The rich stew of the author’s creations—SingleEarth, vampires, shapeshifters, Tristes, the Bruja Guilds—are at full boil here in the story of two 20-ish young women trying to out run their very different pasts, and figure out where they fit in and who they might become. Each has landed in a more “normal” place, and each wonders if, like a tattoo that can’t be covered up, they can ever really fit into “normal.”
I’ve never had the opportunity to read anything by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, so I’ve never actually had a chance to sample “the rich stew” the summary speaks of. I figured that Poison Tree was a good place to start since it seems to reference a lot of the same lore that can be found in her other books. I do admit that this was probably not the best place to start but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything vital during it. Also this is classified as Young Adult but it doesn’t really feel like it belongs in that age group as the main characters are in their 20’s.
This is a rather short read and the pages really flew by once I got started, and it only took me a few hours to finish it. I didn’t expect it to be as steeped in intrigue as is, and at times I found myself extremely frustrated with how little I felt I knew in the whole story. That is both a strength and a downfall for this. While I do enjoy being in the dark about somethings and then feeling that little punch of surprise, I do not like to be so left out of the story that I feel like I have to reread sections to see if I missed something. There are hidden relationships and hidden identities in this that you don’t really see coming until the story tells you and then suddenly everything becomes clear. It is written in different points of view so that adds to the whole ‘sidelines’ feel. I’d say that it keeps you in the dark until around half way through before things start falling into place and you start figuring out what is going on. The lore is the definitely the best thing about Poison Tree, it’s rich and has real depth to it. It puts a interesting little twist on the paranormal genre by giving each ‘race’ interesting quirks, backgrounds or cultures. I’m rather fond of the Tristes witches, who are essentially magical ‘vampires’. There is also the interesting political and personal aspect of the shapeshifting Tiger clans that became a focal point because of Sarik. SilentEarth is also a really cool idea; I like that there is a public organization to help those of the supernatural race adapt and live, as well as steer human attention away from the truth and even help some cope with witnessing the weird. It makes it seem more real.
The main characters of this are Sarik, Jason, Christian, and Alysia. Having the story written in separate povs really helps give them each a unique voice of their own, which really helps give them the depth that you are missing in the beginning. Sarik was a very fleshed out character and really enjoyed her personal growth over the course of the book, and out of the four she has the most complete background. She’s a bit rash in some of her decisions and also extremely cautious because of past pain, but as the story progresses she becomes more sure of herself and what she needs to do. Alysia is a rather cool and kick-ass human that is capable of holding her own and she’s tech savvy as well, but other small glimpses of her past and hints of her wide ranging skills she doesn’t really get a whole lot of depth. The same goes for Jason and Christian, both men are likeable and they both have their histories mentioned but nothing is really explained in detail.
When it comes down to the character aspect I really wanted more and I’m super curious about each of them, but the world building is certainly the strong point of this. If this turns into a series I’d gladly read the next one in hopes that more light is shed on these characters.