I chose this book because my 12-year-old daughter highly recommended it. It has a lot of elements that pre-teen girls and young teen girls will find desirable: young heroine, cute mysterious boy, darkness, supernatural powers, and death. It’s a unique spin on the “pretty young woman meets pretty supernatural boy and they fall in love” YA trope. There’s a good chance your favorite teen or pre-teen reader will enjoy this.
I’d say this is a good series starter, because it ends in a bit of a cliffhanger. Voracious readers will want to have the next book well in hand before they embark on this one. There are aspects of this book I enjoyed. I liked the historical accuracy of the characters; they felt true to their time. I also liked the quirk of Weed’s power. I didn’t like the character Oleander, because I guess I’m a little tired of the idea that everything on earth lusts after pretty teen girls. I don’t lust after pretty teen girls. Frankly, only a very tiny demographic of the world’s inhabitants (teenage heterosexual male humans, teenage homosexual and bi female humans, and perverts) lust after teenage girls. Why should the prince of poisons lust after her? You’d think he’d be more into bees.
I liked the epistolary aspect of it, how the written journal entry explains only part of the story. Another aspect I should mention is that this is written on the young end of the YA spectrum. It’s very easy to read, I think. It felt very simple and fast-paced. If it didn’t have two kisses in it, they might put it into MG instead. It’s a good choice for readers who aren’t into denser prose.
I recommend this for younger teens, especially girls, who like things a little dark and a lot romantic, and who aren’t put off by something historical. I especially recommend this if your teen is not a strong reader yet, and she needs something short and fast paced. (It’s got a third of the weight of even the early Harry Potter books.)