Title: Poison and Honey
Author: Kristen Brand
Series: Dark and Otherworldly (Book 1)
Publication Date: July 15, 2020
Synopsis: Leigh Morgan has known that magic existed ever since an unearthly monster abducted her sister. It’s why she’s in Otherworld now, posing as a servant in its dark, decadent palace. She’s gathering intelligence and working with a small band of allies to bring down the Others and free their human captives. Her mission depends on blending in, so the last thing she wants is to attract the attention of a cunning prince.
Dredarion Rath wants one thing: to disgrace his older brother and prove himself the worthier heir to the throne. And out of all the servants in the palace, he chooses Leigh to help him. Just her luck.
Now Leigh has to keep her work a secret from a bewitching man who sees right through her–and who’s not nearly as cold and inhuman as he seems. She can’t screw this up, or the humans forced into servitude will never go home. But juggling two conspiracies at once, it’s only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down, and the man she’s falling for has her executed for her betrayal…
Kristen Brand quickly made it to the top of my favorite new-to-me authors with Poison and Honey. The story centers around a human woman named Leigh, who poses as a servant in the palace of her non-human and powerful enemies so that she can gain intel and free the human captives. Tasked with working as the younger prince’s handmaiden, she never expects to feel anything but hatred for the plotting, scheming, and brooding prince. Prince Dredarion wants nothing more than to prove once and for all that he should be the heir to the throne, not his older and more charismatic brother Rab. However, Leigh’s unexpected presence in Dredarion’s life makes him question everything.
How will Leigh rescue the captive humans? What is Dredarion willing to do to obtain the throne? Can the Others and humans coexist after years of oppression and abuse? All this and more is answered in the first book in the Dark and Otherworldly series.
Leigh is a fantastic protagonist. She is focused, driven, and determined to avenge her sister. I love how she tries to be stoic and unmoved but is compelled to help those in need. Her sarcastic and acerbic attitude that she often struggles to control is relatable and realistic. She is also very intuitive, continually reading people well and sympathizing with the underdog.
Dredarion’s character is fascinating. His growth throughout the story was beautifully nuanced and led to a deeper appreciation and understanding of this conflicted man. Dredarion went from a loathsome, unlikable, and power-hungry antagonist in the first chapters of the story to my favorite character. With a cool and aloof demeanor, no one sees the passionate, lonely, and wounded person inside. At one point in the story, he’s surprised by his own laugh, as it is a sound he barely recognizes. How sad is that? Moments like that made me sympathize with his character, and the more I learned about his life, the more I understood how years of abuse, mistreatment, and disregard affected his humanity, morality, and familial loyalty.
Of course, I NEED to talk about the swoon-worthy romance between Dredarion and Leigh since A) I love romance, and B) their love story is fantastic!!! A roller coaster of emotions, secrets, lies, passion, and love, their enemies-to-lovers romance is captivating. They are both morally grey characters, and they both have prejudices and misguided notions about each other and their races. I find it interesting that, as they get to know each other, their beliefs become conflicted, and they start to see things differently. I love that they teach each other new things, and they grow from knowing each other. I also like that Leigh brings out the lighter side of Dredarion.
Plus, the chemistry between them is fantastic! Their conversations, witty banter, flirtations, even their arguments and quiet moments are passionate and deep. The way that Dredarion describes Leigh is romantic and lovely, (Like when he describes his admiration for her as a flicker that turns into a blazing flame – SA-WOON!), and Leigh’s reciprocal feelings confound and empower her at the same time. Dredarion and Leigh feel so many conflicting emotions about their growing feelings. They impress and confuse each other while they also admire each other’s intelligence, courage, and strength. Check out this swoon-worthy part:
It was as if nothing was between them: her grudging esteem, his gratification and desire-all were open for the others to freely see. And he saw the same lust in her eyes that burned in him.
Unfortunately, they are on opposite sides of a long-standing conflict, which is only getting worse. That, combined with lies, secrets, and an unclear future, causes most of their problems.
I need to take a moment to talk about how much I adore the author’s writing style. Brand’s gift of storytelling creates a vivid and fascinating world. The author’s excellent use of figurative and sensory language adds depth and dimension to so many different aspects of the story, from the characters and setting to the plot and themes. I also like Brand’s skillful use of literary devices, especially similes and metaphors. Lines like, “His mother sat upon her crystalline throne, looming like an oncoming thunderstorm,” leave a lasting imprint because of their strength and poetic feel. Take a look at this description of the setting:
Green forest spread out as far as the eye could see, the canopy of trees furtively shielding all below it. The treetops barely reached the ankles of the stone giants in the distance. They were shrouded in mist, motionless, as they’d been for centuries.
The word choice, personification, similes, and more create such clear and striking images and make for a wonderfully captivating and immersive read.
A quick and immersive read with dystopian elements and themes, Poison and Honey is a fabulous start to an exciting new fantasy series. I love the fascinating world and plot-line as well as the deftly-crafted, dynamic characters, and I can’t wait to read more of Leigh and Dredarion’s story! Thanks so much to the author for a copy of Poison and Honey in exchange for an honest review, and please, please, please publish the next book in the series soon so I can have more Dark and Otherworldly in my life!!
- The romance, of course! 😉 Are they enemies or lovers? Both? Neither? It’s a twisty mess of emotions, and I loved it!
- The writing. I love the author’s style! There were parts I wish were more developed, but I think that is partly because I selfishly wanted to stay in this world a little longer.
His aura of menace withdrew like a gun being returned to its holster: no longer pointed at her face but still very much present.
His thoughts were like drops of blood in a pond of water, dispersing into nothingness before he could analyze them.
Readers who enjoy fantasy stories with an enemies-to-lovers romance will enjoy this story. People who like strong female protagonists, palace intrigue, and dystopian rebellions will also appreciate the story.