Do you ever read a book’s synopsis and think: wow, I must be fated to like this book? Yeah, that happened to me with Belladonna by Adalyn Grace.
🥀 A gothic setting
👻A girl who can see ghosts…and Death
A huge thank you to the publisher for an arc in exchange for an honest review!
TL;DR: A girl who can see ghosts and communicate with Death himself tries to solve a murder mystery at a manor whose family has taken her in. Age Rating: 15 and up.
Belladonna is tinged with poison, dripping in gothic splendor. It’s a book that revels in painstakingly revealing its layers, twisting around haunted ghosts and abandoned gardens and manors full of secrets. Our main character Signa is unapologetically herself, and every character in this novel feels as if they were crafted from the Victorian era (in the best way possible). So of course, I adored this.
Belladonna follows a girl named Signa Farrow, who has always had a tumultuous relationship with Death. She can see ghosts, and talk to Death himself in extreme circumstances. So when Signa moves in with her only remaining family members, she’s shocked to find the ghost of a woman who needs her to solve the mystery of how she died. Especially because it looks like Signa’s cousin might die of the exact same thing.
Okay, I admit it’s a little concerning that I chose this particular GIF after ending the [previous sentence with murder. BUT this book truly has so many of my favorite things. We have a gothic manor, ghosts, Death, a murder mystery, a female character who simultaneously enjoys dressing up while not fitting in…the list goes on and on. And somehow, Adalyn Grace pulled off every single trope with such ease that I can’t believe she wrote a pirate duology before (although that is certainly on my TBR now).
THERE’S LITERALLY TOO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT.
I have so many notes that aren’t actually notes and just me highlighting because of emotions I guess. Anyways, from the start of this book, I really loved Signa. She’s not afraid to be feminine and loves feminine things while still wanting to be free from the constraints of society. It’s a perfect balance.
Also, the plot??? I had whiplash??? There are so many twists and turns to this story, I never knew what to expect next. Like how did Adalyn Grace write this incredibly atmospheric paranormal story and somehow stack a mystery with twists that I didn’t predict on top of it? This is just such a well-plotted story that is paced immaculately. I guessed nothing and was absolutely blindsided by that cliffhanger of an ending. I cannot stress enough how good of a YA fantasy this book actually is. It truly breathed new life into the genre for me.
And if that’s not praise enough, can we just mention the characters??? Each and every one of them felt fleshed-out and purposeful. I mean, Signa’s cousin Percy might have given me slight Mr. Bingley vibes and Lord Everett definitely got the short end of the stick but that’s okay. Even the ghosts were fun characters*.
*thaddeus is my FAVORITE. remember that.
now uh…i have a slight complaint???
If you read this book, you’ll know that one of the love interests is Death incarnate. And yeah, while I thought it was a little weird that Death knew Signa as a baby and then became a love interest later on…nevermind, it’s just weird. There’s definitely a reason for it, and I mean, this is a gothic story after all so I wasn’t overly bothered by it. It’s just something that’s weird to remember.
On that note, I thought that the romance was fine? I don’t know, I was hoping for a good slowburn full of angst and pining and this wasn’t really that. It’s definitely well-written, but my expectations were just a tad bit different from what this book is actually about (which is okay!) Also, I think that the familal relationships and friendships are just so entertaining and well-done that I almost preferred them to the romance. Anyways, I really liked the ending of the book with regards to the romance, I just wished that the actual journey there had been a little different!
To the Victorians, belladonna symbolized silence, falsehoods, and death. To me, it symbolizes a new favorite book of the year! It comes out on August 30th, so be sure to order a copy, add it to Goodreads, and add it to Storygraph! Tell me: what’s your dream mashup of tropes/genres?
also, I made a playlist!!
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