lets on, and I wouldn’t put it past her if she was a double agent for the villains of the story.
Speaking of this book’s villain, I will not give away their identity, but I do have to say the following. They give a villain monologue that reads as an obsessed Percy Jackson fangirl in the best way possible. I loved it! It is the villain monologue to end all villain monologues. It was supposed to be a very tense scene, very dramatic, and the stakes are life or death, but I had to read it like three times because I couldn’t stop laughing. I’m not sorry. No one else shall ever speak a monologue that reaches this villain’s level.
There are so many other characters that live in the pages of this novel, but I do not have the time to introduce you to all of them. Simply know that there are many others who are relevant to this story, and they are all masterfully created. Bayron did not write a character who I didn’t like. Outside of ones readers are not supposed to like of course. But seriously, I can’t think of a poorly written, static character in This Poison Heart. Bayron is just that good!
I realize at this point I haven’t even brought the story up. All I can say is wow. When I first heard of Bayron’s sophomore novel, it was pitched to me as a retelling of The Secret Garden with a healthy dose of Greek Mythology. I see now that This Poison Heart is more a retelling of the Greek myth of Medea with a splash of The Secret Garden and just a tiny sprinkle of Little Shop of Horrors.
That really tells you nothing if you aren’t familiar with all of those titles so let me try again with some different words. This Poison Heart begins as a coming-of-age novel with an ancient, magical element to it. I do admit, the start is slow. Few clues to Briseis’ birth family, or where her powers come from, are given in the beginning, and does it takes a decent bit to truly get into the mystery. Things certainly pick up by the last third of the novel. I do have to say that this comes on somewhat abruptly though. The stakes get very high very quickly in the end with some major reveals happening one right after the other, but it does make for a good cliffhanger and likely action packed sequel. A little more tension in the beginning would have worked in this book’s favor. Nevertheless, my mind was blown.
Seriously, I may or may not currently be hibernating until the sequel comes out. My biggest hope for it is that it picks up directly where the first one left off with the same exact energy. Kalynn Bayron, please know that I am ready to be mentally wrecked by the sequel and whatever other books you write in future. Me and my wallet are ready.
With that, I am going to return to my hibernation. Go read this book! Ten-out-of-ten, will recommend this book to people until the end of time. I shall return next week with another review on a new YA release.
Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask if you aren’t yet vaccinated, and read some good books for me.