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Kalynn Bayron is a debut author and a classically trained vocalist. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. When she's not writing, you can find her listening to Ella Fitzgerald on loop, going to the theatre, watching scary movies and spending time with her kids. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her family.
This enchanting, empowering sequel to This Poison Heart, one of our 2021 favourites, twists, turns and captures the heart through exquisite storytelling and world-building. Blending compellingly relatable characters with ancient magic, Greek myth, and a sweeping quest to save loved ones, it’s as lush and thrilling as the kind of flamboyant botanicals its endearing protagonist has the command to conjure. Briseis has powerful ancestresses, and the power to create and control plants. Though she’s long worked to hide her gifts, she now has an opportunity to save her mother’s soul. In order to find the last piece of the Absyrtus Heart that will enable her to realise this, she must turn to her blood relatives and find her place in her ancient magical lineage. Briseis’ quest sees her voyage to a Greek island and battle with enemies who are descended from Jason, Medea’s vindictive husband. With tension mounting as time slips away and it seems as if deadly foliage has taken a stranglehold, love blossoms for Briseis too, making this consummately exhilarating.
July 2021 Book of the Month | What a blooming brilliant concept - an adopted Brooklyn teenager with an uncanny gift for giving life to plants inherits an old mansion from her birth family and becomes embroiled in an ancient ancestral curse. The book’s botanical and mythic insights are endlessly fascinating and interwoven with green-fingered dexterity, and the plot is 100% page-turning as it conjures a fast-blossoming story that twists with the grip of snaking vines. Bri’s inherited house, with its massive grounds and apothecary, is in quaint, curious, countrified Rhinebeck. On arrival, she follows a trail of clues left by her aunt Circe and discovers a deadly Poison Garden. Then she reads a letter from Circe declaring that “fate has a way of catching up to us. You must decide if you can continue this work, because you are the only one that can.” Turns out it’s no coincidence that Bri’s full name (Briseis) and those of her birth mom and aunt (Selene and Circe) are powerful women from Greek myth. Alongside the uncoiling magical mystery, I adored the loving banter between Bri’s moms, and the intrigue of her friendship with local boy Karter. Then there’s super stunning, super rich Marie, a girl with mysteries of her own and a driver called Nyx - a name that might also set bells a-ringing. This Poison Heart is contemporary YA fantasy at its finest and confirms Kalynn Bayron’s talent for coming up with killer concepts and spinning new gold from timeless old tales (I also adored Cinderella is Dead). What’s more, the epic ending leaves scope for a sequel - I truly hope that’s the case.
August 2020 Debut of the Month | In this rip-roaringly feminist re-imagining of Cinderella, our justice-seeking heroine, Sophia, seeks a princess rather than a prince, and bodice-ripping is done in the name of shedding the shackles of patriarchy. Giddily entertaining, and spiced with dagger-sharp dialogue and romantic attraction, one message beams bright through Sophia’s story - “do not be silent. Raise your voice. Be a light in the dark.” Though 200 years have passed since Cinderella’s time, a twisted version of her legacy lives on in Lille, where the present-day Prince Charming, King Manford, has decreed that girls must recite the fairy tale daily and, at the age of sixteen, they will be sent to the palace to be chosen by a man at a grand ball. Attending the ball is law, and, in the words of Erin, Sophia’s best friend and lover, “It is our only hope for making some kind of life”, for those not chosen are doomed to an even worse existence than being married off. As Sophia’s father admits, “I’d rather see you unhappy than imprisoned or killed.” Such is the impossible situation. So, Sophia goes to the ball, still hoping to escape with Erin, still burning with anger that the “founding tenet of our laws is that women, no matter their standing, are at the mercy of the fickle whims of men.” At the grandiose selection event, girls are put on show for the male suitors, some of them old enough to be Sophia’s grandfather, “but that doesn’t stop them from shamelessly ogling the young girls.” As shocking events unfold here, she flees and finds a sisterly comrade in flame-haired Constance, who also sets her heart alight. As the feminist fugitives go on the run, Constance reveals truths about Cinderella’s real story - a story that was suppressed and twisted into patriarchal propaganda by men in power. And so they embark on a quest to find the White Wood, the last known location of the original fairy godmother, who might just hold the key to further truths that will help Sophia rouse revolution. What an inventive, entertaining and flamboyantly feminist treat this is.