Fairy tale and traditional story retellings have become hugely popular in recent years. Of course, it could all be argued that the many stories we know and love come from just a few original tales, but that’s by the by. A lot of authors claim inspiration from famous tales, but deliberate reworkings are now taking up a lot of space on book shop shelves. And I like it!
Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly is one of the latest. Released very recently on the 20th October, I was lucky enough to get an early copy as part of my Hot Key Ambassador role, and interviewed Jennifer about the book via Zoom before the release as well. This will be going up on the Hot Key Podcast, so make sure you’re tuned in!
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 took 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.
I loved this book. I got absolutely lost in the story, and the storytelling. I fell in love with Sophie as a character, and all the friends she makes along the way. There was something about this book that just took you on the journey with it; you felt the luxury of the palace and the bareness of the homes the people have been forced into. Tasted the sweet array of foods that a magical spider prepares and the plain rabbit stew Sophie survives on in the woods. It was one of the most sensory books I’ve read.
What really captivated me was the wonderful balance between the traditional tale as we know it, and the pieces of the story that Donnelly has added herself. It was done so seamlessly that getting lost in the pages was a pleasure in this case, as well as something to do for work.
With a wide cast of characters, it was an evidently well planned and plotted story, where everyone had a role to play, and every little thing added up in the end. There is a constant, steady drip, drip, drip of fear that goes alongside the story, and the narration alters to keep the story flowing, keeping you on edge as much as keeping up with Sophie.
This has been one of my favourite YA reads this year, and certainly one of my favourite retellings ever. I can’t recommend it enough; there are so many reasons to read this. This isn’t your average tale – and it’s even better for it.
My thanks to Hot Key for this advance copy, and my thanks again to Jennifer for our lovely chat earlier this week! Poisoned is out now in hardback, paperback, audiobook and ebook.