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Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Books For Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: September 19th, 2017

432 Pages

Synopsis: 

The magicians want her to lead.

The sorcerers want her to lie.

The demons want her blood.

Henrietta wants to save the one she loves.

But will his dark magic be her undoing?

In this seductive and explosive second book in the Kingdom On Fire series, Jessica Cluess delivers her signature mix of magic, passion, and teen warriors fighting for survival. Hand to fans of Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J. Maas, and Kiersten White.

Henrietta doesn’t need a prophecy to know she’s in danger. She came to London to be named the chosen one, the first full female sorcerer in centuries, the one who would defeat the Ancients. Instead, she discovers a city ruled by secrets. And the biggest secret of all: Henrietta is not the chosen one.

Still, she must play the role in order to keep herself and Took, her best friend and childhood love, safe. But can she truly save him? The poison in Rook’s blood is transforming him into something monstrous as he begins to master dark powers of his own. So, when Henrietta finds a clue to the Ancients past that could turn the tide of the war, she persuades Blackwood, the mysterious Earl of Sorrow-Fell, to travel up the coast to seek out strange new weapons. And Magnus, the brave, reckless flirt who wants to win back her favor, is assigned to their mission. Together, they will face monsters, meet powerful new Allies, and uncover the most devastating weapon of all: the truth.

When I reviewed the first book in this series, A Shadow Bright and Burning, and gave it 3 stars, my main complaints concerned what I saw as lack of character development and not enough world-building. In the sequel, A Poison Dark and Drowning, Jessica Cluess has addressed those issues much to my satisfaction. But, the “romance” here was just awful, hence my rather odd rating.

Henrietta drove me absolutely NUTS! On the one hand I continue to love that she’s not the typical “chosen one”. She’s intelligent, feisty, courageous, and loyal to those she cares for. She battles over doing what’s right and is plagued by self-doubt and guilt over her previous actions. She also continually lies and keeps secrets in the name of protecting her friends. In essence, she’s a complex, yet relatable character,  and I’m enjoying where the author is going with her story. However, the flippin’ love square between her, Rook, Magnus and Blackwood was horrible and distracting, and had me grinding my teeth almost the entire time I was reading. I don’t think I’ve been this annoyed by someone’s constant dithering since the Bella Swan in the Twilight series! In my humble opinion, if Jessica Cluess would lay off the soap-opera relationship drama, this would be a much tighter and more entertaining series.

What I did like though, is that all the characters were much more multi-dimensional in this story. Magnus is now one of my favorites as it’s revealed that there’s much more to him than being an incorrigible flirt. There’s also a new character introduced, Maria, who I absolutely loved and I can’t wait to see what happens with her in the next book. And while many other reviewers continue to dislike Henrietta’s childhood friend, Rook, I’m actually rooting for a riding off into the sunset, happy ending for him and Henrietta.

The world-building is absolutely PHENOMENAL here, which is what really saved this book for me. Combining Victorian England with Lovecraft-like monsters known as the Ancients is absolutely brilliant, and you find out much more in this book about their history and why they’ve been brought here. Likewise, there’s more revealed about Sorcerers and Magicians and the animosity between them. And finally, even with all the fantasy elements that compose this tale, Cluess still manages to capture the very real societal norms of the period, especially when it comes to how women were treated.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to rate A Poison Dark and Drowning 3 1/2 Stars or 4. There are so many things I loved about this book, but I disliked the relationship drama so much that it took away some of my enjoyment. After a lot of agonizing, I came up with the 3.75. I think that fans of the previous book will most likely enjoy this sequel even more. And although I had issues with both books, I’d still recommend that historical fantasy fans give them a try. Despite my critical remarks, I devoured this in two sittings and I will definitely be reading the third book.