Book Review: The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford

About the Book:

Title: The Poison Season

Author: Mara Rutherford

Page Length: 384

Publication Date: Dec. 6, 2022

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Synopsis: One choice could change everything.

Leelo has spent her whole life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles with the knowledge that her brother will be exiled and forced to live with the outsiders unless he gains enchantment powers before his next birthday.

Then comes the day that Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake. She knows she is supposed to leave him to his fate, but, instead, she betrays her family, her best friend, and her whole community by helping nurse the young man, Jaren, back to health, understanding that discovery could lead to unthinkable consequences for both of them.

As they grow closer, Leelo and Jaren discover that not all danger comes from beyond the lake—and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself. 

LINKS:   Goodreads   |    Amazon   |  Book Depository

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My Review:

Leelo has lived her entire life on Endla, an island isolated from outsiders and protected by the poisonous lake and magical forest that surrounds it. Most people on the island have the gift of enchanted singing, but those who don’t gain this gift by their twelfth birthday are exiled from the island. As Leelo’s younger brother’s birthday looms with no magical gift in sight, Leelo begins to question the rules of her society and the magic that not only protects them but holds them captive.

I thought this was an intriguing read with a great premise and plot, vivid world-building, dynamic characters, and thought-provoking messages. The storytelling is so well done, and the author uses some fantastic imagery and symbolism that really brought the story to life. I’ve read several books this year with magical islands, and I never tire of them. The island in this story takes on a life of its own, as does the surrounding lake and forest. It’s magical and dark and frightening, and the tone and mood of the story enhance the dark and ominous feel. The island holds so many secrets, and I liked how they were all slowly unraveled by Leelo.

Leelo is a unique protagonist, and she goes through a great emotional and physical journey throughout the book. I found her character really interesting. She’s not the bold, assertive, warrior that we often see in young adult protagonists. She is intelligent, caring, and empathetic, and she feels deeply. Her tender and nurturing side contrast the many cold and unemotional people in her community who seem desensitized to the harsh brutality of their world.

Leelo also shows an impressive amount of bravery as she helps an outsider even though it’s forbidden, and she questions the brutal traditions of the island. She butts heads with those closest to her, and she learns a lot about her family and how the past has dictated their present. Speaking of family, there are some characters in Leelo’s, and not all of them are good. The story delves into her relationship with her mother, her cousin, and her aunt, who all live together but don’t necessarily share the same beliefs. Leelo faces a lot of difficult obstacles and decisions as she tries to protect her brother and the boy from across the lake.

Of course, I always comment on the romance, and there is a sweet love story between Leelo and Jaren, the boy she saves and protects. I like that we see both of their perspectives. We also get to see Jaren’s life off the island, which is very different from what Leelo has always been told. The story also has a lot of interesting and thought-provoking themes like the idea of blindly following tradition, not questioning authority and questionable actions, believing in something bigger than yourself, rejecting societal norms and expectations of submission and passivity, loving people more than antiquated beliefs, and more.

I would defintiely recommend The Poison Season to readers who enjoy dark and eerie, slow-building YA fantasies. Thanks to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.



Favorite Parts:

  • The world-building.
  • The characters.
  • The magic.

Favorite Lines:

Shame is a very powerful emotion. It eats at you like poison, killing you slowly from the inside out.

I could get lost in you.

That’s funny. I feel like I’m finally found.


I would recommend The Poison Season to readers who enjoy slow-building and immersive YA fantasy.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford

  1. Ooh, this sounds really good! I love this cover and the world-building does sound awesome. Will definitely be keeping this one on my radar cos it sounds like something I’d really enjoy. 😍 Great review!

  2. I’ve been seeing this book everywhere lately and it’s cover has had me really intrigued, you’ve definitely pushed me to pick it up, it sounds great!
    Great review 😊

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