Incredible YA fantasy

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From the very first page, I was drawn to the world built by Natalie Mae. Orkena is a beautiful, magical place, as wonderful as it is flawed and as intriguing as it is mysterious. It is no mean feat to create a fictional setting in which a book takes place, and an even meaner feat to craft a world with its own religion, culture, and sense of tradition. I would say that Mae went above and beyond when it came to making the reader feel like they were really in a strange desert land filled with danger and semi-murderous, slightly entitled royalty.

The characters were equally engaging – passionate and independent Zahru, bold and brash Hen, cold and unhinged Kasta, stubborn but compassionate Jet, and wild and determined Sakira. You know characters are well written when you can’t help but feel you know them – their hopes and fears and aspirations. I loved that each character felt like they had redeeming qualities and even the villain of the story wasn’t all bad.

I also really appreciated that as much as Zahru wished it was different, her powers were always consistent. I’ve found that a lot of YA fantasy novels set the main character up to be someone with lackluster powers who, through some hardship, discovers they actually have awesome powers unlike any the world has ever seen. Although there’s nothing wrong with that particular angle, I liked that in The Kinder Poison, Zahru can still be her own hero without having to come into a rare ability – it’s enough that she’s a Whisperer.

The fantastic world-building, captivating characters, and overall fast pacing made The Kinder Poison a quick, fun read that kept my attention from start to finish. It’s everything a YA fantasy should be, and I simply cannot wait to read the next book in the series!