A Fierce and Subtle Poison
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.
A Fierce and Subtle Poison beautifully blends magical realism with a page-turning mystery and a dark, starcrossed romance--all delivered in lush, urgent prose.
A FIERCE AND SUBTLE POISON by Samantha Mabry is a beautiful and magical story that combines mystery, wishes, outsiders, love, and longing in a truly unique and fresh story.
Lucas, the son of resort developer, spends his school months in Dallas and his summers in Puerto Rico with his friends and whatever girl he decides to pursue that night. He’s a tolerated outsider; a boy the locals see as the spoiled son of the man ruining the island. He’s heard all the stories about the cursed house at the end of the street- the one not a single bird flies over, the house not a single cat walked in front of. The home to the crazy old scientist and his cursed daughter with green skin and grass for hair. She’s a witch and she grants wishes. So, when Lucas is eleven, he scribbles a wish on a piece of hotel stationary and throws it over the courtyard wall.
Years later he takes his flavor of the week girlfriend, Marisol, back to the same house and she throws a wish over the wall. The next day, Marisol’s wish is returned to him in his hotel room and here starts his tumultuous relationship with Isabel- the scientist’s daughter.
The strongest aspect of this story is the relationship between Lucas and Isabel. Their differences and similarities are tied together in a web that drives the plot and Lucas’ character growth. He comes a long way through the events of the story and I particularly appreciated how Mabry addressed his hero complex.
What Left Me Wanting More:
While Isabel and her condition certainly meant to be mysterious (if not magical), I would have liked a little more explanation into her life and struggles. She’s a naturally closed off person- due to both her condition and the life her father forces her to live- but I wanted some more information regarding her day to day life up to this point.
While I understand that Lucas is a little bit of a womanizer, I didn’t understand why he felt so strongly connected to Marisol before she disappears. They only meet two days before he finds her body on the beach and while that’s certainly a traumatic experience, his personal connection to Marisol while she was missing felt inauthentic given the circumstances of how long they’ve known each other.
A FIERCE AND SUBTLE POISON is a must read for anyone who enjoys magical realism, a good mystery, or a beautiful island setting. It’s beautifully written and emotionally charged as it tackles the themes of sacrifice, acceptance, and doing what is morally right when it feels wrong.