This has to be hands-down one of my favorite Young Adult fantasy novels of the year! A dark, intriguing YA Gothic Fantasy about a girl who can see ghosts but cannot die, and her strange connection with Death himself–Belladonna by Adalyn Grace is equal parts coming-of-age romance and murder mystery combined in one.
It’s been a while since I picked up a really great young adult fantasy that kept me up all night reading. You know that feeling you get when you finish reading an amazing book, and then you wish you could go back in time so you could experience the magic all over again?
Yup, that’s exactly how I felt after finishing Belladonna by Adalyn Grace.
~Synopsis: Belladonna By Adalyn Grace~
For as long as Signa Farrow has been alive, the people in her life have fallen like stars…
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.
Signa’s best chance of uncovering the murderer, though, 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.
Ratings: 5 out of 5
Release Date: 30th August, 2022
Trigger Warnings: Death, violence and gore, loss of parents, mention of abuse
~ Book Review: Belladonna By Adalyn Grace ~
If you are a fan of Young Adult books, gothic romance, and historical fiction, Belladonna by Adalyn Grace is a must-read for you. The story follows Signa Sparrow, an orphan, and an heiress, who just happens to have a mysterious connection with Death himself that prevents her from dying.
But being potentially immortal is the last thing Signa wants; what she really wants is to become the sophisticated woman of society she had been destined to be, and have a stable home and family. So, when she is finally taken in by the Hawthornes, her only last relatives still alive, she is determined to protect them at all costs. Something that turns out to be quite challenging considering a mysterious illness had already claimed her aunt and was already making her cousin Blythe sick as well.
Here are some of the top reasons you should read this book:
1. A Smart, Charming & Hilariously Relatable Protagonist
Signa Sparrow, our quirky yet charming main character, has never had a stable home, for Death seems hellbent to take the lives of everyone close to her. Naturally, this makes her all the more determined to want what she believes she is constantly being denied by Death: a home, a family of her own, and a life as a respectable Victorian-era socialite in London.
What I loved most about Signa is how despite all the terrifying and terrible things she had to see and endure, she is still so hopeful for the future that she envisioned for herself. No matter what challenge she had to face–and there were many challenges of the supernatural type–she still shouldered on bravely and with sheer willpower.
As inspiring as that was, I also loved how hilariously relatable Signa seemed to be. Belladonna by Adalyn Grace is at times quite entertaining, and it’s all thanks to Signa’s embarrassing social blunders and her teenage hormone-induced attraction toward handsome men.
However, the highlight of the story is how Signa grows from a young, bubbly, innocent girl to a mature young lady who is well aware of what she wants from her life, and not willing to settle for anything less.
2. Incredibly Well-Written, Three-Dimensional Characters
A great protagonist makes you want to follow her on adventures, but having equally great side characters is what makes you really invest emotionally in any story. What I loved about Belladonna by Adalyn Grace wasn’t just Signa herself, but also all the other characters around her.
From her eccentric and gloomy uncle, her slightly snobby but well-meaning cousins, and Sylas the stable boy who mysteriously keeps appearing just when she needs him, you cannot help but fall in love with all of the supportive characters in this book.
I particularly loved how despite starting off on the wrong foot, Signa eventually wins over both of her cousins and forms a very caring relationship with them. I especially loved how ferociously protective she was of Blythe, and the two girl’s friendship was one of the biggest highlights of the book for me.
3. Beautifully Depicted Themes Of Grief, Loss & Recovery
Although at times charming and entertaining, at its core, Belladonna by Adalyn Grace explores themes of grief, loss, love, and recovery through each and every one of its characters. Signa herself is unnaturally in close proximity with Death–and the jarring effects it has on the living who are left behind. But it’s not just through her experience that we get to see the aftermath of the death of a loved one.
All of the Hawthornes are struggling with grief. Her uncle Elijah Hawthorne copes with the loss of his wife by throwing lewd, wild parties where he quite literally drowns in his sorrows with liquor. Percy and Blythe are also grieving, but in quieter ways that are just as heartwrenching.
And Signa’s journey throughout the story is accepting that though death is inevitable, at the end of the day it is all the more reason to live life without regrets and to its fullest.
4. Eerily Unnerving Hauntings & Disturbingly Creepy Ghosts
I meant it when I said that Belladonna by Adalyn Grace is a dark fantasy. Of course, it is. There are ghosts, and I don’t mean the same type as Casper The Friendly Ghost.
These are literal, spine-chilling, nauseatingly undead-looking ghosts and they definitely do their part in creating an unnerving and creepy, if not terrifying atmosphere in the novel. Below’s a gif that more or less accurately describes the kind of undead you may encounter (minus the terrible 70’s makeup).
5. Intriguing Murder Mystery With Unexpected Plot Twists
The thing about ghosts and haunted places is that they never stop pestering until the heroine somehow discovers what is stopping them from moving on. And since Signa is determined to make Thorn Grove her home, she sets out on a mission to solve the mysterious death of her aunt and the illness plaguing her cousin Blythe.
I have to admit, the murder mystery elements were fun to read, but as someone who has watched too many crime dramas, the plot twists were kind of predictable. But to those who are not very familiar with that particular genre, the final climax is guaranteed to be a jaw-dropping reveal.
6. A Darkly Seductive, Enemies-To-Lovers Romance
What’s a YA Gothic fantasy without a bit of romance? I’ll be the first to admit that I had my reservations about the romance part at first–it is rather creepy when an immortal falls in love with a 17-year-old. Especially one that knew the said girl since she was an infant.
BUT…before you come at me with the pitchforks, I would say give it a try, because in Belladonna by Adalyn Grace, the romance works.
It works, because no real interactions between Death and Signa happen until she is basically an adult, and even then, the author is careful to show us how Death himself slowly falls for Signa just as she slowly learns to fall for him.
Admittedly, Death had the upper hand in the sense that he knew that he had a connection with her, but even so, not once does he use it to this advantage. Instead, he allows Signa to make her choices, without ever sharing his own knowledge about their future with her so that she is not influenced by him.
To sum it up, If you like period pieces, murder mysteries, screaming ghosts, and slow burn enemies to lovers romance, then do give Belladonna by Adalyn Grace a try. I highly recommend it!
~ Meet The Author: Adalyn Grace ~
Adalyn Grace is a New York Times bestselling author of All the Stars and Teeth, which was called “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 two dorky dogs.
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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own (my opinions are not for sale anyway). Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review this book.
Enjoyed this post? Take a look at my list of most anticipated summer book releases of 2022!