Series: Poison's Kiss #1
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, YA
Publication date: January 10th, 2017
by Random House BFYR
A teenage assassin kills with a single kiss until she is ordered to kill the one boy she loves. This commercial YA fantasy is romantic and addictive like-- a poison kiss-- and will thrill fans of Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard.
Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It s a miserable life, but being a visha kanya a poison maiden is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.
Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she s really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose.
This rich, surprising, and accessible debut is based in Indian folklore and delivers a story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
-A copy was provided by Random House Children's Books for review-
I am not entirely sure what I was expecting when I dove into Poison’s Kiss. I was hoping to like it because I was intrigued by the premise but even when I was excited to read it, a small part of me was worried that it would not do justice to my culture. As a story, Poison’s Kiss is fine. The romance is way too insta but it is engaging, there aren’t many plot holes and the characters are relatable. The world building is EXTREMELY lacking though. From the small things to the bigger, general things, the world building needs work and this book would have benefited from some Indian beta-readers who might have been able to help fine-tune some of those issues.
The rest of this review will be me breaking down everything that bugged me with the world building so if that’s not something that you want to hear about, please feel free to take your leave.
In the author’s note, Shields says that, “Sundari is not India, [but] is influenced by that culture and its mythology” (pg 290 in the ARC). Which is fair, Sundari is a fictional world but it IS inspired by a real, incredibly diverse one which is why I am so frustrated with the world building in Poison’s Kiss.
India doesn’t just have one culture. Fun facts: There are 29 different states and 7 union territories in India. India does not have an official religion so not all Indians are Hindus (I say this because the book is advertized as Indian mythology but in actuality is Hindu mythology and that is IMPORTANT especially right now when there are so many religious struggles happening in the country.) There are also 22 ‘officially recognized’ languages spoken in India. All these things lend themselves to incredibly varied cultures wherever you go and varied beliefs. The land of Sundari is in no way reflective of that and instead mushes together various Indian cultures to create one generalized one. This isn’t offensive in of itself (at least to me, but I don’t speak for everyone) but the lumping of cultures is common whenever people talk about cultures of countries that are not part of the western world and that is more than a little problematic. I would go into more detail but this would turn into a rant about why colonialism is the actual worst. If you do want to know more about this though, please feel free to hit me up.
There are also the little things which I mentioned before, like the inaccurate use of Hindi words. Rajakumari isn’t a thing, its Rajkumari. Janu, which roughly translates to ‘love’ in English is not used as loosely as it is in English. Janu tends to be used for romantic partners, not for an adult addressing a child. Also, people need to stop assuming that the only thing Indians wear are saris. WE HAVE MORE ‘traditional’ clothing than that! Saris tend to be worn by married ladies, not by 17 year olds and there is a reason for that too. It takes like an HOUR to put on a sari (unless you’ve been doing it forever in which case you might be able to do it in 30 mins.)
This book feels a little like its appropriating my culture for the purposes of a story. There is no real homage to the diverse Indian cultures and makes me feel like there was no real research done about the country. The poorly built world only seems to exist as a location to set the story in. The reason I am so upset is because it is not a bad book by any means. There were moments when I really enjoyed the book and the ending makes me want to read the sequel. I just wish there was more research and that perhaps Indian cultures had been treated with more respect.