The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Outsiders are always given a choice: the Forest or the lake. Either way, they’re never heard from again.

Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla.

When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she’s supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice.

Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake—and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself. 

The island of Endla is protected by a poisonous lake and a magical forest that demands blood sacrifices. Spending her entire life there, Leelo has led a very sheltered life. Outsiders live on the mainland, and they’re responsible for driving Endlans to the island several generations ago because of their magic. Leelo grew up being taught that outsiders are evil, unaccepting, and intolerant of Endlans. Personally, I thought many of the Endlans were a cold-hearted bunch. If their children’s magic hasn’t emerged by the age of twelve, they’re exiled and sent across the poisonous lake to find their own way in the world, never allowed to return to their homes or families.

Leelo’s aunt and cousin, who she and her mother live with, are among those cold-hearted people and don’t seem at all sorry that her brother Tate is to be exiled. Leelo is a more tender-hearted person, so when she comes across Jaren, an injured outsider who accidentally winds up on the island, she betrays her family and community to hide and shelter him and nurse him back to health. Over the course of getting to know each other, Leelo questions everything she’s been taught about the outsiders. Are they really as evil as she’s been led to believe? Once Jaren is discovered, Leelo is forced to choose sides.

Although I enjoyed the spectacular world-building, the story leans more toward romance than I expected. I know plenty of other reviewers are thrilled by that aspect. The ending is exciting and moves pretty quickly. I liked that it’s hopeful, and people are forced to question their beliefs.

The Poison Season is a solid, atmospheric fantasy filled with important messages and some creepy elements that thrilled me. I would have preferred less emphasis on the romance, but that’s just me, and it certainly wouldn’t prevent me from reading more books by this author in the future. She sure knows how to create an eerie setting.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

25 thoughts on “The Poison Season by Mara Rutherford #bookreview #YA #fantasy

  1. “If their children’s magic hasn’t emerged by the age of twelve, they’re exiled and sent across the poisonous lake to find their own way in the world, never allowed to return to their homes or families.”

    It sounds a bit like cult behavior, honestly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gorgeous cover. Teri, your review sounds a lot better than the book description — and I’d go by your review. Maybe I’ll check it out after all. (The blurb seemed predictable, and “been done” too many times. And the “messages” a turn off.) But you haven’t steered us wrong yet — and eerie settings are a plus. Thanks for your mindful review. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

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