I liked Mara Rutherford’s prior three books and was psyched to claim an early finished hardcover of The Poison Season via Bookish First. Are you on Bookish First? If not, I think my promo code can get you free points when you sign up so you should totally consider doing that. I’ll post it at the bottom!
This is a rather dark YA fantasy featuring a living, bloodthirsty, wandering forest surrounded by a poisoned lake, and the isolated community that lives within. Let’s take a look at the book first then I’ll share my thoughts!
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: The Poison Season
- Series: N/A
- Author: Mara Rutherford
- Publisher & Release: Inkyard Press, 12/06/22
- Length: 400 Pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨
Here’s the synopsis:
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.
This is a rather dark and insulated story about a community that fears outsiders and goes through great lengths to keep them away. I liked the lore and rituals but wanted more of them. Endla is a violent community built on lies and secrets and generational trauma, where the townsfolk have magical singing voices tied to the island and forest. A great premise that I rather enjoyed, so I wish more exploration of this could have taken the place of some of the repetitive ish romantic parts. The micro world building was great and I felt like part of the village, just wanted more of the how and why magic developed as it did.
I liked the first half of the book more than the second half. The first was beautiful, establishing the world and characters, where the second half spent a lot of time on the romance. I liked the characters well enough though, Leelo and Jaren seemed like good people experiencing typical YA book struggles like not feeling up to par with community standards and feeling atypical, dealing with family trauma and secrets, etc. Even the more unlikeable characters like Sage and Ketty I felt like they were, if nothing else, done well.
The book was slow burning but not boring at all, then dumped all the answers towards the end. I generally enjoyed the read (plus the large type font and inner artwork). I actually liked the resolution too and would recommend this one for upper YA as it’s one of the better ones I’ve read recently. If I have to read YA, I’ll take these moody, eerie, atmospheric and borderline spooky books any day.
Overall there’s a great premise that wasn’t quite fully realized, but it was close. I’d recommend for fans of darker YA fantasy that like romance too.
Thanks for checking out my book review of The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford! I claimed a copy with my bookish first points, and as always, all opinions are my own. If you’d like to join bookish first and have a chance towards winning early copies, my referral code bc25a61ba071488b9 can earn you some points to start!