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The Kinder Poison #1

The Kinder Poison

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Perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Holly Black, this enthralling fantasy adventure follows a teenage girl chosen to be the human sacrifice in a deadly game between three heirs who will do anything for the crown.

Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.

With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.

416 pages, Hardcover

First published June 16, 2020

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About the author

Natalie Mae

5 books471 followers

Natalie Mae is the critically acclaimed author of The Kinder Poison trilogy and other young adult novels. She has also been a freelance editor and Pitch Wars mentor, and she feels it notable to mention she once held a job where she had to feed spiders. Find her online at nataliemaebooks.com.

*Note that this Goodreads account is not monitored. To get in touch with Natalie, please visit her Instagram or website.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,116 reviews
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
October 31, 2020
Well I think I missed the memo on this one so here it is for others:

Memo - This isn't an exciting action adventure fantasy.

This is more of a story about relationships, that happens to be set in a fantasy world, in which people need to get from A to B, and do lots of arguing, self reflection, falling in and out of 'like', lamenting about their relationships with their parents, and more arguing. There are a couple of scuffles, a few magicky wee moments and some good old sibling rivalry. I think it is an interesting world with a solid magical system but for me the lack of action meant we didn't get to see these elements realise their potential. Maybe more will happen in book two? Judging by the reviews this is another case of "just not for me".
Profile Image for Tricia Levenseller.
Author 19 books12.6k followers
August 17, 2022
I really enjoyed this one! The first person natation is hilarious and just what I needed. Also, we all know how I live for a well-written bad boy.
Profile Image for Cait Jacobs (Caitsbooks).
303 reviews14.3k followers
June 26, 2020
*Thank you so much to Penguin Teen for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!!*

Quick Stats:
4.5/5 Stars
Characters: 5/5
Setting: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Plot and Themes: 4.5/5
Awesomeness Factor: 4/5
Review in a Nutshell: The Kinder Poison surprised me with it's humor and addictive qualities.

“All good stories start with bad decisions.”

The Kinder Poison is a fantastic debut novel. The world-building is interesting and immersive, with fascinating mythology and a fun magic system. Fun is probably the word I would say best describes this book- from the writing style, to the plot and the characters- it was a fun ride.

The writing style was easy to jump into, but what I loved most was the sarcastic tone. It brought a lot of humor to the book that I didn't expect, and I'm obsessed with it. The writing style also lends itself well to the fast pace of the book. From page one I was hooked, and I continued to be hooked until I finished it. And that ending? Let's just say I'm very excited for the sequel.

Now, for my favorite part, the characters. I really enjoyed the cast of characters we got to know over the course of this book. Zahru is an amazing heroine. Her desire for adventure is unmatched, and her friendship with Hen is such a great part of this book.

We had a lot of morally grey characters, which is my favorite thing, and I really enjoyed learning the histories and backstories of the characters we meet. Also, there's a great romance building. It does feature a love triangle, but so far I don't hate it!

"No matter what you're born to, you can be more."

- Conclusion -

Pros- great writing style, strong characters, interesting world
Cons- love triangle, world-building could be a little less vague
Overall- 4.5/5 stars.
The Kinder Poison was an amazing read and I am so excited to see where the series goes!!

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Profile Image for abthebooknerd.
270 reviews144 followers
June 18, 2020
“All good stories start with bad decisions.”

And thus begins the tale of an epic, thrilling adventure that follows Zahru, a young girl desperately seeking adventure, who becomes the human sacrifice and pawn in a deadly game of cat and mouse between three heirs 👑

The World

This was such an enthralling adventure. Everything from the color, warmth, and complexity of the world, to the characters, to the strength and compassion of Zahru - it was all so breathtaking! I felt like my imagination couldn’t contain all of the beauty. The magic system was unlike anything I’ve ever read, and I found it so intriguing. The whole world glitters and glows with sand, magic, and heart.

The Characters

Zahru was such a refreshing protagonist. She was kind, without being weak and dependent. It was also refreshing to have her make some actually smart decisions, as painful as they were to witness, because even if they were right, they still hurt 😂 If you know, you know.

Zahru is also hilarious, and talks too much, and is the first to admit she’s made a mistake - which is my favorite kind of heroine, along with the snarky ones.

“Daydreaming is all fun and games until you’re chosen as a human sacrifice, and having to sneak through a dilapidated town with a deserting prince and the risk of a treason charge.”

The Romance

NOW, getting to the important bits...

I know he’s done some horrible things. And yeah, Jet’s a nice guy. BUT KASTA. Listen, just - I’m trash for him, and that’s the tea. Jet was nice, as well, but I mean...C’mon, America. Get with this broody boi named Kasta. I'm so excited/scared to see how he develops as the series goes on!

This was all just so magical, and an all-around dazzling adventure complete with hope, romance, and kindness. A truly wonderful fantasy debut that shows love and compassion can conquer all. If you’re fans of An Ember in the Ashes, and similar books that bring with it the warmth and magic inspired by ancient times, I highly suggest you pick this one up!

A big thank you to Penguin Teen for gifting me with this ARC! You can order your copy now!

To check out my Kinder Poison post on Bookstagram, click here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBlq4BggG0s/
Profile Image for Ria Visweswaran.
101 reviews13 followers
July 10, 2020
If you are a fan of the Darkling from Shadow and Bone, Maven from Red Queen or Warner from Shatter Me, this is a must-read.

I’m trying not to sound like a rabid fangirl, but this is the YA fantasy/romance I’ve been looking for all year!

I will say that I think the comparison to Red Queen is very accurate so keep that in mind. I’ll also confess that I almost wrote this book off in the beginning, but it vastly improves. Here are a few things about The Kinder Poison that might initially annoy you, and why you should stick with it.

There’s a Love Triangle: But both love interests are compelling in their own way. The eldest prince, in particular, is the exact kind of misunderstood villain that we all adore. In the same vein, there’s definitely some insta-attraction but it gets retconned pretty quickly.

The main character makes some dumb decisions in the beginning: She becomes less naive as the story progresses. Once she’s thrown into a life or death situation, she finds multiple ingenious ways to connive her way to safety. Zahru’s character arc is so good.

The world is not entirely fleshed-out: This is a fully character-driven book. But, I also get the sense that much more of this world will be explored in the sequel.


Zahru is a whisperer, which means she can talk to animals. This is considered an inferior type of magic in the class system that exists. One day, her best friend Hen sneaks them aboard a ship that takes them from their small village to the royal palace. Unfortunately, she gets embroiled in a life long feud between two brothers who are heirs to the throne and is forced to become the human sacrifice in a competition to determine who will rule the kingdom. As she faces the dangerous desert, she comes to understand and care for the same people who have been commanded to kill her.

Characters and Relationships

Zahru: Our main character is underpowered and actually stays that way. There’s no hidden talent that makes her the most powerful being imaginable, she has to think her way out of problems. The best thing about Zahru is her kind heart. She is genuinely a forgiving and loving person with a great sense of sarcasm to boot.

Sakira: The youngest heir, Sakira is the life of the party. Her charm makes her beloved by many subjects. However, she has some hidden depth. She is willing to do bad things for the greater good, no matter the cost to her soul.

Jet: Second in line, Jet is the reluctant heir. His father wants him to be king but he has other plans. Jet is the kindest to Zahru, and while their romance is nothing special, I loved learning about his past.

Kasta: The eldest in line for the throne, Kasta is a tragic figure, made a monster by his circumstances. He has never been enough for his father so he has to use his ingenuity and resourcefulness to get ahead. Zahru and Kasta gave me all the feels. Their explosiveness, push and pull dynamic and chemistry leapt off the page. It has been a while since I’ve been this invested in a relationship, and I don’t think redemption is out of the question. Unlike the Darkling, he is still very young and unsure about who he wants to be. It will take time, but I’m hoping he breaks free of his shadows. The book says it best:

(...) “Kindness is like a poison. Sometimes it takes time to work.”

The start was a bit rocky, but this ended up being a favourite of the year. Best believe I'll be bribing Natalie Mae for the next book!
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
691 reviews98 followers
June 29, 2020
Thank you so much to Bookish First and Razorbill for my finished copy of The Kinder Poison!  It is a gorgeous hardcover and for my fellow book sniffers, has that great sawdust smell 😂

Tons of sibling rivalry, a magical and dangerous race, a taste of political intrigue, and some interesting family dynamics are all aspects that drew me to - and kept me interested in the book while reading.

The sibling rivalry is the base for the entire plot, so lets start there.  One of the three has to make it across the desert first and complete the sacrifice in order to become the new ruler.  First we meet Sakira who might love to party and appear reckless, but is ruthless and refuses to be dismissed.  Kasta is the eldest and has a paranoid darkness about him. Jet is the second son, not wanting the kingdom but determined to see his sister safely in charge.  

The history between the siblings and the Royal family make up most of the background and world building of the book.  The book is SO character driven that it makes most sense to talk about those relationships.  They are complicated, real, interesting, and all competing for their father's approval, as well of that of the nation and the innate power given by completing the human sacrifice.

Each sibling is competing with a team of 2 helpers, and the dynamics within the groups are all so different and equally entertaining.  Kasta I think had the most interesting group, including a demon shifter named Maia.  Her story is totally heartbreaking and between her demon aspect and Kasta's insanity, they set up the main twist for book 2.  The best part was that for every twist and turn and bit of character development.....right until the very, very end, I had NO damn idea who was going to win that race. 

The race itself isn't all that interesting, the groups do have some hurdles to overcome but most of the barriers come from the siblings detaining each other or trying to kidnap the human sacrifice, Zahru. I haven't talked about her yet because she's literally a stable girl that snuck into the palace, and somehow is the bravest person ever. She has no interesting backstory, no anecdotes like the siblings have, no life story that indicates where she got her cunning from....and I docked a star for yet another boring lead.  Thankfully the siblings carried it.

Each sibling really was truly and uniquely interesting enough to make me keep reading the book quickly.  I liked Jet a lot, he is the main male character (ish) and I might have liked to stroll in the starlit desert with him too. Ha.

Just to touch on the magic system - almost everyone is born with some magical talent in the land of Orkena.  From animal whisperers to sound benders and firespinners, everyone has a place.  There was nothing terribly extraordinary about this but some of the individual talents were cool.

There was a lot of vivid imagery and good scenic descriptions of everything from clothes to horses to the land.  I like Mae's writing style because there is just enough prose and banter to make her story seem real, but not enough to make it purple and boring.  I wish there was more world building - but this book had to focus on establishing the character background and future political rivalries as well as the Crossing itself.  The history that mattered was there, some quite brutal, but what about the mood of the people in general? The surrounding nations that are brewing this war/conflict going forward?  

All in all, definitely a great read if you like sibling rivalries, friendships, banter, danger and magic, with a twist of romance, all swirled into one cunning race for the future of the kingdom.  I would definitely recommend it.

Thank you again to Bookish First and Razorbill for my copy, all opinions are my own!
Profile Image for Arundhati.
157 reviews44 followers
May 20, 2021
5 shining stars to this wonderful book. This is a debut novel and I cannot begin to explain how much I absolutely LOVED this book. This was everything I loved and some more.

"ALL good stories start with bad decisions."

This book drew me in with the first sentence itself. It follows the story of a girl named Zahru, a common stable girl with a heart of an explorer. She has spent all her life in this small forgettable town and hatches a plan to sneak into the royal banquet for one night. What follows after can be easily called the epic series of unfortunate events where she accidentally gets named as the human sacrifice for a deadly game. The rest if the book chronicles her journey throughout the game with the 3 competing heirs Jet, Katsa and Sakira.

As the major focus of the book is the characters and there relationships lets talk about the wonderful cast
Zahru - The whole book is in her pov. She is probably the most likable characters I have come across in a long long time. She remind me a little of Cress from the Lunar chronicles. Zahru has spent all her life in the small town and filled her heads with all tales of adventure. Her innocent wishes, a little self doubt and wishful thinking is something everyone can relate with. She is kind and sees the best in people. Her character arc is amazing. Seriously. She is nothing extra ordinary when it comes to magic yet probably the strongest out of all. Also all she wants is good food. Now who cannot love that?

Jet - Our righteous knight in shining armour of a prince. Ok so there is nothing wrong with his character but nothing new. He is the typical goody goody prince who comes to Zahru's rescue and probably the best one to save the kingdom. The favored prince. I liked his moments and everything. He is the ideal prince for whom I knew everything will finally work out.

Kasta - OK fine call me a monster sympathizer but no one can deny that his was the most interesting character arcs. For the hand fate dealt him, damn I cannot help not feeling sorry for him. I literally cried during his parts. For all what he has gone through, he deserves so much more. Yes he is paranoid, distrustful, petty, merciless and cruel. I get it. But well read it for yourself and you'll know why I deeply root for him. If anyone deserves to be king it is Kasta and I stand by it.

Other than these 3, there is a whole cast of supporting characters who are equally wonderful and memorable. It is not easy to make so many characters shine through in these many pages. There is a huge focus on sibling rivalry and all the sibilings have distinct characterization that it gets difficult to root for a single one.

Coming to the plot. The story as it promises is quiet high staked. The initial part of story felt more like a comedy of error and with Zahru's pov, it was filled with humor. I remember grinning ear to ear while reading. Zahru as the sacrifice gets to travel with all 3 teams and it is such a fun time reading those parts. One fair warning though. For people entering the book expecting lot of action, well they might be a little disappointed. There was not much action rather more of reflecting, introspection and conversation, which works really well for me. Not sure if everyone prefers that.

As you can guess since Kasta was my favorite, I have boarded the ship which is bound to sink. I mean who can fault me for my wishful thinking. Zahru and Kasta would make such an interesting couple but well I know that's not gonna happen( still fingers crossed , maybe the author will listen to my plea).

Overall this is probably one of the best things I have read so far this year. Cannot wait enough for the sequel after that ending. This one is definitely an underrated gem.
Profile Image for Athena of Velaris.
483 reviews129 followers
February 22, 2023
“All good stories start with bad decisions.”

This book was a lot of fun, and I'm honestly shocked that it isn't super popular. Following Zahru, a girl accidentally chosen to be the sacrifice in a deadly tournament in which three royals compete for the crown as they race across a dangerous desert, The Kinder Poison had an intense plot, compelling writing, and an interesting world. A minimal amount of politics mixed together seamlessly with adventure, romance, friendship, and self discovery.

"Do you know why it's important to face our fears? [..] Because that's the only way we can change them."

Zahru was a great main character, mainly because her strength came from her kindness (hence the title). She wasn't overly skilled or intelligent, but that never slowed her down because of how easily she was able to empathize and understand those around her, even when they were villains. I can appreciate the message that this book drove home: kindness--quite literally--can kill.

"You have the kind of power that stays with someone for a lifetime. Magical fire awes, magical swords cut. But not a single person on their deathbed remembers those things. They remember the people who loved them."

Jet--the prince/competitor/love interest--was fine; he didn't stand out like Zahru did. He was almost too perfect, and his motivation made little to no sense. His relationship with Zahru came out of nowhere, and though it was cute, it wasn't believable. That being said, I enjoyed the banter within his crew, and appreciated his growing relationship with his siblings.

"Kindness is like a poison. Sometimes it takes time to work."

The villain was surprisingly complex and interesting, and though he was horrible, it was easy to understand why Zahru managed to empathize with him. His backstory explained his actions without endearing him to the readers: it was clear he was still the bad guy. The other characters had similar complexity, and filled their necessary roles without unbalancing the rest of the book.

"I'm looking for a secret."

As prementioned, the plot was fast and intense, keeping the attention of the reader until the very last page. No event was overly predictable, and it is obvious--even now--that foreshadowing for the next book has been done expertly. The dialogue was strong and funny, and though the writing wasn't exceptional, it fit with the feel of the story. The main reason I gave The Kinder Poison four instead of five stars was the lack of motivation of the love interest and the obvious convenience of the main romance.

"Leave the monsters to the monsters."

Overall, this book is excellent. I'd recommend it to fans of fast paced, high stakes fantasy in a heartbeat. If you enjoyed the early part of the Throne of Glass series, you'd enjoy this book (and trust me, I don't say that lightly).
Profile Image for Yeganeh.
544 reviews217 followers
January 26, 2022
Reread: 14/06/21

So this reread was absolutely random. My friend just told me the sequel will be out in June and i have no idea why the hell i forgot it but as soon as i found out i had to reread it because i have temporarily Alzheimer🙃

This time however i have to lower my rating to 4 stars.

I honestly wasn’t surprised to find a triangle in this book. I have so many thoughts about it, but I don’t want to spoil things for you guys. The pacing was perfect and loved the writing style of the author. It’s too bad it doesn’t have multiple POVs. I really wanted to know more about the three royal heirs. I quite enjoyed the world building and the magic system. I hope there’s more magic in the next book.

While they are not my favorite trope, I did not mind the love triangle in this story. I was actually surprised in myself as this one even occurs with brothers, yet it was written in a way where it made a lot of sense in the story. There is the option that I hope she chooses in the end, but I have heard others that prefer the other. There is a choice made in this novel, but it could all change in the next, so it will be interesting to see the direction the author takes with the romance.

Overall, It was a great start to a new series. I enjoyed every minute of it. The book obviously ends with a shocking cliffhanger  and I can’t wait to know what happens next.

Recommend it?

First read: 12/09/20
~4.5 stars~

Wow. I literally went for the book blindly and i didn't have any expectation despite the hype and i have to say i enjoyed it so much.

this novel makes me very excited to read the sequel! Each character has their own motivations and were all written well. After the unexpected ending, it will be very interesting to see how the sequel brings everything together. The race itself was okay, as far as action went. Instead, it was a fantastic place for me to learn about the different characters.

The general pacing of the story is steady as it is neither fast nor slow. The magic abilities tied to a person’s value is a very interesting concept as a social structure as well as the politics with the race to determine a new ruler. This was definitely a story worth reading and I loved the narration of the audiobook! I hope that the sequel lives up to my high expectations based on how well this first novel turned out!
Profile Image for Rachel Kathryn Wright.
408 reviews17 followers
September 25, 2020
I love when books are character driven, and this one was so good. The siblings Jet, Kasta, and Sakira were all very interesting and had great backstories. While the main character Zahru, didn’t have an interesting backstory and I felt all of the other characters were more interesting. And the magic system I hope to see more of it in the next book because it was really interesting especially the powers that Maia has. The world building was good but I wanted more from it. Overall, this is one of my favorite sibling stories that has a rivalry.
Profile Image for ♠ TABI⁷ ♠.
Author 15 books485 followers
Want to read
October 9, 2019
the younger me that religiously rewatched The Black Stallion Returns and Hidalgo wants this book now

Profile Image for Jessica Reads It.
547 reviews30 followers
August 3, 2021
Confession - Did I buy Kinder Poison because of the gorgeous cover? Oh yeah........ In my defense, the book cover is quite spectacular and, the choice of colors- royal purple and bright gold scream, "Bookstagrammable".

While my initial intentions were slightly superficial, Kinder Poison simply bewitched me with its splendid cast of characters and its superbly written plotline. It had me guessing right up until the very end, with stunning betrayals, and revelations that expose a web of lies, decades in the making.

Natalie May has masterfully penned the Kingdom of Orkena and the concept of Whisperers- individuals embued with magical gifts. In a YA world chock full of sassy and headstrong female leads, Zahru was a breath of fresh air with her insatiable thirst for adventure. Her slight naivety of the world around here, combined with her sharp sarcastic humor made for quite an enjoyable read. The simplicity of her desire to experience life, for the sake of memories, void of any grand ambitions of world dominance, made her highly relatable and loveable.

In fact, it is this very desire, that provides the catalyst for Kinder Poison, and propels Zahru into the dangerous race of the "Crossing" and smack dab between the royal heirs. I relished the ability of Natalie May to transform a simple sibling rivalry between Jet and Kasta, each fighting for their father's favor and throne, into something darker and quite substantial. Indeed, the very premise of Kinder Poison hangs between the threads of jealousy and unspoken words woven between these rival princes.

Zahru's evolution, throughout Kinder Poison, was exceptionally written, as she soon realizes that the glamor of fairytales, and the stories of adventures she once thrived on, are merely fabrications by those wishing to cover the sad truth of reality. This realization provides the impetus for our young heroine to shed her childish desires of living in a fantasy world and accept that all power must come with a cost. And that perhaps, "You don't need a prince in shining armor to save you, sometimes you have to rescue yourself."

I enjoyed reading the antics of Zahru, and, her best friend, Hen, the purity and sincerity of their friendship were delightful. I loved how despite their differences in upbringing and personality, they still manage to stay true to themselves.

While Kinder Poison can be compared to "Hunger Games", I found the dangerous race of the "Crossing" to be more intense and intimate. The writing style was fast-paced, descriptive but not overly so, and brimming with personality that is a testament to well-developed characters.

I loved the overall sense of upliftment, "No matter what you're born to, you can be more" and the ode to unconventional heroes.

Recommended for lovers of Fantasy| Young Adult| Romance | Magic | High Fantasy

Similar authors: Holly Black, Victoria Schwab, and Adrienne Young.
Profile Image for Jypsy .
1,524 reviews60 followers
June 22, 2020
Thank you FFBC, Edelweiss and Razorbill for a complimentary copy. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Kinder Poison
By: Natalie Mae

Some years ago, I loved a movie called Hidalgo about a horse race across a brutal and deadly desert. The Kinder Poison's synopsis immediately took me back to that time, and I knew I had to read this book.

The heroine, Zahru, wants so much more than life has given her. In a world of magical powers, she can speak to animals, a low ranking ability that will never raise Zahru above her current station. So, when the opportunity to sneak into the royal palace presents itself, Zahru and her friend, Hen, act in haste to sneak in. They are going to the Crossing ceremony where the three potential heirs to the throne will choose teams, essentially, to cross the dangerous desert sands with them. The first heir to complete the Crossing and kill the appointed human sacrifice wins. Basically, a lot of bad luck and some bad decisions toss Zahru into the mix as the human sacrifice.

Now, her goal is to survive this ordeal. As the story progresses, Zahru learns much more about the possible heirs, two guys and one girl, and a potential triangle thing maybe hangs around with the two guys? I'm not very interested in that aspect and could skip it. Zahru is young and grows as a character in numerous ways. I like her dry wit and flat sense of humor. Zahru is one of many excellent and well written characters, but I won't go into that now.

A lot happens in this story, but it's not so complicated as to be confusing. The world building is solid and straight forward without all the extraneous details that can drag the plot along so slowly. I was entertained, riveted, amused, annoyed and wanting more than the ending gave me! This book is a fabulous work of young adult fantasy fiction, and I loved it. Definitely read The Kinder Poison asap!
Profile Image for Nash (all too unwell).
315 reviews840 followers
April 15, 2021
I may reduce it to 2 stars
I shuld have just read Scythe......instead I did this to myself
This book was painfully boring nd ahhh I hate every character
They are the most boring people ever....
The romance was blehh
Idk how this book has 5 star ratings
Some parts were okay and that is the only reason I kept gng...I wanted to see how it ended
Guess which was my fav part......

I will write a review when I regain some of my brain cells
Profile Image for Aarushi.
293 reviews78 followers
December 24, 2021
*4.5 stars

“All good stories start with bad decisions.”

The fact that I've heard no one talk about this book/series like ever is CRIMINAL, I tell you. It's so good, and I know that past Aarushi knew what she was doing when she put this on her tbr like a year ago 😌

Also, the cover = stunning, beautiful, never been done before, one of a kind, etc. etc.

The Kinder Poison follows Zahru, who is, quite literally, the daughter of a stable hand who trains and acts as a vet in their small village. In this world, particularly in Zahru's country, most people have some kind of magical ability, be it with air/wind, talking to animals, mind-control, or working with poisons- the possibilities are endless.

Those that do not have any powers, though, are the outcasts of society- they are sent away to special homes, where they live on the outskirts of the country and are only really needed during a Crossing, when one of them are chosen as the human sacrifice to be sacrificed at the end of it.

What is a Crossing, you ask? It's when the royal children, heirs to the royal throne, compete in a week-long competition to travel across the desert and reach the finish line before their siblings, while competing tasks. The winner is given the crown of the country.

Now, all Zahru, a simple animal Whisperer (she can talk to animals, this type of power being one of the least powerful and insignificant abilities out there) just wanted to go to the palace and partake in its legendary parties. But, because of some mistakes that were out of her hands, she's become the human sacrifice. Doesn't make very much sense, but just go with it, okay?

Up first, we have three very dangerous (and entrancing) siblings who all pretty much want to use Zahru for their own means. Their chances of actually caring about her? Pretty low, tbh. Now Zahru is stranded in the desert with three people (and their entourages) who want to kill her, and she has to find a way out, before she ACTUALLY gets murdered. Fun, right? 🤪

characters -

Zahru- QUEEN. I love Zahru sm. Does she make bad decisions? Yes. Can she be an idiot half the time? Yes. But she has the spirit, and that's all that matters 🥰 I also find it hilarious how I was on the verge of thinking that at least during 50% of this book that Zahru was actually going to die this time around. Like this girl survived so many near death experiences that she can actually write about each of them on her college admissions and still have some more to talk about that she didn't mention during interviews.

Kasta- Morally gray love interest CHECK. What a king. He's so interesting. That ending! I have never not loved this man throughout the book. if we don't get more of his character in the next book I will RIOT. That is my only requirement for the next one. More Kasta. (and more Zahru x Kasta omg I love them together)

Jet- Jet = the Cal Calore of this book...

(fun fact: when I was super duper young and read Red Queen (reason why I remember very little about that series other than loving it and being a Cal stan) I was a Cal girl, something that went against pretty much every single person I knew irl who had also that series (one friend). needless to say, I love both boys now though <3)

...He's boring. Self-righteous, I suppose. It's giving hero complex. I mean, who is Jet in front of Kasta?

Sakira- Manipulative queen 🤪😌 We stan girlbosses like Sakira. I mean, at least the girl never lied- Zahru DID have the wildest times with her. Sakira is actually the epitome of girlboss, gaslight, gatekeep, too. My favorite character after Zahru and Kasta, tbh

“You have the kind of power that stays with someone for a lifetime. Magical fire awes, magical swords cut. But not a single person on their deathbed remembers those things. They remember the people who loved them.”

writing -

I'm so shocked that I've never heard this book talked about anywhere, because it was very well-written, in my opinion. The pacing was great- it was fast paced from the beginning, and a lot happened that I did not expect to happen. The author did a great job with the writing, too, because I personally very much enjoyed the lovely descriptions of the world. It was a lot more of showing instead of telling. Very excited to read more books by this author :)

plot -

I think this is where I took half a star off just because I thought the plot at the ending rushed a lot. In the middle, there was a lot of back and forth, and I think if the ending would have been a little more stretched out, it would have made it even better.

That being said, I did love reading the plot of this book. It gave Tower of Dawn, We Hunt the Flame, and An Ember in the Ashes. The plot was indefinitely more different than other fantasies- it's chosen one but deadly.

I just found the race to be entertaining. The author didn't let it slow down, and just when things calmed down at one point, something else drastic happened. For a plot where most of it took place in the middle of a desert and was mostly about traveling through said desert, it was fun to read. I was never bored and at times, I couldn't put the book down.

world-building -

While I do wish we would have gotten more of the world-building outside of the area where the book took place, it was still well-constructed. It's not the most unique world I've ever read, but it was beautiful to read about.

Their magic system was so. cool. Especially Sakira and Kasta's powers- it wasn't the normal type of abilities one would find. But my question is, being a Whisperer would be so useful (as shown in this book)- so why did people in this book regard it as a low-level ability 😃 it's infinitely more useful than praying to the gods- that's always a 50/50 chance, at least.

I think this book set up the politics of the world very well for the next book, and it's only made me even more excited to read that one.

overall -

First of all, TEAM KASTA FOR LIFE. Second of all, I ship Sakira and her BFF so hard. There was something a little ✨fruity✨ going on between those two without a doubt...

Lovers of YA fantasy: this is your next read. I need more people to read this book. I need more people to make fanart so I can better envision the characters. I just need more people to talk to about this book period.

I can't explain how pumped I am to read the second book. The depressing thing is, the third book doesn't come out until nearly a year from now, in December 2022. It's like all the books I desperately need the sequels for will only come out in Fall/Winter of 2022 😭 Bloodmarked got pushed back too, I heard 😭

“Do you know why it's important to face our fears? [..] Because that's the only way we can change them.”

Not doing that well but 5 stars! I loved this one so much <3
Profile Image for Mac (bookshelfpalace).
432 reviews4 followers
June 15, 2020
Thank you Penguin Teen for sending me an e-arc copy of the book.
If you like rivalling royalty and books that centre around a battle for the throne, I highly recommend picking up The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae.

This book is about a race across the desert called, “The Crossing.” All of the heirs take part in this race, and at the end they need to perform a human sacrifice to ascend to the throne. As Zahru gets caught up in the feud between the heirs, she is forced to become the human sacrifice.

The highlight of this book for me was the characters. The characters were well thought out and I enjoyed reading about all of them throughout the book - especially Zahru. I loved Zahru. She is clever, understanding, and her kindness throughout the book made me love her as a protagonist.

I also really enjoyed learning about the magic system and world. I liked exploring all of the limitations and consequences that come from using your powers in this world. I loved learning about all the different types of powers.

This will definitely be a book I’ll be recommending to anyone looking for a new YA fantasy!
Profile Image for Katie T.
1,006 reviews87 followers
January 17, 2023
3rd reading and officially lowering rating from 5 to 4 stars. Still an excellent fantasy debut that flew very under the radar at its release.

Hello 3rd read in anticipation of the Sweetest Betrayel bc I can't remember anything ...

Reread 2nd time. 4 stars this time around but I'm not changing my original rating of 5 stars.


Damnnnnnn damn damn 😍😭😍😭😍
Profile Image for Allison.
163 reviews128 followers
June 18, 2020
Read the full review at www.universewithinpages.com

Thank you to Penguin Random House and Netgalley for providing me an ARC of this book!

I got this book about a week back and I really like the concept of the book. It follows the main character, Zahru, who was chosen to be the sacrifice of a royal kingdom. There are three heirs to the throne who must race across the desert to kill her in order to ascend to the throne. This world is full of magic, including both “lowly magic” such as talking to animals and more powerful elemental magic. The court politics add a lot to this book, and the dynamics between the three heirs and even Zahru are interesting and well thought out.

I did enjoy the magic system in it, and I liked how it was intertwined throughout the story. Sometimes, I did wish that there were less types of magic, since it got a little confusing as to what the extents were. I wish that there were more clear categories of magic too, since there were so many characters with so many different powers. It was interesting that Zahru could talk to animals though (being a Whisperer), and I feel like it’s a more unique type of magic. I haven’t seen much of it, besides the last book I read, Hunted by the Sky, by some coincidence.
Profile Image for sam.
369 reviews543 followers
October 23, 2021

now that was interesting. kastazahru endgame or else 🔪
Profile Image for Trisha (semi-hiatus).
243 reviews126 followers
October 18, 2020
I really liked it, but hated the romance.

Let me tell you, this would've been a solid 5-stars had it not been for the romance. And other people might have liked this book for that very reason, but I'm not other people.

Other people, are people who like love triangles. And like them between two brothers.

And let me tell you something about me: I hate love triangles, with very few books making the 5-star cut for me. And between brothers? Absolutely hate them. And if the girl keeps changing her mind every time she's away from one and near the other? (I don't think there's a superlative for hate)

All within a single week.

It's one thing to break someone's heart because you're actually in love with someone else, but it's a completely different thing if it's the brother of the guy you're in love with. And it is a really, really other-wordly thing, if it happens within the span of a single week. It's a big no-no for me, and I only make exceptions if I didn't actually know it was going to happen, or if I liked the other plot devices advertised to me more.

This book would be perfect without the romance. That's my opinion.

Now, other than the romance, this book was just awesome!! The was really good world-building, the plot was really interesting, you were constantly being forced to change your opinions of the characters depending on what new disaster came about, learning all kinds of secrets that made you doubt yourself so much; I just really loved it!

I'm really intrigued about what happens next, since that was one hell of a cliff-hanger we were left with, and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book!(when will you be here 2021?)

So, I really liked it overall, and I recommend it to people who like love triangles( between brothers), or can ignore the aforementioned love triangle; awesome world-building, characters with cool powers (even though they don't make sense sometimes), books set in deserts (I was really surprised by this revelation, but I actually have not read a lot of books set in deserts), and cases of mistaken identity.
Profile Image for Mira Mio.
289 reviews51 followers
October 15, 2020
Баянные приключения в пустыне с секси принцами и моралью.


Героиню тащат из пункта А в пункт Б, а она хочет домой и спать. Интрига в попытках побега, черных тайнах похитителей и перевоспитании злодеев во имя Луны. Иногда попадаются простые бандиты и древние гробницы, но жиденько.
Короче, сюжета нет.


Героиня - невинная лохушка с самой слабой магией. Но, во-первых, она не сдается, а во-вторых, у нее есть самоирония. А в-третьих, это книга для девочек-подростков, шо вы хотите.

Поскольку сюжета нет, остается смотреть на попутчиков: на их веселые перепалки снаружи и страшные шрамы внутри. По традиции есть два принца - плохой и хороший. И плохая принцесса. И плохой-хороший оборотень. И инсталав.
И меня почему-то никто не бесит!

☆Мир: логичный и жестокий. Условное средневековье, обжигающая пустыня, магические сословия, рабство и скорпионы. Мрачные краски разбавляются тем фактом, что мы смотрим глазами наивной лохушки с букетом подорожника для всех.
Где-то зреет война, но это второй том.

☆Язык: ничего выдающегося, ничего плохого. Для дебюта уверенно стоит на ногах.


Я поставила четыре звезды и получила море удовольствия, потому что я люблю бессмысленные приключения для девочек. А еще мы с автором во многом на одной волне в плане морали, и это бе��ценно.

☆Похожее: "Shadow of the Fox" Juli Kagawa. Только у Кагавы каша погуще и больше звездочек в послужном списке.

"Magical fire awes, magical swords cut. But not a single person on their deathbed remembered those things. They remembered the people who loved them" (c)

P. S. Вангую, что во второй книге героиня будет подманивать злодеев голосом Каа: "я вижу в тебе свет, я вижу добро, ты не плохой, ты несчастное дитя..."
А потом хрясь Палкой Добра по голове - и в кусты бездыханное тело. Перевоспитывать.
Profile Image for ;3.
394 reviews812 followers
June 25, 2020
the main character can talk to animals that is literally the cutest shit 🥺

imma start off by saying that i despise love triangles, but this book is so much more than some dumb back-and-forth between two princes. and it‘s so entertaining too?? i don’t think i was ever bored. like, it’s a more character driven story rather than something that’s action-packed, so i guess it depends on ur personal taste, but still.

zahru might start off as ur typical meek heroine but she grows so much throughout the course of the book and i found her so endearing. the other characters were fleshed out well too—there wasn’t a single character that fell flat.

it was also super refreshing to see so many easygoing female friendships and trust between girls. no pettiness or jealousy. and, although i wish the main characters themselves weren’t cis hets, there is no such thing as homophobia or racism in this world. this is what fantasy worlds that have things like magical elements and dragons or whatever should always strive to incorporate.

one thing that kinda Did annoy me was the romance sometimes but honestly it was also kinda fun sooo 😗✨
Profile Image for Endlessbibliophile.
1,062 reviews487 followers
November 7, 2021
Možná je to spíš 3,5/5*
Líbilo se mi to moc, i když je to taková průměrná YA fantasy a myslím, že si z ní za půl roku nebudu pamatovat vůbec nic :D
Na druhou stranu tu máme hodně originální svět, pěknou řádku zajímavých citátů a dost promyšlené vedlejší postavy. A taky intriky, hurá!
Druhý díl si teda přečtu určitě.
Profile Image for Brittany.
857 reviews112 followers
October 27, 2021
4 Stars!!

The Kinder Poison is a fantasy adventure that follows a teenage girl chosen to be the human sacrifice in a deadly game between three heirs who will do anything for the crown.

What a fun ride this was! I LOVE journey books or books where the characters are constantly in a new place every couple of chapters. To me this makes for such a great world build because the reader is always having to imagine a new place and the world is just continuously building throughout the book.

The writing was beautiful and and the pacing obviously was perfect for me. I was never bored and Natalie Mae has a way of writing that keeps the reader engaged at all times. The characters were fantastic and it was neat to read something with sibling rivalry. In fact their history makes up most of the background building of the book. There was a touch of romance but by no means was it the focal point. There is a race for the crown and a cool magic system... can you say MAGIC LISTENING SCROLL? A scroll that basically is a modern day smart phone. I thought that was brilliant.

All in all enjoyed it and I need the next book ASAP!! Would recommend!

Initial Thoughts after reading-
I need book 2 STAT! 😮
Profile Image for Rameela (Star).
657 reviews226 followers
February 1, 2023
Initial Thoughts: This was so wild and fun and the first line just had me hooked. Talked about relatable YA fantasy characters. The way she kept saying this is a terrible decision and then still did questionable things? Yeah, same, Zahru!
Profile Image for Morgan Boyd.
144 reviews687 followers
December 1, 2020
I liked it, but you cannot write an angsty, brooding, misunderstood prince and NOT expect a redemption arc. Is he the villain? Yes. Did I still fall for him? Also yes.
Profile Image for Amber.
153 reviews57 followers
April 15, 2021
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