Don’t let the title or cover fool you! No grimdark teen fantasy or angst-y heroines here; just a frothy confection of a fairy tale featuring poisoners, princesses, perfumers and pigs, none of whom are exactly what they appear (except maybe the pigs).
Sixteen-year-old Master Potioner Kyra is on the run from the army, the royal family, organized crime and her business partners (including her ex-fiance)—all because she tried to kill her best friend Princess Ariana. But Kyra’s newly awakened (if unwanted) prophetic visions have revealed that if the princess lives, the kingdom dies. Against this dreadful future Kyra pits her impressive martial training, her formidable skill with poisons, an infallible (and adorable) tracking pig, and the equally adorable (if infuriating) Fred, rogue and companion-of-the-road. Can Kyra survive long enough to execute Ariana? And can she live with herself if she succeeds? Ignore the ridiculously contrived plot and shaky worldbuilding; the sheer bravura charm of Kyra’s voice will sweep away any reservations. More troublesome are a weakness for telling over showing and the distressing tendency to equate moral virtue with physical beauty.
Still, this is good silly fun—a refreshing antidote to a genre overflowing with grit and gloom. (Fantasy. 11-14)