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Blood to Poison by Mary Watson – ARC Review!

Seventeen-year-old Savannah is cursed. It’s a sinister family heirloom; passed down through the bloodline for hundreds of years, with one woman in every generation destined to die young. The family call them Hella’s girls, named for their ancestor Hella; the enslaved woman with whom it all began. Hella’s girls are always angry, especially in the months before they die.

The anger is bursting from Savannah – at the men who cat-call her in the street, at her mother’s disingenuous fiancé, even at her own loving family. Each fit of rage is bringing her closer to the edge and now Savannah has to act to save herself. Or die trying. Because the key to survival lies in the underbelly of Cape Town, where the sinister veilwitches are waiting for just such a girl.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Savannah has always known her life span is limited. A family curse, passed down the bloodlines means every generation will birth a daughter of ‘Hella’ the family member who accidently cursed her own bloodline generations ago. Savannah is fighting for her life, but she may have found a way to end the curse once and for all, the only issue, ending the curse may kill Savannah in the process and if it doesn’t, there are plenty of people out there who would kill her for her power. Savannah will have to look to the past as well as the future, and be willing to accept every part of herself if she is to end the curse and make it out alive, but the harder she looks, the more she realises the curse isn’t the only thing she needs to worry about, and she has to learn who to put her faith in before it’s too late.

If there’s one word I had to use to describe this book it would be angry. Savannah knows that her anger makes the curse affect her faster, that each time she brings it out her lifespan lessens, but in a world where she is looked down on for her skin colour, for the way she dresses, for her sex, it’s hard not to be angry every single minute of every single day. She’s angry at the way her mom’s fiancée treats her, for how her family look at her with pity in their eyes knowing she is bound to die young, at her aunt for dying before telling her how to deal with the curse. But she is also incredibly determined, once she realises that there is a way for the curse to be ended she knows she has to try, not only to save her own life, but for the generations of Hella’s girls that are bound to come after her. She is incredibly strong willed, even when she is terrified and doesn’t know who she can rely on, and I couldn’t help but get invested in her story and want it to end as happily as it can.

I love a well build side cast and Watson definitely delivers in this book. Everyone from Savannah’s mother, aunts, cousins all play a part in the story and I loved the scenes when they were together as a family. Seeing the love and concern they all have for each other, as well as the general scheming aunties and teasing cousins. We also have Savannah’s friends, Rosie and Dex who returned to Cape Town after years away. Every character plays some part in the story, even if it’s just to add a bit of levity to a heavy and brutal story, and I loved seeing her interact with them all, coming to realise that she doesn’t have to live with this curse all by herself.

Blood to Poison effortlessly transports you to the backstreets of Cape Town, and Watson manages to give us a wealth of folklore to go along with her fantasy. It did take me a little while to find my place in the story, there’s no real easing into the magic system, but once I got my head around it I found myself engrossed in the story and wanting to learn more about the magical underbelly to Cape Town that Watson creates. Watson uses the history of Cape Town, it’s bloody history of slavery, racism, sexism as well as the apartheid to really allow us to understand, not only Savannah’s anger, but the anger of a people who have been living with these injustices their whole lives.

Watson’s writing style is incredibly atmospheric and ensures you feel transported whilst reading the story. The pacing was well done, there were no real lags and in fact, I felt sometimes the plot jumped quite erratically, but it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment. She also implements multiple plot twists that help keep the story fresh and us as the reader intrigued, some that definitely hit a little harder than others. This may have been my first book by Watson, but it certainly wont be my last. Perfect for lovers of folklore, unapologetically angry characters and a little mystery added into their fantasy.

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