Jessamine Luxton rarely leaves her home in Hulne Abbey, the now-unsanctified ruins of an ancient Catholic monastery. As the sole caretaker of her father, the teen spends her days cooking, sewing, and working the family gardens. Thomas--healer, herbalist, apothecary, or witch, depending on whom you ask--tends the sick in their eighteenth-century northern English village. When Thomas allows an orphaned boy, known only as Weed, to live with them and help with the medicinal plants, father and daughter have little idea of just whom they've welcomed into their home.
The Poison Diaries, the first in a trilogy by Maryrose Wood and the duchess of Northumberland, is a compelling young adult tale of good and evil. Infused with a Gothic atmosphere, including elements of arcane knowledge, awaking passions, and mysterious powers, the story is, however, much more complex than a standard morality play.
Weed's presence serves as a force of awakening and change in the Luxtons' lives. Thomas is continually stymied in his efforts to discover the source of the boy's deep knowledge of gardening and the healing powers of plants. His frustrations grow as he notices his daughter's affection for Weed and senses the teens' increasing trust in each other. And herein lies the dynamics of the story.
The reader is quickly drawn into the Luxtons' world, wondering if Weed is friend or foe, if Thomas is sane or crazy, and if Jessamine is naive or wise. Wood reveals clues slowly, expertly building the tension and mystery. Be prepared to read The Poison Diaries in one sitting because it will be near impossible to put the novel aside.
Although the book doesn't end in a cliff-hanger, the last pages will have you scrambling for the second in the trilogy. The Poison Diaries is an exciting Gothic tale that should have wide appeal. Young adult book clubs will find plenty to talk about, such as father-daughter relationships, young love, trust, honesty, and the quest for knowledge.
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