REVIEW: A Botanical Daughter by Noah Medlock

A Botanical Daughter is the debut horror novel from writer Noah Medlock. A sort of cosy horror, I think Medlock’s tale will appeal to fans of T. Kingfisher and A.G. Slatter. I will say, I do not normally gravitate towards horror so A Botanical Daughter was a slight departure from my usual reading choices. However, it was still an enjoyable read and is definitely macabre enough towards the end to appeal to gothic horror fans. The cover of A Botanical Daughter is also worth a mention, as it was the beautifully disturbing artwork which really drew me to the novel in the first place.

A Botanical Daughter The story follows two Victorian gentlemen, Simon and Gregor, taxidermist and botanist, lovers, living in a giant greenhouse sheltered from the prying eyes of their community. Both gentlemen explore their professions hidden away without interference from the outside world and are keen to keep it that way. Their lives seems set to carry on in this quiet isolation until Gregor’s latest exotic acquisition – a fungus which demonstrates signs of intelligence, sets them down a dark and dangerous experimental path. In A Botanical Daughter there is love, loss, murder, betrayal, and more plants than you can shake a stick at.

There were a lot of elements at play in A Botanical Daughter. I do enjoy a cute dark fantasy, and earlier on in the novel the juxtaposition of the cosier parts to the darker ones was great to read. The queer representation of Simon and Gregor, and their idyll of the Grimfern glasshouse, was also one of my favourite parts of A Botanical Daughter.  The setting of Grimfern felt very well researched (though I would fail at keeping a plastic plant alive so mine is hardly an expert opinion on such things) but the vivid descriptions of the flora which created their home were very good and created a beautiful setting in my mind. As the narrative progressed, it became less whimsical and more and more gruesome and disturbing.

Unfortunately, A Botanical Daughter did not quite hit the mark for me and I think there were two main reasons for this. Firstly, as I have said I do not tend to pick up horror books, so the later body horror elements of the novel were not my thing. For me personally there were parts that went beyond the enjoyably disturbing of a dark fantasy. However, each to their own and if you as a reader lean towards horror, gothic or otherwise, this may well feel fine for you.  The second reason was that I felt like I was left wanting in terms of characterisation. Although not all characters (Jennifer in particular felt very well formed and I genuinely cared for her), but certainly for our protagonists I often did not believe the plausibility of their choices or actions which jolted me out of the story somewhat. It is not even that I had to like them as characters to enjoy reading A Botanical Daughter, but not understanding their decisions as the novel progressed made it harder to enjoy the story.

A Botanical Daughter may not have been quite the right choice for me, but it was an interesting narrative and the premise of the story, Gregor and Simon’s unconventional found family, kept me reading until the end. Thank you to Noah Medlock and the team at Titan for sending me an advanced reader copy to review.

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Fiona Denton

Fiona Denton

Fiona is a former secondary school teacher and current stay at home parent to two very wild and active children. She lives with them and her husband in the UK and can often be found on a beach paddling in the North Sea or stomping through a forest with the sprogs and hounds. She loves to read and has always enjoyed fantasy novels, particularly the very dark and twisty ones with mythical creatures.