Poisoned – Jennifer Donnelly

Title: Poisoned
: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: YA, Retellings
: October 20th, 2020 (Scholastic Press)

Synopsis: Once upon a time, a girl named Sophie rode into the forest with the queen’s huntsman. Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new-fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight. When they stopped to rest, the huntsman pulled out his knife . . . and took Sophie’s heart.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Sophie had heard the rumors, the whispers. They said she was too kind and foolish to rule — a waste of a princess. A disaster of a future queen. And Sophie believed them. She believed everything she’d heard about herself, the poisonous words people use to keep girls like Sophie from becoming too powerful, too strong…

With the help of seven mysterious strangers, Sophie manages to survive. But when she realizes that the jealous queen might not be to blame, Sophie must find the courage to face an even more terrifying enemy, proving that even the darkest magic can’t extinguish the fire burning inside every girl, and that kindness is the ultimate form of strength.


Sophie, princess of the Greenlands, is thought to be too kind-hearted and unfit to rule, so her stepmother the queen orders her huntsman to kill Sophie. Despite the huntsman carving out her heart, Sophie is rescued by seven strangers who make her a new clockwork heart. But this is neither a perfect solution nor a permanent one. This new heart feels too much and makes it hard for her to control her emotions, and worse, like any clockwork device, it’s winding down. Sophie must now find the courage to not only make the dangerous journey to reclaim both her heart and her throne, but darker forces are at play and determined to make sure she does not succeed.

Stepsister is one of my favourite retellings, and I’ve really enjoyed all of Jennifer Donnelly’s books that I’ve read so far, but Poisoned, unfortunately, was mediocre to say the least. The writing style was lovely as always, and I did like the twists that tale took and how it diverged from the original. As always, Donnelly’s story is closer to the Grimm version and is a refreshing change. It was also interesting to see an added villain in the tale and another aspect than just the evil stepmother (whom we also get to see a bit of backstory for). This book has a great message about the importance of kindness and believing in oneself and not worrying that we are not enough, and Sophie’s character arc depicts it wonderfully.

But this book was just really hard to get into. I didn’t feel connected to any of the characters, and Sophie, in particular, was ridiculously naive and didn’t make for a very strong heroine. It’s frankly astounding the number of times she gets tricked and nearly killed due to being so trusting – one would think the first time would have taught her something. While she does turn things around eventually as she realizes she is the only one who can save herself and her people, it’s literally the last 20% of the book and I had lost interest by then. Of course, there is also the fact that this book simply did not feel YA enough. Several parts felt distinctly middle grade and I was speed reading by the end.

The epilogue was confusing to be honest. Even if it’s alluding to potential sequels or spinoffs set in the same world in the form of more retellings, I still feel it was unnecessary. Overall, I was rather disappointed with this book. It’s an easy read if you’re looking for something fast and action-packed, or maybe if you’re just starting out with either retellings or YA, but Poisoned, in my opinion, didn’t go as far as it could have, and it certainly wasn’t the dark fantasy I was expecting.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!

16 thoughts on “Poisoned – Jennifer Donnelly

  1. Allie Sumner January 27, 2021 / 2:22 am

    I have this book on my TBR. I’ve read one of her other books and enjoyed it. You brought up some good points in your review though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 1, 2021 / 2:55 pm

      It’s really sad this was such a letdown for me because I love the other books by this author I’ve read so far. Glad you enjoyed it though!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Marta the Monogamist Reader January 27, 2021 / 3:21 pm

    Great review, thanks for the honesty. I found Stepsister quite slow and confusing so now I feel better knowing I don’t miss too much about Poisoned!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 1, 2021 / 3:01 pm

      Thanks! If you didn’t like Stepsister, then I think Poisoned might be one to skip. I’m still looking forward to what the author might write next though, since I’ve enjoyed quite a few of her other books.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sarah January 27, 2021 / 6:31 pm

    It’s a shame this book didn’t live up to your expectations, especially since you have enjoyed other books by this author. I haven’t read a ton of retellings but I will admit you have me curious about this one and some of her others. I may have to give them a try just to see how I feel about them

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 1, 2021 / 3:06 pm

      Thanks for reading! Retellings as a genre are usually fun reads, and while this one was a bit of a letdown, there are several others I’ve really enjoyed – some even more than the original.


  4. Fransic verso January 28, 2021 / 1:32 pm

    That seems a very interesting and inspiring book. I like reading stories like this where it shows how people came from danger to achieve their dreams or from bottom to top, you know. I will give it a read. Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Stephanie January 28, 2021 / 1:35 pm

    Ahh I’ve been so looking forward to reading this book but it’s a bummer to hear that it wasn’t as great as Stepsister. That one was phenomenal so I had high hopes for this. I hope I end up enjoying it a bit more than you did!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 1, 2021 / 3:09 pm

      I hope you enjoy it better than I did too! It does have some interesting elements, but unfortunately didn’t really work out for me.


  6. Lindsey January 28, 2021 / 3:40 pm

    I thought the premise sounded really cool but what a shame it was a disappointment. Sounds like this one missed the mark a little. I hope the next one is better for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 1, 2021 / 3:11 pm

      I hope so too! I generally enjoy most retellings, but this one just didn’t work out for me. Thanks for reading!


  7. sarehlovasen February 24, 2021 / 9:19 am

    I haven’t heard of this book or the other ones but I love Grimm story retelling! However I don’t think some of them get enough coverage. As much as I love the Disney ones, I would love to see more people branch out from them.

    Anyways, I also don’t really connect with characters that are too naive. Or at least when they are for the majority of the book. I can be a little naive myself but sometimes it’s just too much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) February 26, 2021 / 8:37 pm

      I agree, the Disney ones have so many retellings but there are other fairytales out there and it would be lovely to see reinterpretations of those as well. Thanks for reading!


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