Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the señoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill.
Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers–and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life. (Synopsis taken from Goodreads)
First, let me say how much I adore this cover. It’s a gorgeous mix of vibrant art and bold typography, and extremely eye-catching. It’s actually the reason why I picked up this book, and an interesting sounding idea was just a fortunate side-effect.
The book starts off to a really good start: with elderly señoras telling stories about the old house of the American botanist who is never home, and in it lives a girl with green skin who grants wishes; all you have to do is write the wish on a piece of paper and throw it over the fence.The writing itself is gorgeous, too. It brings to life San Juan, full of lush descriptions and elegant prose. Judging from the writing alone, it’s hard to believe that this is a debut.
So for the first few chapters, I was a happy camper. But the problem? Not a lot happened.I never really liked Lucas, the narrator, either. He was an okay character. But that’s the thing; he never really passed “okay”. He didn’t seem to have any little quirks that would make him interesting. I had hopes that the two girls would be better characters, but one, Marisol, was barely in the book.
Isabel, the other girl, had much more potential to her. But, like Marisol and Lucas, she fell flat. On the surface, all three seemed interesting, but they never got deeper, which was extremely disappointing.
And there seemed to be four or five plots going on, as well. One about Isabel, and her trying to escape her curse. Another about Lucas finding his own identity, something not related to his rich, hotel owning father. Another about the lost girls. And yet another about Puerto Rico itself, and the men like Lucas’s father who come in and try to change it for their benefit. And yet not of these plots where really resolved.
Basically, this book had all the mechanics to becoming the Next Great Novel; beautiful writing, a vivid setting, and a unique idea. But while I was never bored, it fell flat, thanks to the somewhat uninteresting characters and meandering, loose plot.
So, blogglings, have any of you read A Fierce and Subtle Poison yet? If so, what did you think? Do you like the cover as much as I do? And how do you feel about books like these: ones with beautiful writing that’s a bit lacking in character and plot?