**4.5-stars rounded up**
With a story as beautiful as its cover, Belladonna took me completely by surprise. I enjoyed this so much!
We follow Signa Farrow, who is not your average girl. I know you hear that a lot, but in this case it’s true. For example, she has an immunity to Belladonna, can commune with spirits and has a relationship with Death.
Unfortunately, our Signa was orphaned as a child and has lived with many guardians since. Recently, she’s been with her Aunt Magda, who is cruel. There’s no love lost between the two. So, when Aunt Magda suddenly dies, Signa isn’t exactly heartbroken.
She does have questions about her future though. Then she receives word that her last remaining relatives, the Hawthornes, would like her to go live with them at their Thorn Grove estate, as her Uncle Elijah’s ward.
Lacking other options, Signa leaves her old life behind willingly and with a bit of hope in her heart.
Arriving at the estate, she begins to become acquainted with everyone. Her Uncle is mourning his wife, Lilianne, who passed away recently. Woefully, her younger cousin, Blythe, seems to be suffering from the same mysterious illness that prematurely killed her mother.
When it becomes clear to Signa that Lilianne didn’t die of natural causes an unexpected murder mystery begins to unfold. This is made significantly more interesting by the fact that Signa gets the support of her old friend, Death, as she tries to solve it.
This book surprised me. I really didn’t know much about it going in. My initial attraction was the cover, followed by Adalyn Grace’s name on said gorgeous cover.
I was delighted with the setting, which based off some dates of included journal entries would be sometime in the 1850s or 1860s. It has a lush gothic feel that I really loved. Even the focus on plants like belladonna, Signa’s frequent use of it, felt very period specific and natural to me.
I enjoyed learning about Signa’s Thorn Grove family along with her. She’s really thrust right into their world of formal parties, frequent visitors and gossipers galore.
Having lived a fairly secluded life up until that point, I think Signa had felt very lonely. Now surrounded with people she becomes attached, to some more than others. Particularly her cousin, Blythe. She’s very saddened by Blythe’s illness and becomes determined to see her well.
I actually really ended up enjoying the romantic elements as well. I loved the dynamic between Signa and the character of Death. It was giving me Addie LaRue vibes and I was not mad about it.
Signa, at the age where it would be acceptable for her to marry, has some other prospects as well. Watching her navigate that, while trying to decipher her unusual feelings for Death was super compelling. I was eating it up.
Grace did a fantastic job of building the tension and mystery. It was hard to put down once Signa began looking into Blythe’s illness. It was a bit of a race against the clock and for a while, almost everyone was a suspect.
I loved the ending of this as well. It was a great set-up for the second book. Personally, I cannot wait to get my hands on it. Signa is one of my favorite new characters of the year, so I can’t wait to be reunited with her.
Thank you so much to the publisher, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Hachette Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.
I definitely recommend the audiobook for this story. It was so easy to get swept up into this world through that medium. 10-out-of-10 recommend!!