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The Poison Diaries: Nightshade

Review

The Poison Diaries: Nightshade

Maryrose Wood, with [2]

The first mortal to converse with plants (and they with him) is an odd, bedraggled, green-eyed fellow named Weed. He came out of nowhere and has some elemental link to an herbal consciousness. In NIGHTSHADE, the second volume of The Poison Diaries, Weed pursues his lady love while Jessamine flees England with the Prince of Poisons, attempting to escape her crimes under a dark influence.

"Young adult audiences should really enjoy the unique and creative storyline of The Poison Diaries."

Weed saved Jessamine from an excruciating death by poisoning. But all hopes for a life with her are long lost. He has kept his promise and retreated into the forest, still in love with Jessamine (of course), but staying away out of a sense of duty and the belief that he’s protecting her. Weed limits his friendships to the many herbs and flowers that surround him. The plants all warn him of the cost of staying and the imbalance he brings to the forest. Knowing that their wisdom is greater than his, Weed does finally listen and returns to find Jessamine missing and a murdered man in the Luxton house. Oleander’s trap has been sprung; Jessamine is ensnared already. 

Alternating with Jessamine and Weed as narrators, we enter the strained and worried consciousness of a 16-year-old girl, the natural healer whose mind has been invaded. The venom came first from her father but is now of her own making. Having lost everything, she despises her father and thinks Weed will not return. Her father is clearly responsible for her mother’s murder and maliciously poisoned her; his poison diary proves his guilt. She has lost the one person who loved her. Jessamine’s sweet disposition has sharpened, and she is acutely aware of the evil within all places of the world. Disillusioned, her heart is void of hope. At the height of susceptibility, Jessamine relinquishes her mind to Oleander and elects to seek revenge on her father for all he has done.

Falling prey to the Prince’s wicked influence and twisted assurances, Jessamine’s consciousness tips at first toward apathy and then toward frank wickedness, more so the farther from Weed that she runs. Her gift of connecting with the botanical world had given her great joy with Weed. But it is poisonous now in the presence of Oleander, the twisted creature who keeps his true purpose hidden. Fueling Jessamine’s dark impulses, Oleander ensures that her future will be ruined and she’ll stray too far from the person she once was. It’s hard to believe how unrecognizable Jessamine becomes in this second book from the innocent creature we knew. Her character truly does become villainous, but never does she lose the last trace of good within. 

Under the influence of laudanum, Jessamine commits serious crimes against her better judgment. She forgets what it means to work and to love, to have higher purpose. Fleeing her own guilt, she leaves England just as Weed is on the verge of finding her. He is fully aware of Oleander’s poisonous influence, which Weed continues to hear about through the network of communications he has with the plants along the road. Virtuous herbs and flowers direct Weed toward a conservatory and a particular teacher in a place called the Botanico di Padova. Here, Weed discovers a very special cache of artifacts and learns the true nature of balance between all creatures --- animal and vegetable --- and a secret knowledge concerning a divine intelligence in the botanical world.

Botanical lore and odd dreams come to life within The Poison Diaries, a dark fantasy set near Alnwick Castle, the location of all the Harry Potter films. This fairy-tale trilogy is a treat to read, and the many herbs and flowers featured within are intriguing and serve various purposes in the storytelling. It raises some interesting philosophical questions about love; authors Maryrose Wood and the Duchess of Northumberland approach the subject unconventionally. Their tale makes good and evil less a function of frank guilt and innocence and more one of basic intentions. Morality is defined by fine lines and seeing the presence of good on many levels. At its heart, this is a story of why love is important, not just for one’s personal happiness but for keeping a moral compass on track --- in a state of balance between strict perfection and ultimate wickedness. Young adult audiences should really enjoy the unique and creative storyline of The Poison Diaries.

Reviewed by Melanie Smith on December 17, 2011

The Poison Diaries: Nightshade
Maryrose Wood, with [2]