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ARC Review Belladonna by Adalyn Grace

As always I want to start by saying that I was given an ARC of this to review. My review is honest and left voluntarily and all thoughts are my own. Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and Netgalley for giving me access to this.

I want to start by saying I adore gothic fiction. Authors such as the Brontë’s have always been favourites of mine so when I read the synopsis for Belladonna I was sure I would like it, I just wasn’t aware how much until I started.

Our protagonist is Signa Farrow whom for as long as she has been alive people around her have died. It is not something she can control. Orphaned as a baby the now nineteen-year-old Signa has been passed through a string of guardians all of whom have ended up meeting an untimely end. Her last remaining relatives are the elusive Hawthornes who may be Signa’s only hope but not all is as it seems at Thorn Grove and before long Signa is thrust into the middle of a budding murder mystery while trying to navigate her own revelations a long the way.

When the book opened with a mass murder in the form of poisoning I was already hooked. Despite the melancholy and gruesome opening it was also beautifully juxtaposed with the infant Signa being the only one left alive. Grace’s writing had already captured that gothic element of combining the strange and the beautiful, interweaving them to create something magical, something Grace manages to continue throughout.

The world building of the novel was beautifully balanced and interwoven in a way that it flowed naturally. A lot of the time we learned new aspects of Signa’s world along with her and I found that refreshing and enjoyable. Signa herself was a brilliant protagonist, although sometimes I became a tad frustrated with her and her way of thinking I found this another testament to Grace’s ability. Signa has spent most of her life being passed from guardian to guardian, most of whom care little for her but rather her inheritance so of course her world view and experience of the world is a little different. Add to this the fact that those around her seem to suddenly die and of course she will not always know the answers or see what is in front of her. To me this made her more human and ultimately made me like her even more.

I particularly loved the ‘Death and the Maiden’ trope of this novel. Anyone who knows me knows romance is not my first genre of choice (nothing against the genre, just not a favourite of mine), but the love story and romance in this novel had me hooked. Again it was the idea of the strange and the beautiful. Grace managed to capture the loneliness and want of Death himself and bring it, for want of a better word, to life. We see Signa slowly begin to embrace her strangeness, her calling and in so doing to accept Death not as something to be truly feared or hated but as something that is inevitable. I am really excited to anxious to see what will come of this relationship in the second book.

Add to all this the elements of good old fashioned murder mystery and the book has nearly everything I could want. As Signa is discovering more about the world she lives in, herself and her desires she is also in a race against time, and a lot of the time Death to find who was responsible for killing the Hawthorne’s patriarch’s wife. Now as you know I don’t like spoiling the book but let me tell you I did not really see the culprit coming! I like to consider myself a bit of an armchair detective thanks to hours spent with my mother watching shows like Midsommer Murders and Miss Maple as well as reading some of Agatha Christie’s work but I confess I was blaming the wrong person all along!

Grace manages to perfectly combine these murder mystery elements within her gothic-infused world and Signa’s coming of age story to create the complete package. I honestly have to say this is likely one of my top ten for 2022. I cannot recommend this enough to anyone who enjoys a good gothic tale with mystery, romance, suspense and murder.

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