A Fierce and Subtle Poison

fierce-and-subtle-poisonFirst Lines: The house at the end of the street is full of bad air.  That’s what the señoras always told us.  They stuck their fingers in our faces and warned us not to get too close.

I won this ARC in a Goodreads giveaway and I was stoked.  Basically, I’m always excited to win anything, especially books.  It’s even more fun when no one else has read the book yet.  (Sorry, folks.  Release date is April 12, 2016.)

Just to make sure I’m not spoiling anything, I’m going to copy the summary from Goodreads: Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the señoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.

Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers–and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life.

Let’s start by talking about the setting.  Puerto Rico was perfect for this book.  It’s a nice mix of modern and this exotic, almost fantasy world.  Like, Lucas’s dad is developing hotels, right?  So we’ve got nice hotels and big cities on one end of the spectrum.  Then, like immediately outside of these cities, you have jungle.  And even on the edge of the cities, you have whole neighborhoods that believe in things like cursed girls with green hair and skin.  It’s a fantastic combination.  I loved that blend of realism and fantasy.

Also, given that the setting is Puerto Rico, there’s a nice infusion of Spanish (including Spanish swear words) that lent even more realism to the story.  Finally, high school Spanish is paying off for me.

The characters were not quite what I was expecting, and that’s not a bad thing.  Lucas is rich, a partier, and quite spoiled.  It’s expected that he’ll take over his dad’s business when the time comes, and even though that’s not quite what Lucas wants, he’s not willing to swim against the current.  A lot of the locals don’t like him because he’s a spoiled gringo.  I was not expecting Lucas to be portrayed in this way, but it brought out a different side to the story than I was picturing.

The minor characters weren’t quite what I was expecting either.  I don’t want to go into too many details here, but they all had their own quirks and personalities.  Isabel, Lucas’s dad, the locals, Lucas’s friends.  Each was their own person.

I don’t say this much, but the writing style caught my attention.  It was descriptive and clever.  I loved the way the story unfolded.

The plot was always moving.  There’s a dash of mystery, some suspense, some action and a race against time.  There was always something to keep the story moving, and a few surprises to keep you on your toes.

Were there some things I didn’t like?  Yes.  I had a really hard time relating to Isabel (and sometimes, liking her).  There were times when too much happened in the plot or there was a hole or two.  But overall, this was fun and definitely different.

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