Hello, friends! It’s my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for Belladona by Adalyn Grace and I’m excited to share my thoughts and favourite quotes with you today!
Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Belladonna (Belladonna #1)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 30 August 2022
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Romance
New York Times bestselling author Adalyn Grace brings to life a highly romantic, Gothic-infused world of wealth, desire, and betrayal.
Orphaned as a baby, nineteen-year-old Signa has been raised by a string of guardians, each more interested in her wealth than her well-being—and each has met an untimely end. Her remaining relatives are the elusive Hawthornes, an eccentric family living at Thorn Grove, an estate both glittering and gloomy. Its patriarch mourns his late wife through wild parties, while his son grapples for control of the family’s waning reputation and his daughter suffers from a mysterious illness. But when their mother’s restless spirit appears claiming she was poisoned, Signa realizes that the family she depends on could be in grave danger and enlists the help of a surly stable boy to hunt down the killer.
However, Signa’s best chance of uncovering the murderer is an alliance with Death himself, a fascinating, dangerous shadow who has never been far from her side. Though he’s made her life a living hell, Death shows Signa that their growing connection may be more powerful—and more irresistible—than she ever dared imagine.
⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS
Child neglect, attempted suicide recounted, self-harm, blood & gore depiction, poisoning
Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced/unfinished copy and are subject to change in the final version.
TL;DR: I’m getting straight to the point here: there was nothing about this book that I didn’t enjoy! I think I’ve found another new favourite 2022 read. No one is more surprised than me because this supernatural gothic romance full of ghostly activity was a good step outside of my comfort zone, but the writing and atmosphere were fantastic, the murder mystery plot was gripping and the characters were a little flawed and conflicted but entirely compelling.
“Whoever designed this place was an odd soul. A soul, Signa decided, that had been begging for this house to be haunted.”
The story is set in an extremely haunted gothic manor that was not only full of restless, though mostly harmless, spirits but also a malevolent one being held back by the unfinished business of their fairly gruesome and tragic death. As someone that really doesn’t read ghost stories because I’m generally too chicken, it’s safe to say that I was properly spooked! There are ghostly sightings, hauntings and even possessions and it all added to the extremely eerie and unsettling atmosphere that this story is steeped in. The author really sets the sombre/melancholic tone well which perfectly lends itself to the murder mystery, making me question everyone and everything that occurs within the manor halls and grounds.
“Because death is only a reprieve for the dead, Mr. Thorly. It cares little for those it leaves behind.”
As someone who doesn’t read mysteries that often I’m usually horrible at predicting plot twists and reveals, so I was actually surprised when I managed to predict a good few of them here. You’d think that would take away from my enjoyment but it didn’t at all cos the author kept me second-guessing my predictions at every turn. Obviously, I’m not gonna give any spoilers but there were a good number of twists that I didn’t see coming and I literally swore and gasped out loud while I was reading! 😂 There were a few times that the pacing slowed down and the plot meandered slightly but it wasn’t enough to detract from my enjoyment or distract me from needing to find out whodunit. Grace did a great job of keeping me on my toes!
“You were not made to be a meek or wanting. If you embraced who you are, imagine the power you might wield. Imagine the things you could do.”
The characters were also wonderfully flawed and compelling. It’s easy to empathise and sympathise with Signa from the moment we meet her. From the time she was a baby she’s been tied with Death, losing any relative she had that took her in and being trailed by malicious gossip as a result. She was horribly mistreated and was often abused by those who were supposed to care for her and due to Death’s shadow following her every move, she has ended up leading a very solitary life. Signa craves nothing more than normalcy but the more she immerses herself in the world of genteel manners and inauthentic friendships, the more she realises that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The fact she’s so sheltered definitely led her to make some questionable decisions at times but for the most part, I adored her character! She’s full of tenacity, headstrong and honestly easy to root for; plus, I loved watching her let go and slowly accept the heady rush that comes with her entanglement with Death, another character that I ended up really feeling for.
“But I’ve also grown to admire humans. They’ve such a short time to experience their lives, and so they must feel deeply. They must experience in one lifetime things it’s taken me an eternity to experience. […] And were I not real, Little Bird, were I not Death, he would never have experienced that love. So which is better? To live forever, or to live and love?”
I loved the way Death was personified in this book. Yes, he’s typically brooding and mysterious (and a ‘he’) but I really liked the way the author captured the complexity of his emotions and the ache of loneliness that surrounds him. It was endearing and made him a more empathic character. I know some will say that the romance between Death and Signa can be considered weird, after all, he’s this ancient immortal creature who knew her as a baby and becomes her love interest when she’s older. That said, I personally loved their romance and how their relationship involves from one of antagonism to burning desire and eventually bittersweet love. As corny as it may sound, they found a kindred spirit with each other even with all the obstacles they have to face. What I didn’t expect was the way Signa’s sexual journey was depicted but I absolutely loved it because it was so sex-positive. FYI, there are a few more mature sensual scenes but nothing is graphically described.
“Don’t resent me when I’ve only just gotten you, please, for I am what makes this world beautiful.”
Overall, I found this to be a very entertaining and engaging read that I simply didn’t want to put down. With that shocking epilogue ending introducing an intriguing character who was mentioned a time or two throughout the story, I’m even more excited to see what comes next and I absolutely cannot wait for it!
Adalyn Grace is a New York Times bestselling author of All the Stars and Teeth, which was named “2020’s biggest YA fantasy” by Entertainment Weekly. Prior to becoming an author, Adalyn spent four years working in live theatre, acted as the managing editor of a nonprofit newspaper, and studied storytelling as an intern on Nickelodeon Animation’s popular series The Legend of Korra.
Local to San Diego, Adalyn spends her non-writing days by watching too much anime, and by playing video games with her dorky dog.
Do you already have Belladonna on your TBR? Have you read anything by Adalyn Grace and would you recommend it?