Book Review: Poison Princess

Do you like New Orleans, hot Cajun boys, tarot cards, interesting female characters, and the apocalypse?

If the answer is yes, then drive to your local bookstore, grab Poison Princess and get ready for an adventure!

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Okay, so the first part of this will just be enough to get new readers intrigued with the book, after that I will warn for spoilers and do more of a review of the overall story. Everyone got that? Good!

Our story’s main character is Evie, a young girl from a wealthy Southern family in New Orleans. Instead of spending the summer on the beach or in Europe like her other friends, Evie spent hers in a mental institution. When she returns for school, Evie is very aware that the hallucinations she has about an apocalyptic future have not gone away, but tries to play it normal to please her mom and her friends.

However, playing it cool isn’t easy when some other teenagers from the Bayou join Evie’s school. One boy in particular, Jackson, annoys and aggravates Evie to no end, especially when he attempts to learn more about her secrets. To add insult to injury, he’s cute too! The nerve!

Evie must attempt to be normal all while her visions warn of a pending apocalypse that has something to do with the figures of the Major Arcana in Tarot cards. Death and the Fool make several appearances in her visions, as does the Empress, who seems so vicious and cruel to Evie.

Why are the Tarot cards seemingly coming to life? And what does this have to do with Evie? And why won’t Jackson just leave her alone?

If you want to know, buy the book. Or keep reading my review, but warning, spoilers!

There are many interesting things about this book. Kresley Cole is one of the most original paranormal romance authors I have ever read. In a sea of people talking about vampires, werewolves, sexy angels, and faeries, the fact that Cole sat down and thought about Tarot cards is original and different enough to make me want to pick it up.

The main characters Evie and Jackson are interesting and enjoyable. Admittedly, I found Evie a bit annoying at the beginning, but that was only when she was trying very hard to act normal. Furthermore, Cole does a good job a building up Evie to tear her down later. Unlike most paranormal romances, Evie is not the normal girl who meets the mysterious otherworldly boy. No, the exact opposite is true. Jackson is actually the normal boy and Evie is the interesting otherworldly girl.

As the story progress, it’s revealed that Evie is actually the Empress card, which means she carries life within in her blood and controls plants. It takes Evie awhile to work out these powers though, and some of you may get frustrated by Evie’s lack of agency in her own life, but I promise you, keep reading; it gets better. Plus this book is the first of the series, so Evie’s abilities will only grow and develop as it goes on.

Jackson is our Cajun bad boy. He can be a bit of a jackass to Evie sometimes—enough times, in fact, that I often want her to tell him off, but Cole does this to reveal some pretty interesting character traits. Jackson is described as a very traditional guy, so his frustration at Evie often times is because he’s worried about protecting her and taking care of her (and neither of them realizes that she doesn’t necessarily need this). For the most part, Jackson is a well-developed character with just as many facets to his personality as Evie.

My favorite character has to be the Fool. He is a young teenager who seems utterly crazy when you first meet him, and despite being able to see the future sometimes, he chooses to not avoid a bad future for his own reasons. Eventually it’s revealed that The Fool is autistic. Though, it is unclear if he is really autistic or if people mistook him for being autistic because of his powers. The ability to see the future is often a helpful but damaging power in most fantasy stories, and the ability to see the future is almost never useful in combat. Again Cole turns this cliché on it’s head. The Fool is rather damaged, but of his own choosing usually and tends to know more about what is going on than anyone else. And he’s actually pretty handy during combat, knowing exactly when to dodge bullets and duck knives.

You gain glimpses or hear stories about the other cards throughout the book (the scariest in my opinion is the Lovers), but the only two others to feature prominently in this book are the Moon and the Magician. The Magician is the stereotypical jerk who just wants to have sex with any women he can. Out of all them, his character is the least developed, but again, it’s a series, so he’ll probably get more time in the next book. The other major character is the Moon/Archer who appears as a rival love interest for Jackson, again reversing the trope of two supernatural boys fighting over the normal girl. The only thing I have mixed feelings about is that the character of the Moon is that she is a something of a tomboy and her relationship with Evie is obviously one of contempt. The problem with this is it makes it so that there are no female friendships in the book as it stands now. Perhaps if Evie’s normal friend Mel had lived, it wouldn’t matter so much, but she didn’t, so it does.

The conflict between Evie and the Moon also spells out a problem that I hear many feminists talking about right now. That’s the idea of girl hate, specifically girls who think anything stereotypically feminine is bad or stupid, and women are just catty bitches that need to be avoided, so they mostly have male friends and pursue stereotypically masculine interests. The Moon is definitely one of these girls and often makes fun of Evie for being feminine. While I’m glad there is a book that deals with this issue, I also worry that with the larger story it gets muddled. The Moon for most of the book seems more capable than Evie, which could cause readers to favor her instead of realizing how she’s shaming Evie.

Our main villain in the story is Death, though we rarely see him, and I even wonder if he is going to be a true villain. There are times when he and Evie almost seem fond of each other, making the reader wonder if he won’t become a potential ally later instead of an enemy. But really, the real villain is everyone, because when the apocalypse starts, people go insane: attacking and murdering people to gain resources, kidnapping and raping women, and just being terrible in general. On top of that, some people turn into zombie-like creatures called Bagmen that are always thirsty and will attack humans to drink their blood or really any moisture from the bodies.

Cole also deals with several feminist issues in the book. Evie’s struggles with wanting Jackson’s help and protection but her wish to also do things on her own. The shaming of things that are feminine, slut-shaming, gender roles (especially in an apocalyptic future where everyone reverts back to stereotyped gender roles regardless of skill), and even in many ways, the sex and labor trade. She brings up each issue and portrays it realistically, while implying her own opinions through the story and not just by having one character getting really preachy in the book.

Poison Princess is good and interesting read—I suggest you give it a shot!

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