A beautiful story

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The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford follows Leelo and Jaren and the poisonous lake that brought them together. Leelo lives on Endla, a magical land surrounded by Lake Luma and the Wandering Forest, both sustained by its people's magic and sacrifices. Endlans use their magic by singing, and if heard by unsuspecting ears, this magic can lead to death. Anything that touches the lake withers away and dies upon contact. When outsiders, those without magic, come to Endla, they given the choice to leave by crossing the lake or going through the forest, and they will never be heard from again. Those on the island who are born without magic are sent away for their own before the magic can affect them. Jaren, a boy who has just moved to a town nearby and has never heard about the lake before, hears a beautiful voice one day and does not feel the urge to cross the lake. One night, he is chased by a wolf, forcing him to cross the lake and head to Endla to escape his death. Here, he meets Leelo, who fights her duty to kill any outsider and help this boy return home to his family, safe and sound.

The setting is integral to the story. Upon a first look at the cover and a basic description of Endla, this feels like a cozy, cottage core-like setting, but the poisonous lake and killer forest give the setting a sinister feel. I really enjoyed all the world-building that went into this novel. It was unlike anything I personally have ever read before. The ideas of a poisonous lake and a living forest dependent upon their inhabitants to survive were something so interesting and compelling to me. The setting was one of the main factors that drew me to this book in the first place, and it kept me hooked while reading the whole thing.

To be completely honest, I didn't expect to love this book; I only expected to like it. I figured it would read like any YA fantasy novel I could pick up off the shelf, but I truly did love this book. The whole premise behind the story was intriguing, and while I did guess a few of the major elements and twists, I still felt surprised upon reading how everything played out. I was stressed the entire time, trying to figure out how Leelo and Jaren could be together, and if Leelo would ever see her brother again. I was completely satisfied with the ending, and not surprised by how Leelo's aunt and cousin treated Leelo and her mother and refused to ever leave their home. This was a beautiful story, and I look forward to reading more by Mara Rutherford in the future!