Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: YA, Retellings
Published: 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!