Bibliophile | Kalynn Bayron challenges fairy tale standards in ‘This Poison Heart’

This Poison Heart
by Kalynn Bayron
Bloomsbury

Growing plants in recycled milk cartons and empty glass jars ever since she could remember, Briseis finds she has a strange power over plants. Leaves turn to face her as if she were the sun and flowers bloom in her footsteps, but it is a power that her adoptive parents have spent her whole life trying to hide from the rest of the world.

Briseis found out that she could bring life back into dead plants and seeds to bloom in minutes, but it was becoming difficult to control her extraordinary powers. “Being wound up all the time, constantly watching my every move, and being careful not to provoke a response from a red oak or potted fern was exhausting.”

Unfortunately her high school grades weren’t good enough for her to take the college-level botany course she wanted to take at City College over the summer. So she experiments with her powers in a ravine off the well-trodden paths at the local park, experiments that involve the deadly poisonous water hemlock.

Although her birth mother had died when she little, when her mother’s sister (who she had been totally unaware of) dies, Briseis inherits the family home. Bringing the house’s rambling garden back to life, she discovers a secret door with no key, a garden filled with poisonous plants and generations of family secrets.

Written by the author of Cinderella is Dead, the heroine of the tale finds the strength to challenge everything she has been told is true. Kalynn Bayron challenges who constructs fairy tales and myths that have been told and retold over the generations – always by men “to showcase women as crazy, unpredictable and vindictive”.

Briseis has always wondered what it would be like to be true to herself, with no secrets and no hiding, and her ancestors aren’t going to let her rest until she accepts her place as the keeper of the power that lies at the heart of the poison garden.

Lezly Herbert


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