Author: Maryrose Wood
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2010
Where and why: I got this as an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) from the Barnes & Noble I work at. I read it because I’ve heard about it through the blogosphere, and since it was a new release I thought I’d check it out.
Jessamine Luxton lives with her father, a plantsman, as he refers to himself, and their many gardens. Among these is a dark and dangerous chained-up apothecary, where her father keeps his most deadly specimens, and where Jessamine has been forbidden to enter for as long as she can remember. But things change when a strange and beautiful boy named Weed joins them at their cottage, a boy who seems to have passionate sensibilities when it comes to plants. Who is this boy, and what is his secret? Could it change the way Jessamine sees the world forever?
I had quite a few issues with this book, the foremost of which is the pacing. This book is incredibly slow and there isn’t any rising action until about halfway through. I’ve read in reviews that it picks up, so I kept at it, but I was never really interested in what was happening. It all just seemed dull, even when someone’s life was on the line. It probably didn’t help that I knew Weed’s secret before it was revealed—I can’t remember if I read it in a synopsis or a review, but that large mystery was just something for me to be impatient about. It would have been much better if I was forced to wonder about it before the revelation.
The language itself was lyrical and gentle, which I enjoyed at first, but I think this was part of the reason why I felt it was so slow. There was hardly any tension, and no suspense. Not to mention there were FAR too many plant similes. It was cute at first, but it’s unnecessary to do it every time something is described.
The characters weren’t developed enough, except for maybe Jessamine, who tells the story through most of the book. I didn’t see enough layers in the characters to be satisfied, and as a result I wasn’t very invested in their fates. And even so, the ending was largely unsatisfactory for me. The romance was also pretty predictable and schmaltzy.
I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it. If I were a botanist I might enjoy it more, and if I hadn’t known a huge plot point ahead of time I’m sure I’d have been more entertained and curious. But as it stands, though it has a unique and intriguing concept, this was a largely unremarkable book.
EDIT: I just found out this is the first in a trilogy, which makes the ending better for me. I'm not sure if I'll continue, but maybe it will get better with the next installment.