Poison, by Chris Wooding is a darker fantasy novel that follows a sixteen year-old by the name of Poison (she picked it herself), who has spent the entirety of her life living in the dank and depressing Black Marshes. But when her baby sister is kidnapped by the sinister – and up until now supposedly fictional – Scarecrow, Poison does what no one has ever done before and sets off to get her back from the Phaerie King. Voyaging through dangerous phaerie worlds with a few trusty friends picked up along the way, she will have to unravel the mystery of the elusive Hierophant if she ever wants to get her sister back again.
Skilled gothic horror novelist Wooding weaves a tale that practically drips marsh water and cobwebs. From surviving a long night in the house of the Bone Witch to stealing a blood-drinking dagger from a pregnant Lady of Spiders, Posion is shuttled from one creepy threat to the next. But the stalwart old man Bram is a comforting companion, and the effervescent (if slightly clueless) beauty Peppercorn add a welcome dash of sunlight to the proceedings. But as they come closer and closer to the mysterious Hierophant, who creates and maintains all worlds, it is Poison alone who can determine the ultimate fate of the universe. After all, it is her story.
Poison is the sassy, gritty kind of character you need for a tale like this. Each new obstacle is just one more thing she needs to take care of before she can get her sister back, be it giant spider or animated corpse. She grows frustrated with people who accept the status quo, and though at times she rebels just for the sake of rebelling (ie: once she nearly kills everyone in a personal protest) at heart she wants only to have control over herself and her story. She’s a take-charge kind of girl, all right! Plus she’s smart and if not fearless than certainly very brave. And most importantly, she is compassionate and driven onward solely by the love for her baby sister – rather reminiscent of one Katniss Everdeen, if I do say so myself.
Wooding has a real talent for creeping you out, but it is matched easily by his masterful storytelling. He creates myths and fairytales that would make the Grimm Brothers proud, and then weaves them flawlessly into the story. Are they real or aren’t they? Towards the very, very end things get a little clunky, but his handling of Poison and her missing sister’s storyline is brilliant. Be sure to check out his other novels: The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray (great story sure to shiver your bones), and Storm Thief (dips into the steam-punk genre).