[A few notes: I did not plan to read this book right away. After I downloaded the ebook, I planned to finish a few others FIRST. But...I made the wonderful mistake of reading the first two pages. And it was an amazing mistake! I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. So it got read out of order on my TBR. I love a book that grabs you from the first few pages. Those are the dangerous kinds. So I devoured it and made the other books next in line wait. Sorry not sorry!]
(5/5⭐️) “When someone is afraid of something, it’s much better to build up ways they might overcome it, not to tear them down over it.”
This is a story about discovering your deepest fear and conquering it. Zahru is a girl in search of an adventure—just a short one, a single night—to see what it’s like to live like royalty. But we should all be careful of what we wish for. Zahru and her best friend Hen devise a plan to allow her to sneak into the palace. When a mistake is made and Zahru’s identity gets mistaken for someone else, things spiral out of control. Zahru gets caught up in a feud between the royal heirs and marked as a sacrifice for an age-old tradition death-defying race across the desert. Passed from heir to heir, Zahru must fight for her life, or she will be killed at the finish line. The stakes are high in this heart pounding story about using kindness as the most potent poison.
Zahru hooked me within the first few lines of this book. It was addictive. The brilliant shine of her personality captured me; I was immediately invested. Some books take pages and pages to pull you in. Not so for The Kinder Poison. Foreshadowing was casually dropped throughout the first couple of chapters, continuing to promise more.
The world building in this story was beautifully done. It checked all the boxes of a well-polished YA novel. The harsh desert setting created a mysterious and unforgiving backdrop for a dangerous race between heirs. The stakes were high, death all but certain. Orkena’s culture and people were a unique discovery. The magic system was fresh and intriguing. I loved all of it!
Zahru is a “whisperer” who envies everyone else for their stronger, more prominent magic. She possesses the ability to speak with animals, but what is that compared to preparing poison, muting sound, healing, and drawing spells with a paintbrush? She feels like a nobody. So when she has the chance to sneak into the palace and see what it’s like to be more, someone important, she gets far more than bargained for. Turns out, she will find ways to use her magic in unique ways that set her apart from others who might appear more powerful. Even a lowly whisperer can make a huge difference.
The characters were fleshed out with depth that made them real. I LOVED the mystery behind discovering their stories. I especially enjoyed Prince Kasta’s character. He seems like such a prick in the beginning, and he kind of is. But he’s a morally gray character. Once you discover what makes him tick, his past, and his struggles, you begin to sympathize with him. Prince Jet is dreamy, but he too has his own demons. And even Princess Sakira, the carefree party girl, has a depth that shows she’s a true contender.
Zahru’s character arc is subtle. She begins the story believing her magic is worthless. She discovers there are unique uses for it. She finishes by realizing that she has worth. This is done with Jet’s help:
“I will never forget how he helped me see I could be both a Whisperer and a girl worth dying for. But even a girl worth dying for knows when she’s met her limit.”
There was romance in this story with Zahru and Jet. It was sweet and developmental. It didn’t happen overnight but took trust and time to build. I appreciated that. I also appreciated that it was Zahru who convinces Jet to embrace his destiny. As for that destiny, the book ends on a slight cliffhanger that sets the tone for the second book. While the story comes to a definite end, the final act certainly leaves some lose ends and suspense that will drive you to eagerly await the second installment. I generally don’t like books ending on a cliff hanger, but this one isn’t a deterrent in any way. I will definitely be reading the second when it comes out.