We have a great opportunity to be a part of a blog tour for The Fairest Poison. I’ll give a quick review of the book (without spoiling too much) and then share a short Q&A I had with the author, and my good friend, Lauren Skidmore.
Princess Bianca returns to her court to find it poisoned from the inside out. Faced with mysterious sicknesses, power disputes, and whispers of impending death, Bianca turns to an unlikely ally—a former assassin and the man her brother trusts the least—to find the villain within the palace walls, as well as the antidote that will save her those she loves most and restore peace in the court.
The first thing I usually look for in fairy tale retellings is how obvious the similarities are between the novel and the actual tale. Skidmore does a good job of finding the middle ground between making the similarities obvious and yet adding clever twists. For example, there are hearkenings to older versions of Snow White that include a poisoned comb or constricting ribbons but they fit smoothly into the story.
For fans of her first two books, you’ll find Bianca’s perspective to be interesting. You’ve already met Aiden in What Is Lost as the charming prince, but in this novel, you see him has the older brother. I loved the extra insight we get on his character, and other returning characters through Bianca’s eyes. It made the characters more multi-dimensional.
My only surprise or concern comes later in the novel, and I can’t be completely clear without giving away the ending. The novel gives sort of “fake leads” to help readers predict who is behind the misdeeds going on in the castle. The main concern is that the guilty character comes as a complete surprise because their character arc comes too late. Other fake leads aren’t completely explained, so they still seem shady at the end of the novel. Even though I don’t like surprises to be too easy, the last few actions in the novel would hold more weight or significance for the readers if they knew more about the ones doing the plotting here. I will be clearer in my Goodreads review, but this suffices for now.
My rating: 3.5/5
Fans of Skidmore’s past works will enjoy learning more about characters they met in her other two books, but will still be highly curious as to what comes next for them.
Q&A with Lauren Skidmore
1. What made you decide to connect Joch to Bianca, as opposed to creating a new character? How did you get this idea?
Bianca is the kind of person Joch needed to find his happy ending, and Joch is the type of person Bianca can’t resist. She’s so optimistic and willing to see the good in everything, even if he can’t see the good in himself anymore. And she’s also so stubborn that it kills her to see him not being the best he can be, so she’s going to make him reach his potential whether he likes it or not.
Plus, a lot of Joch’s character was inspired by Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender, so I always planned for him to have a redemption arc. (And I always wanted Zuko to end up with Katara . . . this was the next best thing for me.)
2. The relationship between Aiden and Bianca is a very natural and endearing depiction of sibling relationships. Did you base this off a real life relationship?
I do have three younger brothers and I’m a stubborn person. It wasn’t hard to find inspiration for those two. I loved writing the sibling interactions. There’s something really special about siblings, how you can want to throw something at them or scream at them, and yet still love them anyway. There’s also something really fun about two people who have known each other for a really long time, and who know so much (sometimes too much) about each other.
3. What are some fairy tale tropes that you wanted to challenge with your book series, if any?
I enjoy switching the male and female roles – the prince ran away, the girl is the predator, or the princess who makes dramatic gestures. I think it gives the tropes new life and helps make them more modern. Plus it’s fun. 🙂
Another trope I wanted to play with, even though it’s not really a fairy tale trope, is the love triangle. Bianca is trying to choose between two guys – but one is her family. Those are two very different types of relationships, but still a decision she’s forced to deal with.
4. Do you have any suggestions to other writers about how to promote or market a book series?
It’s rough. There’s a lot of great books out there, and it’s hard to stand out. Make friends with bloggers and other writers. You can meet some great people, as well as help promote each other and learn from each other.
5. Do you have plans to write more fairy tale retellings?
I don’t have any planned right now, but I wouldn’t say I never will. I’d like to do one for Beauty and the Beast. And there’s some Japanese folk tales that would be a lot of fun to do, too.
6. How did you decide the colors for the masks and their appropriate jobs? Which mask color is your favorite?
It’s always hard to pick a favorite anything, but I do really like the white masks. I picked white for the royals because white is the absence of color, and the royal family is above and separated from all the other colors. The rest of the colors were more or less assigned based on what I associated with that color. Purple was always royal and rich, so it went to the noble class. Green is growth, or creating things out of nothing, so it went to the artisans. Red is blood, so it went to the doctors and those who create or foster life, like teachers or caregivers. Blue is the ocean, and went to fisherman. And black is all the colors, so it went to the guards, who protect all the colors. There were a few more colors I originally planned to feature more, particularly yellow, but it never quite fit.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this stop in the blog tour for The Fairest Poison. Lauren has provided the full first chapter on her website as well as a book trailer if you want to learn more before reading the novel yourself. Get your copy and see for yourself through these links, depending on your preferences:
What are your thoughts on fairy tale retellings: fun to read or overdone? Share with us what you like about retellings, or what you wished authors would change about retellings.