ARC Review | Belladonna

Posted August 17, 2022 by TheNonbinaryLibrarian in book reviews / 0 Comments

Title: Belladonna

Author: Adalyn Grace

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication: 30 August 2022

Pages: 416

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Orphaned as a baby, now at 19 Signa Farrow has been raised by a string of guardians, each more interested in her wealth than her well-being, and each has met an untimely end. Her last remaining relatives are the Hawthornes, an eccentric family living at the glittering and gloomy estate of Thorn Grove. The patriarch of Thorn Grove, Elijah, still mourns his late wife, Lillian, through wild parties and drink, while eldest son Percy grapples for control of the family’s waning reputation and daughter Blythe suffers from the same mysterious illness that killed her mother. Then Lillian’s spirit confronts Signa claiming she was poisoned and that Blythe is next to die. Signa’s best chance of uncovering the culprit and solving Lillian’s murder is Death himself—the very many she hates most. The fascinating, dangerous shadow who has never been far from her side, shows her that their connection may be more powerful than she ever dared imagine.

Delicious. Luscious. And absolutely deadly. I loved this book! The characters, the story, the cover all brought me in. I’m also quite obsessed with the idea of poisoning and poison by flowers/plants (probably not something I should mention on the interwebs but oh well). This definitely gave me vibes of Jane Eyre, but much more defiant to society.

The relationship between Signa and Death was complicated and lovely to see develop. At the beginning, Signa hates Death because all her relatives meet an untimely end and people gossip that she’s cursed. But there’s a lot more depth to that then meets the eye. Death is not the kind of person that we see in The Book Thief’s Death narrator, but neither is Death an evil or bad guy in this novel. He’s someone who doesn’t have anyone and has lived forever, so while he is rude and sarcastic, he also cares about the people who die. Of course, the person he cares for the most is Signa because she’s the first person who Death has been able to talk to and interact with.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Signa is having tea with girls her age (this is not a big spoiler to any major points in the plot). While her relatives raised Signa, a lot of them never cared if she was taken care of physically, so when she arrives at Thorn Grove, she’s pretty malnourished (practically starved). At tea, she eats a scone, then another one, when she’s about to have a third, one of the girls pulls the plate away from her. Death is furious; he speaks to her (in her mind) saying “if you’re hungry, eat the scone.” When the girls leave, he actually throws the scone at Signa and is pissed that she acted so demure and sickeningly stifled. Because he doesn’t have the social etiquette of others, he doesn’t see any faux pas in eating two or three scones. In his mind, if you’re hungry, you eat. The thread of Victorian ideals, manners, and etiquette was spread throughout the book, as what Signa wants more than anything is to debut and be married. That’s what she has accepted to be a part of society. But throughout Signa’s time at Thorn Grove she actually starts thinking of all these rules that are laid down and how impractical and disingenuous they all are. Victorian and Gothic books are definitely my jam but I love when characters confront society’s expectations like Signa eventually does.

The idea of this girl who Death follows around and doesn’t die is definitely one of the main reasons I wanted to read this book. I was intrigued and wasn’t disappointed with how Signa’s story developed and how she grew. The other characters where just as fascinating as Signa. Her family members went through a horrible death of their wife and mother and are trying to adjust. It was great to see a Victorian male character actually have emotions and depression after his wife’s death. This whole idea that men shouldn’t show emotions is still a problem today, and while heartbreaking to see Elijah move through his grief, it was wonderful to see at the same time. Percy and Blythe were just as fascinating as Elijah, with Percy’s want to take on the responsibilities of his title but being unable and Blythe’s dry humor helping her through this period of illness.

That ending though was just ugh!! Chef’s kiss but I’m also super pissed and needing the next book now! This is actually the first arc I’ve read where I pre-ordered the book as soon as I finished it.

Happy Reading Darlings!

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