Received from NetGalley for review.
A Fierce and Subtle Poison is a very strange story. It’s a mixture of magical realism and murder mystery and it should have been fascinating from start to finish – it’s set in Puerto Rico with a cursed girl whose skin may be poison and who might grant wishes – but it only became interesting for me towards the very end when everything became a bit more mystical and weird (200 pages is too many to read to get to the interesting bits). I’ve probably added an extra star to my rating for the vivid setting, though – I was smelling the salty air, tasting fresh mango, and feeling the tropical heat throughout the entire novel.
The story focuses on Lucas, a seventeen year old rich kid whose father develops hotels, and Isabel, the mysterious cursed girl who lives in strange house on the island. Everyone knows the stories about Isabel – that she has green skin and grass for her, that she grants wishes – but when girls start disappearing and being washed up on the beach, and notes start appearing for Lucas from Isabel, things get weird. It should have been an exciting story but it was sadly lacking – the pacing was really uneven for a start, something I’ve read in other reviews as well, and the story doesn’t really seem to have a point. Some weird stuff happens, people die, and then Lucas carries on with his life? I didn’t really get it and I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the story or any of the characters.
The story is told from Lucas’ perspective and that was an issue for me – he is an entitled, selfish brat, and he acts like a dick a lot of the time. I understand that it created a sense of mystery with not knowing everything about Isabel, and yes I know seventeen year old boys will be assholes sometimes, but I didn’t like him. He redeems himself a bit towards the end but his obsession with Isabel is weird and nonsensical, but I guess that’s what can happen when you try and write magical realism. Isabel was a much more intriguing character and I would have rather been in her head than Lucas’. I think I would have loved this book if it was told from someone else’s perspective, maybe Isabel or one of the islanders, but I did enjoy the setting and Isabel’s story.
Read: April 1st-7th 2016