Audiobook Review: A Fierce and Subtle Poison, Samantha Mabry (2016)

Friday, July 1st, 2016

Awful narrator is awful.

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free audiobook for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program.)

— 2.5 stars —

In theory (on paper? hardee har har!), A Fierce and Subtle Poison has the bones of a great story – or at least one I’m all but guaranteed to love. A mad scientist. A cursed house (not to mention a haunted hotel and beach). A witch with green skin, hair made of grass, and a belly full of poison. A setting with a nonwhite majority, and a diverse cast of characters to match. Star-crossed lovers … maybe. More than one pair, perhaps. A tragic ending.

And yet this book never really took off for me. There are a ton of little details that vexed me, but ultimately what it comes down to is the narrator: Lucas Knight is irritating as fuck, and not in an enjoyable, Gone Girl, love-to-hate-him kind of way.

The son of an American real estate developer, Lucas is both aware of and repulsed by his father’s bigotry and arrogance, as well as the privilege that being rich and white affords them both. The senior Michael Knight is pretentious, overbearing, and casually racist. Sure he married an “island girl,” but that doesn’t mean that he has any respect for her culture, land, or people. (See, e.g., the “I have a black friend argument.”) He constantly refers to Puerto Ricans as backwards and ignorant. Likewise, he treats “the help” – those islanders who work at his hotels, washing his clothes, cooking and serving his meals, and cleaning his rooms – like you’d expect: as part of the background scenery, at best. Whereas Lucas cherishes the wild, unspoiled nature of the island, Michael looks at a pristine beach and sees only shiny new hotels (and the cash monies they’re sure to bring). Even the historic St. Lucia doesn’t get a pass.

Michael reserves the worst of his loathing for the island women, especially the ‘bitter harpy’ – I’m paraphrasing, but not by much – Detective Mara Lopez, who’s ‘out to get’ Lucas and his dad because she’s ‘jealous of their wealth.’ Displaced feelings much, hmmm? Why don’t you tell Lucas what you really think of his mother?

(More below the fold…)