This is the first of my new Thursday Creation review posts which will usually be Books, although I reserve the right to review Games, Films or other Works of Art.
When I first encountered Apricots and Wolfsbane in an interview with K M Pohlkamp, and then read the blurb, I had to read the novel. This review is an extended and more developed version of my initial thoughts when I’d reached the end.
Apricots and Wolfsbane
* Shortlisted for the 2017 Chaucer Book Awards for Historical Fiction.
* Contains a book club reading guide in the back.
* Available on Google Play:
Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies—to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Believing confession erases the sin of murder, her morbid desires are in unity with faith, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.
At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. She balances revenge with her struggle to develop a tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.
With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder—but the betrayals are just beginning.
“One should never condone murder, but, strangely, I rooted for Lavinia. Pohlkamp made her easily understandable, despite her odd sense of morality. She had to survive in a time period dominated by men…Her dark obsession with poison, her love for the magistrate, Haylan Moryet, and her belief in God turn the narrative into something fascinating and substantial that powers the heart of the story.”- 5 Star Review from Readers’ Favorite
Review 4.9 stars
I’m one of Lavinia Maud’s victims – or am I a gullible sympathiser? However, she wove her masterful ways – or rather K. M Pohlkamp did – and the price was very acceptable.
First an interview with the author then the blurb tempted me. Other reviews hooked me, and the opening pulled me in as I succumbed to the words. I knew the protagonist was poisoning people, but the author did a crafty job of keeping this reader behind Lavinia, despite the crimes. When are sins forgiven? Was it through her confessions? Unlikely as I sympathised with the priest. But I wanted Lavinia to succeed – at least in her attempt to find the elusive poison and escape to another life. Was I deceived by someone?
The plotting and character development required skill and abilities that all writers could learn from. As Lavinia’s machinations get more devious, there are repercussions – ripples that have consequences. This well-crafted plot builds, and trust is tested as the poisoned web grows.
Beyond Lavinia, there are other well-painted characters, although through the eyes of the poison mistress so the perspective is shrouded by beliefs. Words and actions make for memorable personalities, even fleeting – and strange partnerships emerge. And identifying the next victim is always under the surface in this world.
This Tudor England felt accurate, although as a Brit, I went investigating where this was set and uncovered the writer’s reasoned decision to tread a semi-fabricated path. Yet the plotting and politics painted an unsettling but familiar picture of a society where being male and having money equals privileges. A too-real world where women needed other wiles to survive – like a knowledge of herbs and more.
How far can a poison mistress climb? When is she respected?
Questions I was loath to project as my sympathies were torn between acceptance of Lavinia with all her sins, and the innocent crying out for justice. It takes a talented writer to outsmart her protagonist and her readers, creating an unexpected conclusion.
At this point, I must be careful and evade the temptation of spoilers.
As the climax drew near, I couldn’t put the book down, desperate to know what Fate and Faith had devised. Who would choose to play chess with Poison?
So, I hope that I’ve tempted you, even if a killer deserves fewer stars, and Divine Justice makes demands too. But why condemn the poison wielder, when it was the author’s skill that resolved the web of deviousness.
Am I perverse? No, Drama prevails so I recommend this novel wholeheartedly. 4.9 stars upgraded to 5.
Story – five stars
Setting/World-building – five stars
Authenticity – four stars
Characters – five stars
Structure – five stars
Readability – five stars
Editing – five stars
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