Friday, December 02, 2016

ARC Review: Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields

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I received this book for free from Random House Children's Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Review: Poison’s Kiss by Breeana ShieldsPoison's Kiss by Breeana Shields
Published by Random House BFYR on January 10th, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, YA
Source: Random House Children's Books
Buy on Amazon

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.

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.



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Rashika has been tired since 2013. There are very few things that spark joy for her besides a nice cup of tea, warm, baked goods, good books and good TV shows. She is here to pile onto your giant TBRs and to-watch lists. Offer her a cookie and she might be nice to you.

10 Responses to “ARC Review: Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields”

  1. Jordan @ForeverLostinLiterature

    I’ve seen Poison Kiss around here and there and have always been intrigued, but never picked it up. I’m really glad to see your review here first, because it doesn’t sound like something I probably want to pick up – great review!

    • Angela

      Just in case, I would clarify that Poison Kiss by Ana Mardoll is a different book altogether, so if that’s the one you were looking at I do highly recommend it

  2. Mybookjacket

    Oh wow. That’s a pity. Looks like they got Tamil abd Hindi mixed with the Rajakumari bit. And lol at the 30 minutes thing. You sound exactly like my sister. Haha. I’ll be skipping this read.

    • Rashika

      I don’t speak tamil so I didn’t actually think of that but it makes sense because the author mixed North and South Indian cultures to create Sundari (which seems like its imitation north India in its setting but than there are some random details where the author brings in some aspects of South Indian culture.)

      Maybe I AM your sister…. (JK)

  3. Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy

    I can see why that’s so frustrating for you:-( I think if you are a writer attempting to set a story in a completely different culture from your own, you need to do more homework. I recently read an amazing book called the Devourers written by Indra Das that felt very authentic, so you might try that out for comparison.

  4. Aila @ One Way Or An Author

    Oh wow, I was really looking forward to this book! Very sad to hear about the world-building, because I LIVE for that stuff. And the inaccuracies with Indian culture don’t really help. Not sure if I’ll still pick this one up but we’ll see. Awesome review!

  5. Ksenia @ Something Delicate

    I totally understand your issues with this book. Inaccurate representation of culture is the reason I’m very weary of “influenced by Russia” books. As a Russian myself it’s hard for me to look past authors’ mistakes. And it upsets me too that good in other books are suffering from poor research. Grisha Trilogy is an example. If you are interested I can give you a couple of links to reviews written by Russian readers where they talk about all things wrong in those books.