I discovered Poison by Bridget Zinn in a bit of a different way than I discover most books. I noticed a flux of updates on Twitter about helping spread word about an author’s debut, because she couldn’t do it herself. Curious, I followed one of the links, where I learned Bridget’s bittersweet story: she had finally achieved her dream of publication, but hadn’t lived to see it. Bridget died of colon cancer in 2011.
But her story continued, carried on by her family, friends, and colleagues. The reading and writing community banded together to promote Bridget’s book, a lighthearted fantasy about an assassin and a magical piglet. Bridget’s story, combined with my own love of fantasy, pushed this book up to must-read status for me.
The Plot (from Goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.
But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.
Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?
Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.
Poison is different from most of the fantasy I’ve read, either YA or otherwise. It’s lighthearted and whimsical, and never takes itself too seriously. I’ll admit, my personal preference normally trends a bit darker, but Poison was a fun read that kept me smiling from beginning to end.
From the first few pages, it becomes clear that Poison is a different type of high fantasy. It’s not Lord of the Rings. It’s not even The Princess Bride. Don’t let this scare you, but if I had to find something to liken it to in tone, I’d probably have to pick…A Knight’s Tale. Yes, that terrible Heath Ledger movie. (That I kind of love anyway. Shh, don’t tell.) It’s got that same mix of medieval setting with modern language and humor, and though the stakes are high, the situation never really feels truly dire, because that’s not the tone of the story.
Kyra isn’t the most likable heroine I’ve ever read, but she’s fun. As the Master-Potioner-turned-attempted-assassin, she doesn’t really turn the trope on its head, but she gives it a refreshing spin. She has her share of cleverness, but also isn’t immune to the semi-regular embarrassment that comes with her not-so -developed social skills. But she doesn’t go SO far into the land of the socially inept that it becomes strange that she catches the eye of the Good Looking Guy. Whose name is Fred, by the way.
Fred is a fun character. Yes, he does arrive on the scene as Good Looking Guy, but he quickly displays a carefree and quirky personality that won me over. But the real star of the story, in my opinion, is Rosie the Magical Piglet.
You know a story is going to be fun when there’s a magical piglet involved.
Together, Kyra, Fred, and Rosie search for the princess, thwart bad guys, and endeavor to save the kingdom. There’s magic in the from of witches and potions, but no sweeping, glittery spectacles. There’s road trips and sword fights and court intrigue, but with none of the grittiness that normally accompanies these things in fantasy. Part of me missed the grit (seriously, I think this was the best fed and least financially challenged group of fantasy travelers I’ve ever encountered), but grit would have clashed with the playful tone of the book.
Poison is a fun, frolicking adventure that enjoys making its readers smile and laugh. The pages turned quickly, and the plot kept me engaged from beginning to end. If you’re looking for something fun, friendly, and full of whimsy, check it out.