November 9, 2022

REVIEW Belladonna (Belladonna #1) by Adalyn Grace

Belladonna (Belladonna #1) by Adalyn Grace
Rating: 5 Stars
Release Date: August 30, 2022
Format: Audiobook (Borrowed from Library) + Hardcover (Personal Library)
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

If you like young adult murder mysteries complete with romance and a bit of a paranormal aspect then Belladonna is the book for you!

I loved Adalyn Grace’s debut duology novels All the Stars and Teeth and All the Tides of Fate, so it was exciting when she announced her next book. Belladonna, Ms. Grace’s gothic fantasy romance lives up to the expectations of being compared to Bridgerton and Knives Out. The story does a great job of pulling readers in, making them care about the characters, and getting them just as invested as Signa is in figuring out what’s been happening. 

Signa Farrow’s story is set in an alternate universe, a magical version of Victorian England. After being orphaned at a young age, she’s been marked by Death (in more ways than one) and bounced around from home to home after tragedy befalls her guardians. Determined to make it long enough to access her fortune (that becomes available to her at the age of inheritance), she moves in with the Hawthornes at Thorn Grove. Once there, the realization that family matriarch Lillian died from the same illness plaguing daughter Blythe leads Signa to realize there is a murderer on the loose. Signa is forced to embrace her powers and work with Death himself to solve the case before it’s too late and the killer claims another victim. 

The murder mystery portion of this book was reminiscent of an Agatha Christine novel. Everyone’s a suspect, and the grand majority of them have both motive and opportunity. Signa’s struggles to fit into a high society run simultaneously with her investigations. I wasn’t as invested in the tea parties and the dance lessons - I was more entranced by the investigations, her budding relationship with Death, and her own growing powers. 

Death’s relationship with Signa was definitely a highlight of the book. They are both lonely souls and find solace in that shared connection. In particular, I loved how mysterious and alluring Death was. It was amusing when he would comment on certain events and Signa could hear. Signa and Death come a long way over the course of the book - she starts out hating him, and blaming him for all the bad things that have happened to her guardians in the past. Once she’s forced to rely on him for help in finding the murderer, she starts warming up to him and realizes he’s not as bad as she thought. This progression (and the way Death insists on calling Signa ‘little bird’) make me excited to see how their relationship will move forward in subsequent books. 

I’m so glad I decided to simultaneously read the hardcover and listen to the audiobook for Belladonna - Narrator Kristin Atherton did a great job with her performance in the audiobook. I was actually more taken by her voice for Death rather than the voice she did for Signa. Her acting during his lines and scenes really added to the ambiance and helped elevate Death’s character for me. The book's ending was great - it wasn’t so much a cliffhanger, but more some open story threads to lead into the next book Foxglove. I’m excited and counting down the days to see what happens next in Death and Signa’s story in 2023! 

About the Book
New York Times bestselling author Adalyn Grace brings to life a highly romantic, Gothic-infused world of wealth, desire, and betrayal.

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.

However, Signa’s best chance of uncovering the murderer 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.

About the Author

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.

Check out the author's website here!

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