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Yellow Jessamine

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Powerful shipping magnate Evelyn Perdanu lives a tight, contained life, holding herself at a distance from all who would get close to her. Her family is dead, her country is dying, and when something foul comes to the city of Delphinium, the brittle, perilous existence she's built for herself is strained to breaking.

When one of her ships arrives in dock, she counts herself lucky that it made it through the military blockades slowly strangling her city. But one by one, the crew fall ill with a mysterious sickness: an intense light in their eyes and obsessive behavior, followed by a catatonic stupor. Even as Evelyn works to exonerate her company of bringing plague into her besieged capital city, more and more cases develop, and the afflicted all share one singular obsession: her.

Panicked and paranoid, she retreats to her estate, which rests on a foundation of secrets: the deaths of her family, the poisons and cures that hasten the dissolution of the remaining upper classes, and a rebel soldier, incapacitated and held hostage in a desperate bid for information. But the afflicted are closing in on her, and bringing the attention of the law with them. Evelyn must unearth her connection to the spreading illness, and fast, before it takes root inside her home and destroys all that she has built.

131 pages, Paperback

First published September 5, 2020

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About the author

Caitlin Starling

6 books1,084 followers
Caitlin Starling is an award-winning writer of horror-tinged speculative fiction. Her first novel, The Luminous Dead, won the LOHF Best Debut award, and was nominated for several others. She tweets at @see_starling and has been paid to design body parts. You can find links to her work at www.caitlinstarling.com.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 341 reviews
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
December 8, 2020

New Month, New Tierlist BookTube Video is up - click the link to check out my August Reading Vlog!

The Written Review

2.5 stars
Evelyn Perdanu runs a tight ship.

She's beyond wealthy, surrounded by loyal servants and is just-so-happening to be harboring the darkest of secrets.

She returns from her latest voyage and almost immediately her crew begins to act erratically before slipping into a deathless state.

Fearful that she's brought a plague upon the (crumbling) city, she begins to investigate.

But what first seems to be a plague now appears to be something far more sinister.

As a skilled herbalist, and sometimes poisoner, she's well aware of the ways of the plants.

But this? This madness and awareness and insanity is far beyond anything she's ever seen.

And...it's coming for her.

Whew. When this one started - solid 5 stars.

Absolutely INCREDIBLE beginning.

I loved the way the people were incrementally possessed. I loved the slow reveal of Evelyn's dark (and disturbing) past.

And I adored the relationship between Evelyn and her faithful partner in crime (hey-o queer rep!)

However, I feel like the book took a turn for the worse.

It began pulling ideas from every direction and lost that cohesiveness...and the grand reveal just left me really confused. I read it twice and I think I got the gist of it...but again. Really confused.

I feel like this book would have really worked well if it was longer and all of these crazy-weird ideas were given time to develop more.

Great concept, just didn't follow through for me.

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Lex Kent.
1,682 reviews8,714 followers
August 24, 2020
3.25 Stars. This was an oddball little book. Parts of it I liked quite a bit, others not so much. I’m glad I read it but it wasn’t really what I was looking for. However, I do see myself reading more of Starling in the future. While I didn’t love all her story choices, she impressed me in her writing skills so I will be keeping my eye out for her new books.

I wanted to read this story because of two words, sapphic and horror. I didn’t realize that this was also a historical fantasy? and a novella too. I like novellas, especially when they are hearty in length and closer to book length then a short story which this had that feel at around 170 pages according to my Kindle.

I do want to point out I had some major issues with my early ARC copy. Not sure what happened with the formatting but all the words were stuck together with no spaces. The copy was in an old-timey script which I could not darken or enlarge to make reading easier. And it got even worse because sometimes the first letter of a new sentence was actually stamped over the last letter of the sentence before. Think of an old-school typewriter typing two letters right on top of each other. It was not easy for me to read. No one else mentioned any issues so I think it was just me that had this weird problem and I would not worry about it affecting you as a reader. I did not let the formatting reflect in my rating at all since that would not be fair, but there were times I know I skipped over a word because I just could not figure out what it was supposed to be. Plus, I had to read at a much slower pace which I know did affect my enjoyment some.

The two reasons why I wanted to read this book were two reasons for a bit of disappointment. For one, I would not call this sapphic horror. Instead, I would say this was a book with LGBTQ characters, and in my mind there is a difference. It is not until the book is almost over that it is even discussed at all about a possible WLW pairing. I would actually be tempted to say that the whole things was a gimmick, but I do know from Starling’s debut that her mains were in a WLW relationship in her book The Luminous Dead. I think the problem ended up being a lack of time in a novella so Starling didn’t build up the relationship that would have needed a sapphic tag.

I also found that I was not crazy about the horror. I was hoping for a bit more scary horror, but this was more creepy horror. I don’t know what it was but this book felt to me a little like what ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ would be if it was not a comedy.

On the good side, this novella stared really well. I was hooked into this time and place that could almost be a real historic setting that I wonder if it was loosely based on something real. As I mentioned before, Starling writes very well and I found myself getting lost in her prose and I could not wait for things to start happening. I also was a fan of the main character. She is super odd and weird but I love a morally grey character. A lot of this book was her having to come to grips with all she has done and having a taste of her own medicine so to say. The problem is instead of this happening in a super creepy way, I felt things just got a bit convoluted especially towards the end. I understood what was happening, but I still wanted to scratch my head wondering what am I really reading? I love weird but it was almost too weird for me. It had such a good set-up that I think it just fell a bit flat in the end.

This was not the book I hoped for but it did have some really nice writing and some good parts. I would not read this if you are looking for sapphic horror. I would read this if you are looking for good prose, a morally grey main character, and lots of weird and slightly creepy stuff. I purchased The Luminous Dead last year but have not read it yet. After reading this book I’m really excited to read TLD since I now know that Starling can absolutely write.

An ARC was given to me for a honest review.
Profile Image for jenny✨.
563 reviews804 followers
March 17, 2021
i ADORE caitlin starling's writing.

while this novella didn't pack the heart-stopping punch of starling's visceral and claustrophobic the luminous dead, i nonetheless basked in her prose and knack for gothic horror—she's just so damn good at hitting all the ominous, eldritch notes that will leave you goosebumped and utterly drawn in.
Profile Image for Meisha (ALittleReader).
220 reviews57 followers
July 13, 2021
What a unique, unsettling and eccentric little book! Having gone in pretty apprehensive about this one, I was pleasantly surprised.
The first half of this was really slow and I had a difficult time getting into it. However, the slow beginning is not without reason and is well worth pushing through! By the second half, this book was really getting under my skin.
I think that if you're into short, Gothic weird books; this could really work for you!
The atmosphere was very Gothic and dark. I feel that the ships and the ocean really added to that tone very nicely. I also loved all of the different layers to the MC. She is a very flawed character but aware of it and I enjoyed that about her. She was a very interesting charter to follow and get to know.
I don't knave a whole lot to say about this one because it's so short and I don't want to say anything to spoil it. I went into this one pretty blind and I think that worked in my favor. (And yours too) But I will finish by saying that I think this was very well done for what it is. I'd recommend giving this one a shot and pushing through the first half if you're interested in a short, Gothic and effectively unsettling book.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for sending me an arc of this!
Profile Image for Sheena.
602 reviews264 followers
June 3, 2020
Wow I actually really enjoyed this! Fast paced and I was interested the entire time. I wish this was a full length novel because I would've given it 5 stars if that were the case. I would have loved to see more character development and world building and more background information. I enjoyed this nonetheless but it left me wanting more and curious. That cover is amazing too.

thank you Netgalley and to the publisher!
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews190 followers
September 9, 2020
Yellow Jessamine is a queer gothic horror novella following shipping magnate, poisoner and pretend-widow Evelyn Perdanu as a terrifying plague of mysterious origin devastates her already dying city.

I will start by saying that I'm not completely sure I got this. Horror endings are some of the most polarizing things to read for me, as them not resonating can break the book, and I think that's what happened here. The ending made sense, and it wasn't necessarily underwhelming, but I still finished the novella thinking "that's it?": it didn't make sense to me on an emotional level. However, that's something so personal that I don't think it should discourage others from picking the book up, despite it being the main reason I didn't get much out of this.

Because there is a lot to love about Yellow Jessamine. A story that knows the potential of a creepy poison garden is a story I want to love, and so is a story that explores how someone's paranoia can be at the same time their strength and their downfall. It is a creeping spiral from misanthropy to paranoia, all rooted in a self-loathing so overwhelming that it masks every other feeling in Evelyn's mind.

That might be one of the reasons people aren't recognizing this as a queer book, but it is, and it's clearly queer early on. No, the main character isn't in a place where she can think about loving or anything similar. However, anyone who isn't forcing heteronormativity on the novel can recognize that Evelyn is meant to be a portrayal of a lesbian who happens to be deeply unwell, given that from the beginning Evelyn spends a lot of time thinking about her maid Violetta undressing her, describes Violetta as (quoting) "special", "radiant", and the only good person in the world, and becomes clearly uncomfortable when men show any interest in her.
I wish people realized that we're used to dismiss - often, even in ourselves - signs of women being attracted to women at every turn because of how homophobia and misogyny shape the way we understand and recognize desire. There's a reason "just gals being pals" about obviously gay situations is a lesbian meme. To not take this at all under account and just stating "this isn't really queer" is to reinforce heteronormativity.
This isn't a love story, this is a tale about devotion and obsession and downfall. Queer people exist - and should get to exist in fiction - outside of clear romantic storylines.

Overall, I didn't feel strongly about this. Reading Yellow Jessamine felt like following something to its inevitable consequence, but the atmosphere wasn't strong enough for that to work: it should have felt creepy and ominous, but everything was too vague and barely-grounded. Maybe I would have liked it more had it sacrificed some of its readability (it is a quick read) for some heavier writing. More detail and clear indication of how things looked like would have made the whole story feel much more claustrophobic. You can't feel trapped in a manor if the book doesn't even really bother telling you how it looks like.

I still have a lot of respect for how casually messed up this book gets, and Evelyn is a fascinating if somewhat static (that's kind of the point! She is rooted) character to follow, but I don't know how much it will stay with me.
Profile Image for Sunny.
668 reviews3,424 followers
June 15, 2021
deliciously dark and sapphic and magical in an earthy way, morally grey, power hungry, manipulative female main character (girlboss) with her lady servant girl best friend (gay), political maneuverings and poisonings and melodrama. love it!!
Profile Image for Kate.
1,233 reviews2,207 followers
October 12, 2021

This was fine, a bit boring - I definitely had some VERY high expectations for this as I loved "Luminous Dead" so much. I wanted to read this short piece of fiction before diving into her new book "The Death of Jane Lawrence," even though it didn't really sound interesting to me, and I'm not a HUGE fan of short fiction/novellas/short stories. So I'm not shocked I didn't care for this, and now I'm excited to dive into her new book!
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,131 reviews820 followers
September 10, 2020
The other merchant lords avoided death, but Evelyn knew its contours and its character intimately, marking its creeping progress day by day.

On my blog.

Rep: lesbian mc

CWs: drug abuse, murder, gore

Galley provided by publisher

Yellow Jessamine is like if you took The Monster of Elendhaven and made it sapphic. That’s the easiest way to describe it. It’s almost scarily similar in vibes, in fact (which is to say, small town, creepy goings-on, a cabal of powerful people who will sacrifice whatever it takes for their cause, and murder).

First things first, it’s a very atmospheric novella. It’s short and almost like the end of a longer story, but it immerses you in the world nevertheless. That’s probably the best part about this novella, the writing and the atmosphere it creates. I’m not a huge horror fan, but I would really just go pick up everything Caitlin Starling has ever written on the basis of this writing.

Along with the creepiness of the atmosphere, it’s also a story that keeps you on your toes. You’ll think you have everything figured out, but then, at the end when it all becomes clearer, you realise that what you thought you knew isn’t right.

I think the only thing I would say about this novella is that, while it worked as a standalone, it felt like it should be set within a longer tale. I mean, I guess that’s a simultaneously good thing and bad thing, because it made me want more, but also made it clear that I didn’t get enough. What I’m trying to say is that the didn’t-get-enough outweighed the wanting-more. I wanted more because I didn’t get enough, not solely because I wanted to read in that world for longer.

But anyway. If you’re a fan of horror, you won’t want to miss out on this one.
Profile Image for J  (Midnight Book Blog).
162 reviews558 followers
June 12, 2020
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I started out really liking this book, but there were a number of things that really bothered me about it.

First, it was listed in the LGBTQ+ category, which I would not file it under. If I had not been told this was an LGBTQ+ novel, I would never have known that was the way it should have been read (and I still don’t really see it, even after being told).

Secondly, I felt there was both so much filler, and so much left unexplained. We, as readers, are dropped into a mysterious world where a rival government seeks to take hold of the city of Delphinium, but we are given very few details other than that about the conflict. I still am not sure who the Judiciary serves, and was confused about a number of the characters’ relationships to each other/the governments.

I also found Evelyn’s character to be be very conflicting, as she seems torn between calling herself cowardly or brave, wicked or a product of unfortunate circumstance. Maybe this was meant to showcase her inner turmoil, but it did not come across that way in my opinion. We also find out about some of Evelyn’s actions that serve as plot twists later on, but not in a good way. It felt like these elements were tossed in to tie the story together at the end rather than being woven throughout and alluded to along the way.

On the positive side, I found the general plot line interesting, though it was lacking in resolution. I was drawn in by the mysterious affliction that begins to come over the townspeople, and its connection to Evelyn. However, we don’t exactly get answers (or at least not satisfying ones) about what it is, which I found to be a bit of a letdown.

Toward the beginning, this almost reminded me of The Haunting of Hill House, but with more strangeness in place of horror. The book begins with the line “To those harboring the weight of self-blame: may you bury it.” I am assuming readers were supposed to focus on the message of how grief and guilt take hold and can be let go, rather than the literal plot, but if that was the case, the end message was a little startling.

Overall I would give this 2.5 stars (rounded up to to 3) for the promising idea and intrigue, but the execution left me disappointed.
Profile Image for Corrie.
1,517 reviews4 followers
August 27, 2020
Yellow Jessamine was my first adventure with author Caitlin Starling and it will not be the last. I love eerie and creepy and dark (and even depressing), and this novella has it in spades.

The author has done a lot of research on plants and their uses. That was impressive. I also loved her style of writing. It was lush in detail with an engaging plot and interesting characters. Permanently veiled Evelyn Perdanu is not the kind of woman who will warm your heart. Death clings to her like a lover. But maid Violetta seems to carry a torch for her mistress though.

This novella has a queer label on it, but I found that rather a stretch to be honest. However, other reviewers seem to be happy so I let you decide for yourself. The book is a great read regardless.

There was a problem with the ARC I received. It was illegible. They used some old-timey script that was miniscule. If you tried to enlarge it, it would all blend together and so I had so try out various e-readers until one picked it up. But then that one wouldn’t display the last two chapters and so I went back to squinting my way to the end with the original file. No fun and I hope they will fix this for future publications.

I love the cover art! Well done!

f/f but it was a hell of a stretch

Themes: veiled, death runs in the family, a new plague, herbalist, poison, a city under siege, a tattooed stranger.

4 Stars

* A free copy was provided by Netgalley and Neon Hemlock Press for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sabrina Grafenberger.
103 reviews19 followers
June 25, 2021
I normally like strange books (I'm looking at you This Is How You Lose the Time War) and have nothing against an unlikeable narrator, but it didn't work for me here.

Evelyn is an awful main character, she's poorly written and underdeveloped. On top of that, I found it hard to connect to any of the secondary characters.

I also think that advertising this book as sapphic horror is misleading because the queer representation is barely there. Evelyn and another female character have feelings for each other, but there's no actual romance (and don't get me started on that awful ending).

Caitlin Starling had some good ideas and the atmosphere was great, but the rest sadly fell flat for me.
Profile Image for Stephanie (Books in the Freezer).
431 reviews1,101 followers
June 27, 2020
This was a gothic novella with an interesting protagonist. I liked Evelyn's character and how my perception changed once I found out more about her story. I will say that for a story claiming to be LGBT, I wanted more of those elements. Starling proved once again that she can write a story with few characters, claustrophobic settings and tension.
Profile Image for warisbooknook.
30 reviews15 followers
January 7, 2023
3.5 stars

i liked the writing style and i did actually enjoy some parts of this book. however, other parts of this book were really rushed and some were just downright confusing. overall, i did like it, i just wish things were fleshed out a bit more and that there was more depth to the plot of the story.
Profile Image for Frankie.
484 reviews122 followers
January 13, 2023
Another stellar addition to the creepy plant-based/fungal gothic horror list! While it took a while to catch its footing, I greatly enjoyed Yellow Jessamine. The atmosphere is so evocative; I loved the mood of a dying empire, with nobles trying to hide their dwindling wealth and impending doom with pageantry. I liked our protagonist Evelyn, a tortured heiress whose life is full of loss, and yet she holds fiercely onto her power. And I also really liked the relationship, even if it did not end well — the author managed so much emotion and tenderness between them, even if the book is short. In general, I thought this novella was very well done; excellently paced, no words wasted, and with a story that swept me away and made me wish I could stay within its pages a little longer.
Profile Image for Lyndie.
283 reviews59 followers
September 9, 2020
I want to preface my review by stating that I received an ARC through Netgalley, however the copy I received was very flawed. Luckily enough Starling saw a comment I had posted on Twitter stating the file was messed up and reached out and sent me another file. Super thankful that she took the time to reach out to me and send the second copy! Yellow Jessamine was my first Starling book but it will not be my last. I already have her first book on my radar and you should too ( The Luminous Dead).

Yellow Jessamine is not only a beautifully written book it is STUNNING ( gold foil!). I have nothing against E-books but this is a book worth splurging on a physical copy!
There is a lot going on in such a short book and the twists kept me flipping pages like a mad woman trying to figure it all out. Is there a plague?? Possession?? Is this woman just bonkers? I am not going to tell you! GO READ IT!

Overall I loved the creepy and gothic vibes prevalent throughout the book. I loved the main character Evelyn Perdanu although I probably shouldn't. Starling developed Evelyn and the other characters phenomenally. If I am honest, I cant point out a single thing I disliked about this book. One of my favorites of the year for sure!

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,719 reviews857 followers
December 27, 2022
i love strange books. i love wicked women. i love caitlin starling... but this didn't quite do it for me.

Trigger warnings for .

Representation: Evelyn (mc) & Violetta (sc) are sapphic.

BlogTrigger Warning DatabaseStoryGraph
Profile Image for Ellis.
1,210 reviews136 followers
November 14, 2020
There are a lot of cool, creepy ideas in this wee little novella, and I am especially a sucker for the eccentric lady with a greenhouse and a secret room full of plant clippings and cuttings and tinctures, some of which heal and some of which harm. But I wish Starling could've had at least 100 more pages to flesh some things out. She throws a lot of plot ingredients into the mix and I feel like several of them - the town of Delphinium and the rebellion in particular - weren't developed enough to have an impact. And calling this book queer rep reminds me of how we were supposed to be impressed that we saw two women kissing for a tenth of a second in the last star wars movie; we can do better.
Profile Image for Julie.
386 reviews4 followers
October 2, 2021
What a strange little book that was. Saying that, I found it okay. At times , I hadn't a clue what was going on! 😂
Writing style was great, for me and I'd definitely read another by CS.
Profile Image for Cecilia.
218 reviews39 followers
June 29, 2020
I got this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

CHILE...this book was not it.
I'm start with the positives:
1. The writing in this book was very nice. I quite like how the author described little aspects of the setting and the characters.
2. The premise is very interesting. Strange illness that seems to be following the main character around? Sounds interesting to me, but sadly the execution was not it.

Now for the negatives.
1. This book is tagged at LGBTQIA+. Now that isn't entirely wrong (Evelyn and Violetta do have feelings for each other) but I feel like marketing this book as a queer horror is misleading. Especially since you don't even know it's queer until about 70% into the book.
2. This book made no sense whatsoever. At first, everything seemed interesting but the plot didn't feel fleshed out. I feel like this story needed another 100 pages to properly flesh out the story. The disease was barely explained and when it finally was, it was explained poorly and made no sense to the narrative.
3. Evelyn. Evelyn as a character annoyed me to no end. Not her personality per say but the fact that her character was poorly written. One minute you saw her not care about anyone but herself but suddenly care about her dead family and Violetta? Make it make sense.

I'm giving this 2 stars. I might check out Caitlin Starling's future books, since I enjoyed her writing style, but this book was not it and I do not recommend it.
Profile Image for Landice (Manic Femme).
207 reviews384 followers
September 6, 2020
Yellow Jessamine was an excellent horror novella with sapphic undertones. It was incredibly well written, and the ever escalating tension and paranoia were palpable.

I’d like to echo what several other reviewers have said - this was a good novella, but would likely have been an excellent novel. The pacing made sense for a novella, but just as I'd begun to feel invested in the characters and their relationship, it ended.

I'm definitely planning to check out Starling's novel The Luminous Dead and will be recommending Yellow Jessamine to a few friends who I know will enjoy it!

Let's be friends!
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ARC Note: Thank you to Neon Hemlock and Netgalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Para (wanderer).
362 reviews195 followers
October 15, 2022
A creepy gothic novella. Evelyn, a shipping magnate and a secret expert in poisons, lives an isolated life in her dying city when suddenly a mysterious affliction appears whose victims seem to be fixated on her. It's exactly as creepy as it sounds and the whole book has an atmosphere of dread and impending doom. It suited my mood and the season perfectly.

I very much recommend.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.
Profile Image for Clara ✨.
576 reviews43 followers
June 7, 2020
Thank you, NetGalley for providing an ARC of this book, in exchange for my honest review!

"Something had come back on her ship, looking for her. And it was spreading."

My fourth main read for The Olympic Games Readathon, created by Ishi; as a daughter of Aphrodite. This book fills the following prompt:
🕊️ As his lover, Aphrodite spends a lot of time with Ares. Complete a prompt that honours
him: Read a book featuring a morally grey character.

This novella tells the story of Evelyn, a woman that had to take control of her family shipping business, after her whole family died. When one of her ships arrives in her declining city, called Delphinium, bringing a strange sickness, she gets suspicious. Specially at how it spreads, and it seems to be going after her.

It was such a good read! The writing was great, immersive, attached to a gothic, atmospheric setting. I don't wanna talk much about what happens because of spoilers, but it took some turns that I was not expecting. For that, I loved it!

The characters are morally gray, specially our main character and her maid Violetta. As for the representation, it features a F/F romance, what's perfect since we are, currently, in Pride Month! I'm not and own-voices reviewer, so keep that in mind. It's not the main focus at all, but it's there. I really enjoyed it.

Definitelly recommend this quick and intriguing novella!

Profile Image for Art Hyrst.
697 reviews38 followers
January 30, 2021
Full review on my blog, February 11th 2021: https://inkandplasma.com/2021/02/11/y...

Everyone knows I adore Caitlin’s work, and The Luminous Dead was one of my favourite books that I read last year (see the rest of the list here). I read Yellow Jessamine for the first time in November as the first book in my clearurshit readathon TBR, and decided to read it again this month so that I could review it. Definitely wasn’t just an excuse to reread Evelyn’s atmospheric and creepy story about a travelling sickness, a woman who is mired in her own paranoia and obsession and fear.

The atmosphere in Yellow Jessamine is as flawless as I’ve come to expect from Caitlin. Eerie novellas are some of my favourite types of read, and I love the way that YJ builds. The mysterious sickness starts off distant and gets closer and closer, creating a really tense reading experience as I waited to find out what the hell was going on under the surface. Evelyn is blatantly hiding far too many secrets, and I loved the way they unfolded throughout the course of the novella as Evelyn is drawn closer to the centre of her own web of lies and they all start to unfold around her. I adore the way that, even in just 130 pages, there were twists and turns that could take me by surprise. And, speaking of length, Caitlin knocks it out of the park with tight and concise writing. Not a word of description is wasted in this story, and when I reread it, knowing the ending, it was just as impactful and potent as the first time because of the underlying imagery threaded throughout the entire story. It’s 132 pages of perfection, with brilliant pacing that built to an ending that was like a punch in the gut.

Unsurprisingly, I adored Evelyn and Violetta and their dynamic. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil a thing about this book, but I loved the way that the complexities in their relationship played out – especially when it came to that web of lies of Evelyn’s. Evelyn is every bit the disaster lesbian, seeing danger and consequences everywhere she turns. There’s also the soldier, and the role he plays is – oof – it’s incredible. I particularly love the way Evelyn acts with the soldier versus the way she acts with Violetta. We get to see two sides of her, one brutal and calculating and the other obsessive and devoted. Everyone should read this creepy novella, but try not to get dragged too deeply into Evelyn’s garden because who knows what you’ll find there.
Profile Image for Gabriella.
215 reviews42 followers
January 3, 2021
Thank you to NetGalley and Neon Hemlock for the ARC of this book.

3.5 stars. This novella was a step outside my comfort zone, since I don't usually read horror, but I'm glad I read it, as it was an interesting read. It started out a bit slow, with some of the descriptions hard to understand. It's hard to keep track of the relationships between the characters at first, and I kept having to reread passages to solidify my understanding. The second half of the novella, in my opinion, is where the story comes to life and seizes you like a vine from a bewitched garden. It gets weird and macabre and fast paced -- good luck putting it down after you've reached the 50 percent mark!

Our protagonist, Evelyn, is strong, ruthless, grieving, conflicted, and morally grey. I love that Caitlin Starling was able to solidify Evelyn's complexity in such a short story. Though I found this book under the "LGBT" category, I don't think that the LGBT themes are obvious enough for it to be marketed as such. I would have loved a few pages exploring the twisted f/f love story more in depth, as I think there was a lot of potential for that.

Overall, this was a good read and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a unique, creepy story to read during a thunderstorm!

PS: the cover is a blessing. whoever designed the cover please design my life thank u
Profile Image for Jordan Shiveley.
29 reviews24 followers
March 12, 2020
I just finished reading Yellow Jessamine which is due out from Neon Hemlock in 2020 and it is beautiful. A novella that leads you down it’s many knotted and snarled branches with a steady hand and the beautifully quiet voice of a graveyard overflowing with new and unnatural blooms. This story of witchery and death unfurls itself one petal at a time until you will be happy to lay yourself amongst its whispering tendrils and just breathe it in. A truly haunting and captivating story Starling shows a deft hand at tone and voice and takes the story to places I did not see coming in the most delightful of ways.

Days later and I am still thinking about it. It’s one of those kind of books that gets into your blood and slowly sinks its roots down until they curl around your very bones.
Profile Image for Althea.
422 reviews143 followers
October 14, 2020
4.5/5 Stars

I really enjoyed this sapphic gothic horror - I think gothic horror is maybe my favourite kind of horror - and I think the narrator did an amazing job! I was a little confused by the ending which is why I'm definitely going to try re-reading it as a physical copy, but I really recommend this to everyone who wants to try out horror but doesn't want anything too intense or too gory!
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