I ended up really enjoying The Poison Diaries and finished it the same day. It isn’t a long book at just over 230 pages, but there is a lot packed in. There’s a beautiful and touching romance with the kind of heartache that takes your breath away, a sinister and menacing undercurrent which you’re never quite sure where it’s actually coming from and a unique twist that kept me eagerly turning pages. Immensely atmospheric and thrilling, The Poison Diaries is a successful beginning to what promises to be a fantastic series and I’m really looking forward to the next instalment. Recommended!
A dark, gothic tale of romance… and murder. In the right dose, everything is a poison. Jessamine has spent her whole life in a cottage close to her father’s apothecary garden, surrounded by medicinal plants and herbs that could kill her — although her father has never allowed her into the most dangerous part of the grounds… the poison garden. And so she’s never had reason to be afraid — until now. Because now a newcomer has come to live with the family, a quiet but strangely attractive orphan boy named Weed. Though Weed doesn’t say much in words, he has an instant talent for the apothecary’s trade, seeming to possess a close bond with the plants of the garden. Soon, he and Jessamine also share a close bond. But little does Jessamine know that passion can be just as poisonous as the deadliest plants in the garden — for behind Weed’s instinctive way in the garden is a terrible secret. (From Amazon.co.uk)
When I bought The Poison Diaries, I really didn’t know all that much about it. I knew that it’s based on a concept by The Duchess Of Northumberland, and her famous Poison Gardens at Alnwick Castle. Being not at all far away from where I live, and a place I’ve been meaning to visit for ages but have never got round to going, this intrigued me along with the amazing synopsis but other than that I didn’t really know quite what to expect of this novel. I’d suggest this is really the best way to go into The Poison Diaries as it turned out to be a complete surprise with me never actually knowing where it was going.
The book begins with Jessamine and her apothecarist father. They live an isolated life, in an abandoned run down cottage in the grounds of Alnwick castle. Her father is obsessed with plants and discovering new cures from them, but in particular poisonous plants. The setting was described perfectly; Maryrose Wood really brought to life the deliciously wild and wondrous Northumberland countryside. Over shadowed by the magnificent Alnwick castle (which was actually used as Hogwarts in the Harry potter Films) the atmosphere and setting had a real gothic feel. I’ve now made a trip to the castle and gardens a must do this summer as I want to see them for myself! Wood’s knowledge and passion for the plants used by the characters in the book is also clear and fascinating to read.
I did find it slow to start with, the language used is a little stilted to read and doesn’t immediately flow easily but is authentic to it’s time in history. After just a few pages though I found it easy to adapt to and the formality of the speech really did give it a genuine historical feel. To begin with Jessamine isn’t all that interesting and the book, told in the most part as a ‘loose’ version of her diary, centres around her day to day life in her isolated cottage and frustration with her obsessive father, who treats her as a child.
However when Weed appears in a shroud of mystery only a few chapters in, things take a fascinating and sinister turn. While I really didn’t know what to expect from this book, I certainly wasn’t expecting the supernatural twist! But this is one I’ve never seen done before. It risked being ridiculous, at first I thought ‘oh no way!’ but thanks to the authors fantastic writing it isn’t. I was sucked in, fascinated, horrified and completely hooked! Weed himself is an intriguing character, cloaked in secrets, dangerous and wild yet vulnerable, naïve and fascinatingly loveable. There is still a lot to learn about him and his past, which I hope to do in the following books in the series.