Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (October 25, 2011)
Blurb: A dark, gothic tale of romance… and murder.The latest book in the grippingly dark series, The Poison Diaries.Our heroine, Jessamine, has lost her faith in the men she loved, and her innocence as well. She turns to the dark side and plots to kill her father, using his own poisons, before becoming an assassin, a poisoner for hire. Can she recover from her heartache and reunite with her true love, Weed? Find out in this thrilling story where poisons, darkness and horror are a part of everyday life, and love is the only cure.
My thoughts: I really enjoyed the intriguing world of alchemy Maryrose Wood created in The Poison Diaries (our review). In the first book teen Jessamine watches over her herbalist father, taking care of him and learning his craft. But not all of it. He omits the poison portion of his teachings--secretive research he's been conducting and growing in his own private poison garden. When he takes in an orphaned young man, Weed, Jessamine also takes care of him. Weed and Jessamine fall in love and her father is not happy with this outcome. He poisons his own daughter and in her sickly state she begins to hear the voice of Prince Oleander. The first book ends with Weed forced to leave the recovering Jessamine.
Book two begins with a bang. Jessamine is healthy. And she is pissed. Upset with her selfish father mad by his need for power and knowledge of all things poison, and upset with the young man she thought she would marry, Jessamine changes, but her switch is not good. The author starts off this installment slowly, luring us in much like a venus flytrap, until the reader is left wondering exactly just how far Jessamine is willing to go to exact her revenge. Once we're hooked with her plight and see Weed's fierce determination to find her, the flytrap swings shut and we're off on a thrilling dark ride. Jessamine is no longer innocent--she poisons her own father and leaves his dying body and their town behind. Coloring her hair and skin with herbs, she joins a group of travelers, staying quiet and to herself. Life on the run becomes a lonely and dangerous way to live.
Nightshade is about the journeys Jessamine and Weed take. Narrated by each, their story is realistic, gritty and touching. Used, betrayed and abandoned by those she loved, Jessamine becomes a product of her upbringing, of society, and of her time period. Guiding her is the seductive voice of Prince Oleander, the only one who remains a constant presence in her lonely existence, despite only being able to converse with her in her head. Meanwhile, Weed asks the trees and flowers for assistance in locating Jessamine, only to be met with reluctance. He heads back to find a strange male body in her smoldering home but no Jessamine.
Both are now murderers. Both are talented. Both are on the run. Weed searches for the girl he loves, while she intends to get far away from her home and its painful memories. Nightshade totally hooked me and kept me racing through its pages. As soon as Jessamine flees, the pacing picked up, the feel of the tale turned somber and creepy, and I still hoped the young lovers would reunite. I do not want to spoil their story but Maryrose Wood set up in this book what promises to be an outstanding ending to her trilogy with the next book. A plot involving the King, Weed learning from an exemplary teacher, Jessamine is lured by sweet murmurings and drugs to the seedier side of life, I can only marvel at what dark, dastardly deeds befall the young lovers in book three of The Poison Diaries. I can't wait.
Rating: 4 stars. Really liked it.
Favorite excerpt: "If they cannot help me, I do not know where else to turn. Jessamine, my gentle love, who taught me compassion for my fellow humans! She has fled, that much is clear, but to where? What drove her to commit murder, not once, but twice? If she has fallen under Oleander's power, then he is a hundred times more my enemy than he was before. Yet I am ashamed to admit: There is a kind of relief within me, to know that even Jessamine might be stained with sin. For I too have killed. I too am damned.
There is much I do not understand about the way humans think of punishment and forgiveness, and what happens to sinners when they die. I wish Jessamine was here to explain it to me, for the plants do not speak of heaven and hell. They speak only of the turning of the seasons and of starting anew each spring. Never despair, they counsel, for the orchard that is barren one season may bear fruit in plenty in the next.
Could Jessamine and I also begin again, in time? I do not know, but as I stand here on the rolling dock of this ship, watching the morning mist burn away and the profile of Venice grow visible at the horizon, I curse the plants for teaching me this way of thinking.
It fills me with the pain of longing. It fills me with the agony of hope."
Cover comment: Similar in style to the first cover but much darker with the coloring. Appropriate.
Book source: I received the hardcover from the publisher for my totally honest review.