Book Review: Poisoned

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly

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This novel is a Snow White retelling with Sophie/the princess as the main character. Though some parts of the story definitely diverge from the original, many parts are kept the same, such as the existence of the stepmother. In this story, the stepmother/queen asks the mirror, “mirror mirror on the wall, who will bring about my fall” and the mirror ends up showing Sophie. Fearing that she might lose her beloved crown, the stepmother sends out her huntsman to take Sophie’s heart. While the huntsman succeeds, Sophie ends up living with the help of seven strangers who build Sophie a new heart. The story continues as we follow Sophie who tries to navigate her way through her new life and see if she can ultimately defeat the true evil behind it.

First, the characters. Sophie is described as too soft-hearted, too kind, and too foolish. The thing is, she was definitely too foolish. As a seventeen year old girl, I just could not believe that she couldn’t figure out the prince, Haakon, was a fraud. I knew from the moment we met him all he wanted from Sophie was the crown. It frustrated me greatly that Sophie would constantly yearn for him and even put herself in danger by wandering outside of the safe cottage that the seven men (they were so nice) graciously let her stay in until she realized that he was evil. However, I do love good character development. Sophie did grow a lot on her journey to find her heart. She acknowledges that although being kind can be a sign of weakness, it ultimately will win out over being severe. For the other point of view we are given besides the queen and huntsman, the King of Crows. The King of Crows who is later revealed to be Fear was the actual evil being. He manipulated the queen to kill Sophie. It was also revealed that he took many other people’s hearts and ate them (what?!). I personally do not have a strong opinion of Fear. He was neither great nor terrible. For the side characters, Arno and Will. Arno was probably one of my favorite characters even if he was not in the spotlight. He had a sad backstory that tied in nicely with his current state and even though he had many opportunities to abandon Sophie, he stayed with her as an almost father figure. The same can be said for Will, the love interest. He also had every reason to leave Sophie, as she stood for the crown that did nothing but harm Will’s family. I probably would have left, oops!

Time for plot. The plot overall was pretty convenient for Sophie. Every time she almost died, she somehow was alive again (oh wow!) Especially at the end, when the creatures trapped in Fear’s castle were released and immediately joined Sophie and her crew to take her crown back. Not too believable, in my opinion. The novel does pick up after around halfway through, after she meets Arno and Will and starts her quest to get her heart back.

The messages in this book were pretty solid. There was a lot of talk about a woman being in power and how it can affect someone’s mental state and how they perceive those around them as being untrusting and deceiving. Also I liked how the story was tied into the heart and love and how being loving does not equate to being too soft. 

Overall, I would give this book a 3.5/5 stars. I would recommend this medium paced book to people that don’t have a problem with not getting attached to characters and who like fairytale retellings that have a nice message behind it.

-Review by Teen Advisory Board Member, 12/14/20