REVIEW: Belladonna by Adalyn Grace

Strangely, it’s the macabre and eerie intimacy with death that feels normal so it’s no extreme statement that gentleness within this casually gothic world would ensnare me as Death has in Adalyn Grace’s Belladonna. Set against a backdrop of poisonous herbology, haunted gardens, reaper magic, and a girl hand in hand with death, the soft moments of kindness in the relationships made Belladonna swirl and bubble perfectly. In the woods of dark fantasy, gothics, and dark academia this one felt minty fresh. Ultimately, yes, this is a gothic but it was hopeful in a dark world of books. More importantly, I had fun reading it.

BelladonnaBelladonna is like one of those old fantasy movies I would turn on in the middle of the night—masquerade balls, big colorful gowns, and magic tricks. Nothing felt more mesmerizing than sparkle and spectacle in an otherworld where it’s okay to feel things.

“’It’s said that five belladonna berries are all it takes to kill someone’” hooked me but by the end of the chapter, this depressed girl with knives and poison in her pocket got me square in the chest. Signa Farrow is a typical gothic heroine of marriageable age, but with a few key differences. She hates Death, loves poisonous botany, hopes to fall in love, appreciates well-made scones, and has the supernatural ability to visit death regularly.

When her aunt accidentally dies in a mishap, Signa is escorted to her cousin’s gothic estate. Within the sparkled dresses and bubbly drinks, Signa is consumed by murder and poison in the hallowed halls of Thorn Grove. Not long after her mother dies, Blythe is on her death bed with the same symptoms. Suspecting poison, Signa and her gentle companion, Death, resolve to solve the murder and save Blythe’s life.

While a murder mystery at its heart, Belladonna turns into a romance between two lonely people who have only ever known death and loss. What I appreciate most, as with most gothics, is the use of atmosphere for the relationship between Death and Signa. Dead leaves burning red and icy lakes are like dramatic highs that a young woman struggling with the societal norms of 19th century England feels for someone that feels like they belong in her life.

The winter masquerade ball, glittering snowflake masks, and a golden devil horned dancer with hair like starlight will remind readers of a gothic novel dressed in fantasy faerie worlds of Holly Black, the macabre fantasy fate of The Sandman, and the bright underworld of Lore Olympus.

I could feel the scent of deep pine trees, apple in the autumn breeze, the dried blood colors of the autumn leaves, and the sparks that came from a great romance. Trolleys stuffed with sweet sea treats, sticky buns with syrup, and plum jelly pastries are just a few of the Halloween sweets to find in Adalyn Grace’s descriptions.

The ending surprised me with some other promise. It’s that deep intake from discovering a new sparked interest for a new character after a wonderful ending to the first chapter. There’s something new to discover yet.

Monster magic becomes a dark delight in Belladonna.

4 Stars

Read Belladonna by Adalyn Grace

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Brigid Flanagan

Brigid Flanagan

Brigid spends her life searching the deep, dark world of words and storytelling. She spends her time thinking about folklore, mythology, lyrical sagas, and a mixture of all types of romantic legendary tales. They review @thefantasyinn and have written for media outlets on anything having to do with bookish content and nerdy fandom.