Court of Venom (Kristin Burchell)

Court of Venom is a novel by Kristin Burchell.
Finished on: 9.2.2022
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

Content Note: sexual assault

Plot:
Badriya came to the desert city of Aran with her mother, but now her mother is dead and Badriya is stuck in Aran until she can free her mother’s soul from the witch who keeps it prisoner. To earn enough money for that, she uses her knowledge of plants to make magical cosmetics and drugs for the women of the court in Aran. But Queen Solena also has a different use for her: Badriya is her poisoner, and she makes free use of her as she looks for a suitable husband.

Court of Venom is a nice read with interesting world-building that doesn’t get the pacing quite right, I thought. Still, I enjoyed reading it.

The book cover showing a night sky and a stylized star chart.

Court of Venom is Burchell’s first novel for adult readers (though I’d say it’s fine for young adults as well) and I often thought that it is still a little notable that she is used to writing for teens. For one, there is the short length of the book (which I didn’t mind per se, I quite liked to get to read another self-contained fantasy for once), but above all there are the pacing issues that I thought stemmed from keeping things, especially sentences, altogether very short. It gave the book a staccator feeling that I would have liked to slow down every once in a while. Another effect of this was that I wasn’t quite sure how much time had passed during the narrative. It sometimes seemed like years, then only months.

That being said, what I really enjoyed about the novel was the world-building. I quite liked Burchell’s ideas that I found unusual and intriguing – above all what goes on in the Lost. Some elements are not that innovative, but there is enough there to make the book feel very fresh.

Overall, I quite liked Badriya and Khalen, though I would have liked to see both of them, especially Khalen, explored a little more. They both seem a little reductive, repeating a lot of things more than strictly necessary.

Nevertheless, the book drew me in and I enjoyed reading it, even if it took me a bit to really settle into the groove of things.

Summarizing: not bad at all.

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