The Kinder Poison

Razorbill. Jun. 2020. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781984835215.
Gr 7-10–Zahru always believed she would grow up to be a Potionmaker like her mother, but she instead finds herself becoming a Whisperer like her father, communicating with animals rather than living a life of luxury as a more powerful magician. Everything changes when the ruler of Orkena announces his three heirs will compete in the Crossing, a race across the desert that culminates in a human sacrifice to gain ultimate power and a place on the throne. With the help of her friend Hen, Zahru is added to the guest list for the banquet where the heirs will select their teammates. One thing leads to another, and Zahru suddenly finds herself trapped in a sibling rivalry between two princes, which results in Zahru being marked as the competition’s human sacrifice. As she journeys across the desert with the heirs and their teams, Zahru must use not only her magic, but her strengths to change her fate, and maybe that of the kingdom. Mae has crafted a fascinating world with a unique magic structure that is wholly believable because of the vibrant characters within it. Zahru is instinctively driven to do the right thing, a trait that allows her to cut to the heart of the secondary characters, making even the most threatening or flawed seem good and worthy of redemption.
VERDICT With characters to love, to hate, and to love to hate, plus a plot full of adventure skillfully woven with suspense, this is a must-purchase for all YA collections.

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