First book read in 2016! I received A Gift of Poison by Kate Avery Ellison as an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy, I probably won’t be putting this in parentheses for much longer, as most who come across this blog should know what it is) in exchange for an honest review. Much like my previous book, Maggie and the Mercury Retrograde, this book somehow managed to get lost in my email and I am just now getting to read and provide its review. Miss Kate Avery Ellison, PLEASE apologize for how long it has taken me to read and review this book!
Our main character of A Gift of Poison is Briand. She is the orphan niece of her cruel ruling uncle. Never have I felt such a main character who is so loathed by her community. It was heartbreaking all the torture and torment that Briand went through. She essentially was treated like a low-class citizen in spite of the fact that her uncle inherited her father’s kingdom. The closest relationships she seems to have at the beginning of the book are between her cousin Bran and the uncle’s right wing type of man, Kael.
As she is set-up by a handful of the guards of the kingdom, it is presumed that she will be exiled into the Wilds of the land. However, she intervenes while Kael and a group of other men are about to have her cousin, Bran, ingest some type of liquid in order to find out of if he possesses powers in order to communicate with snakes/reptiles/ultimately dragons. This plan is foiled when Briand ingests the liquid herself (later turned out to be a poison), forcing her to go along with a group of men in search of the true Prince of the land.
As with many fantasy novels, there is a lot of walking, riding horses, climbing aboard other transportations, and walking. I think in some places it does get a little bit boring and I found myself nodding off. Yet, once the group is able to settle down in an area for a few weeks, Briand is able to open up to the only other interactive female character in the book, Reela.
There are small snippets in the book that, had it been written in first person, the scenes wouldn’t have worked. For instance, the traitor among the group updating the bad guy Anabis (which, can I take a moment and pause and say how freaking cool of a name is this for a bad guy? He was portrayed very well in spite of only being included in a few scenes). My suspects for who the traitor was proved to be true and, like Briand, I was heartbroken over who it was.
One aspect of the book I thoroughly enjoyed was the smartly placed undertones of sexual tension between Briand and Kael. While it is never explicitly stated that they are attracted to one another, the writing is done in a very nice way to where you can see that Ellison is beginning to pave the path for the two of them to have some type of romance in a future book.
Ellison also has a very beautiful way with words. I love that she took full advantage of the third person point of view and was able to give the reader these glorious descriptions of the backdrops and backgrounds of the scenes. I found myself caught up in the descriptions and very much wanted to submerge myself into this world. Ellison also creates extremely well developed characters that all have a backstory that doesn’t feel forced or contrived. As a world builder myself, I understand the intricacies that surround not only the world you make, but the characters you place in the world to make them all believable.
While I did enjoy Ellison’s descriptions, there were a few areas where it felt a bit heavy handed. I would have liked the Dubbok scene to be less detailed about what everything was or described in a more fluid way. As an avid card game player, the rules and concept of Dubbok were a bit muddled and confusing. I think if it would have been a bit easier explained, then this wouldn’t be an issue. I know Bran was trying to impress Reela, but it would have worked better if the explanation of the game was better.
The last fourth of the book felt extremely rushed as if the author was trying to wrap things up tightly knit and to where there would both be a cliffhanger and to answer a good handful of unanswered questions. If Ellison had spread the ending out a bit more, then perhaps I wouldn’t feel like I was so rushed through it.
Overall, I give this book a solid 3 star rating. The world building alone was impressive as were the characters and their interactions. One more thing I admired was that there were no cuss words that I had found through the book. I don’t refuse to read a book because of f-bombs or anything, but it’s refreshing when an author can write something without having to use them excessively. What pulled me back from giving this a higher star rating was the journey trope that felt like it went on forever and following up with a rushed ending. I do look forward to the next book in the series – trust me, there’s going to be one after THAT ending! – and can’t wait to see where Ellison will start it off and how our dragonsayer will continue to evolve as a character.