Fascinating YA fantasy

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THE KINDER POISON is a compelling and mind-blowing YA fantasy. Zahru lives in a kingdom of magic, but she inherited her magic from her father and is a Whisperer, someone who can talk to animals. While this might sound cool, it's considered lowly as there is not much you can actually do with such an ability. Animals aren't easy to reason with, and it won't start fires or win wars. She is mostly content with her lot in life, but she does wish she could be an Adventurer and see the world.

The god-king, the Mestrah, is dying and has invoked a deadly competition called The Crossing to choose which of his three children shall ascend to the throne. This race has them travel across the desert with checkpoints until they arrive at the final cave, where they shall sacrifice a human to gain power and be crowned as the champion and new Mestrah. To get a glimpse of all the finery and to eat the fantastic food there, Zahru and her friend Han have devised a plan to get Zahru a seat in the spectators section (Han already has a seat due to her magic) of where the three contestants will choose the two gifted individuals who will help them in the race.

However, the name they chose to put of Zahru's mother sets her on a course that she never would have chosen with potentially deadly consequences.

What I loved: The world and character building are really lush and immersive. The magic and mythology of this world are really unique and described enough to feel like the reader is transported there without knowledge dumps. The characters are beyond fantastic- they are three-dimensional and complex. They are all really engaging in different ways, including the three royals who are competing and those they choose as their helpers along the way. I love the way their backstories were all woven into the book and they came alive from the pages. Zahru's father, Fara, is another character that I grew to love, even though he hardly appears himself, through the stories that Zahru reveals about him.

The book has some really interesting themes about what makes a good leader, the value of human life, and the power of kindness. When we got to the part from where the title comes, it was incredible and so much begins to fit into place. The plot is all perfectly paced, and I love that we see the end of the race within the book- though the ending does have me eagerly awaiting the next installment (that ending is mind-blowing!). This is a book that gives all the feels, and I was very much there for it.

Final verdict: Highly compelling, unique, and lush, THE KINDER POISON is a delicious read for anyone who appreciates YA fantasy. Highly recommend for fans of THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, THE RED QUEEN, and AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. This book is not to be missed!

Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.