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The Poison Diaries, by Maryrose Wood

 

Synopsis:

In the right dose, everything is a poison.  Including love...

Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill.

When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . .


My Review:

I had such high hopes for this book.  It sounded like such an interesting premise, but there wasn't very much to the book.  Jessamine and her father, Thomas, both live in an abandoned cathedral - which Jessamine refers to as 'The Cottage'.  They both care for gardens full of plants, including a poison garden, which Jessamine is forbidden to enter.

At the start of the book, Jessamine is waiting for her father to return home, but is also finally responsible for soaking belladonna seeds in preparation for planting.  At sixteen, she is eager to start learning more about the plants in the poison garden, to take on more responsibility to help her father, but he still views her as a child and refuses to let her help.  They continue to live their solitary existence, until one day when a stranger comes riding up to their home with a burden for Thomas.  That burden turns out to be Weed, an orphan boy believed to have cured mad people and made sane people mad.

In the course of the book, Jessamine and Weed grow closer together and eventually fall in love.  For reasons never clearly explained, Thomas poisons his daughter on the same night he announced that she and Weed shall be betrothed. 

It is at this point that the book took a turn into the absurd.  Weed is able to hear the thoughts of plants, and is very afraid of the poison garden.  Yet he enters it to search for a cure for Jessamine.  The plant lord Prince Oleander.  Weed is given three tasks to do in order to get the cure to save Jessamine's life.  The first, to stand by and do nothing as an innocent newborn ewe is killed by a raven.  The second, to kill a stoat that is attacking a rabbit....only to discover afterward that the stoat left behind babies that will now also die slow deaths.  The third....to kill the man who poisoned Jessamine. 

Prince Oleander stops Weed from killing Thomas, giving him the cure to save Jessamine...but in the process, Weed must leave and never return.

The first part of the book kept my interest up, but once I hit the latter portion of the book, I had to push myself to keep going.  It grew too disjointed...first talking from Jessamine's point of view, then from Weed's.  The ending of the book left a bitter taste in my mouth.  Thomas had discovered that Weed had the ability to hear plants, and he wanted to use that ability.  But Thomas had also made the mistake of gathering poisonous plants from all over the world, putting them in one garden together, where supposedly they would grow stronger.  Strong enough perhaps to influence the thoughts of others. 

I would have enjoyed the book more, had the fanciful bit of Prince Oleander been left out.  To me, it would have made it a much more compelling story if Weed had worked to expose Thomas, and not fallen into the unseen hands of the plant prince. 

This is the first in a planned series, and it may be interesting to read the next to see what happens...if Weed's story is followed, or if Jessamine's story is followed.

Three of five stars.  A light read, mostly entertaining, but too weird at the end to keep me enchanted in the world.