Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"Outsiders are always given a choice: the Forest or the lake. Either way, they’re never heard from again.
Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla.
When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she’s supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice.
Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake—and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself."
The Poison Season is a standalone YA fantasy novel by Mara Rutherford.
First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley and Inkyard Press for giving me the opportunity to review this in advance. Please note that this in no way affects my opinion. Also note that what I read was an ARC, and things may be subject to change for the official release.
I have heard of this author before but have yet to pick up any of their work until now. Was this a great introduction to their work, I wouldn't say so?
I found this book to be a bit on the slow side as not much was happening, and the vast majority of the conflicts could have been easily solved with some logical thinking and communication. Besides that, I just wasn't a fan of the environment that the main character lived in as it was borderline cult-like, and I am not a fan of cult books.
Let's get into the details.
The writing, aside from the fact that the pacing was slow, was easy enough to digest so no complaints there. I did spy a spelling mistake but that could be rectified in the final copy.
The author said that this was for people who love star-crossed lovers, creepy forests, unique magic, enchanting girls, broody boys and animal symbolism. Some of those themes I am not a fan of, but the issue I had here was that I don't think any of these were done particularly well.
The forest was not very creepy and it ended up taking a backseat as the poisoned lake took more precedence. I didn't find any of the characters to be enchanting or broody. There was some animal symbolism but I wish that it was more than it ended up being, or that it was more integrated into the lore.
As I also said in the beginning, this was very borderline cult-like, which is something I don't like to read. Unfortunately, this ended up being a very prominent theme which severely impacted my enjoyment of this. I also just find cult books frustrating because to the reader it is obvious that something isn't quite right, but I can't fault the characters for not realizing they are being manipulated.
The progression of the story, once it started to pick up a bit, was due to reasons that could have just been avoided. I sat there thinking that it was a bit of an idiotic choice. I found that the ending as well, without going into spoilers, resolved the conflict way too conveniently.
This book has a very small setting consisting of the island of Endla as well as the small town where Jaren lives. With a setting that small, the level of detail and integration into the story has to be complex in order for me to feel like the word was developed enough. The author did a decent job at this, but I would prefer something a bit more expansive. There is a map though that is rather beautiful which gets some brownie points.
As for the magic system and whether or not it was unique, I would say not really. I have read books before that had a magic system based around music. I also would have liked for the book to go into more depth in terms of the forest itself. I thought the idea of a Wandering Forest was intriguing, but the story didn't really take that concept and go with it considering this had a stagnant setting.
I found Leelo to be an aggravating character mainly because Sage was an aggravating character. Leelo considered her cousin Sage to be her best friend, but it was very clear that they had different morals. Leelo was more open to the outside world and didn't think that they were all how the Endlands viewed perceived them to be. Sage, on the other hand, put Endla first and would not hesitate to do what it took to protect the island. Leelo though, stuck with Sage even though her morals were very questionable.
Jaren I didn't mind as a character, but I also didn't care much about him. As for the side characters, like Sage, I found that some of them were focused on a bit too much to the point where it was detrimental to the story. When I started reading the story, I was unsure who the main character was because it focused on both Leelo and Sage which threw me off.
As I stated earlier on, star-crossed lovers are definitely not my go-to when it comes to romance. I like a good enemies-to-lovers, but when a couple are on opposite sides and are supposed to be enemies, it just doesn't work for me. I also simply didn't care for either of the characters and their romance which you could see coming from a mile away. The romance also progressed rather quickly which is something I am not a fan of either.
I ultimately found myself bored while reading this. The story just didn't do enough for me and the pacing was a bit too slow with not enough going on to hold my attention. I do still think though that this may work for others who like this kind of story.
Will I still pick up the author's other books, sure, why not? I don't think this book was horrible, just not very interesting.