Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 60
The Kinder Poison
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Zahru is low in status because of her magic. She is a “whisperer” to animals, which isn’t highly prized. Her friend, Hen, is on a path to glory with her ability so as a last hurrah they devise a plan to allow Zahru to sneak into the palace and enjoy the festivities. The Mestrah has declared his potential heirs must resume the deadly race from past eras and through a sacrifice at the end be proclaimed the winner.
During the setup of the first couple of chapters, I struggled with the borderline info dump in setting up the plot and world. However, as soon as Zahru accidentally is mistaken for a contender and then a misunderstanding gets her proclaimed the sacrifice the pace never stops and it was hard to put down.

I really appreciated that as soon as Zahru finds herself in trouble she is quick telling the truth. I get tired of books where the character stubbornly holds on to scraps of information that would easily resolve the plot. It felt more believable for someone not trained in subterfuge that you would just tell what you know and expect that to fix everything. It was believable that she was shocked when political machinations outside of her experience mean that it isn’t enough that she told the truth.

I absolutely loved the scenes with Prince Jet and Zahru. She has a forgiving heart and he tries to have a high moral code and to make up for past mistakes. His relationship with his siblings is complex. I loved that the plot allowed Zahru time with each sibling to delve into their motivations and traumas and to understand why they hope to claim the throne (or not in Jet’s case). Her time with each contender allows for character development and makes them fully fleshed out and not just a backdrop for her story. I also like that the supporting characters such as Maia are explored and that their effect on the plot is organic and integral in how the plot unfolds and how the second book is set up.

This story is about Zahru’s destiny and the part she plays in helping or thwarting the siblings in their race to win the throne. However, there are hints of larger conflicts and war with outside nations brewing and how each heir would approach the coming conflict. Zahru is learning that those in charge might be manipulating things and claiming that the gods willed it, which is heading toward a crisis of deep-rooted beliefs for her. There are also themes around the treatment of nonmagical people and how their culture has deep-seated inequity that is fueling the upcoming conflict where non-magical countries with a grudge are developing technology that can render magic useless in a fight.

The title and cover were immediate eye-catchers for me in adding this book to my TBR. When we got to the part in the book where we understand the reason for the cover image it was so satisfying and immediately took this story to another level. Kasta is such an interesting character because he is so easy to hate until he is not. It was unexpected that his life mirrored Zahru in enough ways that she can empathize with him. There were so many times he could have died and I wondered why they didn’t let him. Then the epilogue made him even more interesting and I can’t wait to see if there is redemption or whether he will go further into becoming an unredeemable villain.

Final Verdict: The book is fast-paced with a well-imagined world and in-depth character building. This first book has a satisfying conclusion to the events of the race as well as setting up the sequel to add more to the world in which Zahru lives.
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