Library Journal Review
Gr 8 Up-Destined to slay the enemies of the Raja, Marinda has never questioned her role as a visha kanya ("poison maiden"). In the kingdom of Sundari, snake venom runs through the veins of the poison maiden, enabling her to fell a man with one fatal kiss. Wrenched from her family as a baby and transformed into a deadly assassin, the teen is convinced that her kill orders are protective measures taken to ensure the safety of a king she's never met. Gopal, her sadistic handler, manipulates Marinda into cooperating by threatening harm to her younger brother, Mani. Most of the boys she's killed are strangers, but when Marinda is asked to dispatch her friend Deven, she grows a conscience. In her bid to save Deven's life without having to compromise her brother's, Marinda desperately races against time to figure out whom she's been blindly serving all these years. With a rich tapestry of characters ranging from Kadru, a poison mistress, to Raja himself, Shields's first installment in a fantasy duology is intriguing if a little slow-paced. The author's easy co-optation of Indian and other cultural mythology, though, raises questions for discussion. The text is liberally peppered with Sanskrit, but there is no glossary for context, only an afterword, in which the author writes that "Sundari is not India, it is influenced by that culture and its mythology." Shields reimagines Garuda, "a birdlike creature," as female and also mixes in Egyptian mythology ("If the heart is as light as a feather, the person can enter the afterlife. If not, the heart is fed to a beast."). VERDICT The novel is moderately entertaining, but those seeking tighter pacing and more authentic storytelling based on Indian mythology should try Roshani Chokshi's The Star-Touched Queen.-Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
Teen assassin Marinda was raised by a man named Gopal, who made her deadly. Marinda is a visha kanya: her kiss is poisonous. Gopal has kept her isolated, and most of her loyalty lies with Mani, her sickly younger brother. Marinda accepts her fate as a weapon, only because she's been told that the men she kills are enemies of her kingdom. Then she meets Deven, a boy too kind and gentle to be dangerous, and when she's instructed to kiss him, she begins to doubt everything she's been told. This debut is built upon an intriguing concept, though the world building leaves something to be desired. The Indian folklore it is based upon feels underutilized, and it's difficult to get a real sense of Marinda's world; readers interested in teen assassins and star-crossed love would be better served by Sarah Ahiers' Assassin's Heart (2016) or Robin LeFevers'Grave Mercy (2012). Still, this is quick and addictive, and for readers who can overlook these flaws, the sequel won't come quickly enough.--Reagan, Maggie Copyright 2017 Booklist