Poison was written by Bridget Zinn. It was published in 2013 by Hyperion. Zinn’s website can be found here.
“Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly skilled potions master, is the only one who knows that her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she is the only one who can save it. With no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the King’s Army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute piglet, and Fed, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?”
Despite a slow start, I really liked the ending to Poison. There were a few twists in there I wasn’t expecting—I really liked the truth serum/poison part, and the revelation behind that, and I also liked the reveal of Kyra’s mom (although it only contributed to Kyra’s too-perfect vibe).
I thought the ethical dilemma behind Kyra’s decision to kill the princess was intriguing (more on that below), and the worldbuilding, though nothing original, had a funky humorous/serious note to it, so although I wasn’t sure if the book was trying to take itself seriously or not, the atmosphere was interesting. I also liked the idea of the potioners, since that’s not a route commonly taken for protagonists (of books that I know/read).
Outside of the book, I think the author also warrants a discussion here. Bridget Zinn passed away in 2011—that’s right, this book is published posthumously. If you look at her website, you’ll see the support that her writing community is trying to raise through this book. It’s really heartwarming to see someone’s work continue on after their death, and although you’ll see below that I don’t think Poison is really all that great, I do think the situation in which it was published is.
So, here’s the slow start I was talking about above: the writing is not good at all; it’s very generic and too modern for a fairy-tale, I think. I almost stopped reading when Kyra describes her and her friend as going “way back.” That’s not terminology you should use in a medieval fantasy setting, in my opinion. However, I did stop noticing the writing as the novel approached the end, and although I still think the writing is unsophisticated, certain plot elements sort of make up for it at the end.
I wish, I really, really wish, that Zinn had kept up the ethical dilemma throughout the book. It was very disappointing to see the ethical dilemma dissolve three-quarters of the way through the book. Granted, I’ve found that science fiction is far more speculative than fantasy, and the age group aimed for may have something to do with it, but the prospect of Kyra having to decide whether or not to kill her friend to save the kingdom is just so intriguing and there are so many ways to describe that. Instead, Zinn copped out.
Kyra is way too perfect. Master potioner, highly skilled at fighting and hiding, seer, and secret princess in disguise. Also, Fred and Kyra = obvious and boring.
Recommended Age Range: 14+
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
She carefully lifted the whole bundle up, still keeping her fingers protectively wrapped around her weapons.
How had she come to this? How had she ended up a hungry, friendless fugitive in the middle of a frigid river wearing completely ridiculous lacy underthings?
With a pig balanced on top of her head?
At least there was no one around.
Just as she thought that, a piercing whistle cut through her thoughts.
Finally, the last of the army marched down the trail.
Fred’s forehead pressed against Kyra’s, and they stood together for a moment, completely still as the Tup-tup, tup-tup faded.
“Why is the army patrolling the woods around Wexford, Kitty?”
“I don’t know,” Kyra lied, glad they were still invisible, glad he couldn’t see the expression on her face.
“Why were you hiding from that man in the king’s black?”
“I wasn’t! It’s just—he was creepy! That mustache!”
I love the support behind the book and the process by which it was published as a result of the author’s death. However, while I liked a few things about the book, overall it was too generic and obvious to stand out much for me. And I really wanted that ethical dilemma.
You can buy this here: Poison