After finishing Enchantée, I wasn’t sure how quickly I wanted to dive back into another historical fiction book involving France. An Affair of Poisons takes places a hundred or so years before the events of the French Revolution, where kings and nobles are still on top. The events of this book are based on real events, too. (I happened to briefly look up the actual Affair of Poison a few days before I started this book, which I found a bit ironic.)
Okay, you didn’t come to listen to me babble.
A huge thanks to Page Street Publishing and NetGalley for giving me a free, digital copy in exchange for an honest review. This review may contain possible spoilers.
Title: An Affair of Poisons
Author: Addie Thorley
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release date: February 26, 2019
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, fantasy
Length: 400 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “After unwittingly helping her mother poison King Louis XIV, seventeen-year-old alchemist Mirabelle Monvoisin is forced to see her mother’s Shadow Society in a horrifying new light: they’re not heroes of the people, as they’ve always claimed to be, but murderers. Herself included. Mira tries to ease her guilt by brewing helpful curatives, but her hunger tonics and headache remedies cannot right past wrongs or save the dissenters her mother vows to purge.
Royal bastard Josse de Bourbon is more kitchen boy than fils de France. But when the Shadow Society assassinates the Sun King and half of the royal court, he must become the prince he was never meant to be in order to save his injured sisters and the petulant dauphin. Forced to hide in the sewers beneath the city, Josse’s hope of reclaiming Paris seems impossible―until his path collides with Mirabelle’s.
She’s a deadly poisoner. He’s a bastard prince. They are sworn enemies, yet they form a tenuous pact to unite the commoners and former nobility against the Shadow Society. But can a rebellion built on mistrust ever hope to succeed?”
Even though this book is based on true events, I really liked the liberties the author took to make us care about the characters and creating subplots. (There’s a really nice author’s note in the back as well where Thorley elaborates more of the characters, true and made-up, and the events.) I enjoyed the magic, too, and the poisoner / alchemist aspect. The plot was well-paced and full of action, while still lingering on character traits and personalities enough for me to actual care. The opening chapter was quick, too, taking us right into the main part of the story. I never thought the book’s pacing was slow, and I found myself eager to return to this world.
I found our main characters, Josse and Mirabelle, to be both believable, likable characters. One of the parts that really frustrated me though was how Mirabelle viewed her father. There’s mixed feelings and twisted stories, but still in the end, I don’t know what to make of him. I’m not quite sure I like him as much as Mirabelle did, and it was frustrating to be honest. Not to say that her mother was shone in bad light because she was, too, and really did what she could to survive while her husband–supposedly?–became so buried in his work he ignored his family. I don’t think Mira understands that as she just has this perpetual dislike of her mother. One of the few times I became eternally frustrated with Mira is her constant battle within herself as to whether or not she was truly responsible for poisoning the Sun King. Yes…but no? Personally, I was tired of hearing her talk about it because I don’t think she played as big of a role in it as she thought, and she was manipulated to do so anyway. I see how Thorley used this to create external tension later between Mira and another character, but man, it was often a pain to read.
I loved Josse’s relationship with this sisters and how their bond fueled most of his actions in the story. I’m a sucker for good sibling relationships and I thought this book did a fantastic job with it.
One of my major complaints and reasons I gave this book 4 stars is the world-building. It almost isn’t there… Which sounds silly, right? For me, it was hard to imagine I was in 1600s France. Maybe this is due to the minor characters in the book, or the fact that the main characters don’t dabble with the nobles a lot. But you could put drop this plot in any historical setting and I think it would have worked. (Yes, I know this is based on true events, so sue me.) Maybe that’s a polite way of me saying the world-building didn’t feel unique, making the story a bit lackluster. But the author really does draw you in with the strong emotions the characters feel. I really had to brace myself for their internal thoughts as they struggled through particular events.
You can read more reviews here:
- Tiffany at String of Pages wanted more from the sibling relationship.
- Watch Paige’s review of an ARC on her YouTube channel, Paige Turner.
- Sierra wrote a brief review with content warnings.