I’m so excited today to be partnering with the Fantastic Flying Book Club for the An Affair of Poisons Blog Tour! This book has been on my radar for a while as I really enjoy historical fiction and am loving this trend of more and more YA reads being set in France!
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley
Published by Page Street Kids on February 26, 2019
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400 •Format: E-ARC •Source: Publisher
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 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 derelict sewers beneath the city, any hope of reclaiming Paris seems impossible—until Josse’s path collides with Mirabelle’s, and he finds a surprising ally in his sworn enemy.
She's a deadly poisoner. He's a bastard prince. Together, 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?
French historical fantasy seems to be a new trend happening this year in YA and I am ALL about it. France has so much rich history (both great and terrible), so much grandeur surrounding it that it’s a setting ripe for drama and storytelling and An Affair of Poisons delivers on both. Set during the reign of the infamous Sun King, the story focuses on a secret society determined to bring down the monarchy and rule “for the people.” As with most political revolutions, all does not go as planned.
The story centers on two main characters who are on opposite sides of the spectrum of the political turmoil in Paris- Mirabelle, the daughter of the rule of the Shadow Society, and Josse, a bastard son of King Louis. When Mirabelle realizes her mother’s intentions are not so pure and focused on helping the poor and sick after all and Josse realizes he’s the only hope of getting his siblings to safety and establishing his brother on the throne, they must form an unlikely alliance to battle the Shadow Society and reclaim Paris.
Though a little improbable, I admit I really got caught up in the story while reading! It was fascinating to learn about Mirabelle’s training in alchemy and to see how she could take elements that were seemingly so ordinary individually and transform them into things that could either heal or kill so quickly. I admired how her skills were won through years upon years of practice, hard work, and training by her father, rather than her being a “special snowflake” type character. Though I didn’t feel super connected emotionally with the characters (or the romance- I feel like this story didn’t need to be a romance), I did enjoy the cast of children and teens who were doing their best to try to survive a situation when all of the adults around them were either dead or had betrayed them, from the dauphin to the Josse’s tiny half sisters who were surprising little survivors as they hid in the sewers with their siblings. It was also fascinating to see the relationship dynamics between all of the royal children, especially when it came to how they were viewed/treated by their father the king (his legitimate children vs. his illegitimate children by his “official” mistress vs. a true bastard like Josse). The complex family dynamics were interesting to read about and added a depth to the story.
I also feel like I learned a lot about France through this story that I didn’t know (which is always a plus for me when reading historical fiction or fantasy). Most of the media I’ve seen regarding France of the past has focused on the French Revolution onwards, so it was interesting to read about a setting prior to then that was inspired by a less well-known conflict. Also, who knew the Lourve was a palace before it was a museum??? (Not I, sadly, but perhaps that is what I get from taking Spanish instead of French in school).
Though this story definitely falls firmly in the “historical fantasy” realm, I think it’s so cool (and wild!) that it’s inspired on real events! According to the author’s note at the end of the book, there was a Secret Society led by a powerful female that did lead to an attempted poisoning of the king and political unrest in France. Thorley took the idea and ran with it, incorporating the magical elements and creating the main characters, but the foundations are all rooted in history (which just goes to show that sometimes truth can be way, way stranger than fiction).
Overall: An Affair of Poisons is a solid historical fiction/fantasy book that adds a magical spin on real French history that hasn’t been overused before. Though I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the characters or romance and the story had some odd pacing and time jumps, I had a lot of fun reading about this alternative version of the Sun King’s reign and overall enjoyed my reading experience.
Addie Thorley spent her childhood playing soccer, riding horses, and scribbling stories. After graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in journalism, she decided “hard news” didn’t contain enough magic and kissing, so she flung herself into the land of fiction and never looked back.
She now lives in Princeton, New Jersey with her husband, daughter, and wolf dog. When she’s not writing she can be found gallivanting in the woods or galloping around the barn where she works as a horse trainer and exercise rider.
AN AFFAIR OF POISONS is her debut novel.