A Review of This Wicked Fate by Kalynn Bayron

Spoiler Warning!: This review contains extensive spoilers for Kalynn Bayron’s novel, This Poison Heart.

After reading the first book of this duology, This Poison Heart, I could not wait for the second. The first book ends on a vicious cliffhanger: after learning the secrets behind her powers and fighting those who seek to steal her powers for their own gain, Bri finds her mom murdered. She must embark on a journey to find all the pieces of the heart, a deadly vessel of ancient magic, so that she can save her mom. The catch? She only has a month before her mom is gone forever in the underworld.

This Wicked Fate has a lot to live up to after the first book of the series. The first is a near-perfect blend of magic, nature, betrayal, and suspense. And to an extent, this sequel delivers. The writing is beautiful, descriptions of nature luscious, and diversity very well presented. Bayron writes these characters with such love and care, growing upon the foundation that she creates in the first book to further develop how differently these characters live through love and grief. Bri wants to save her mom even at the risk of her own life; Bri’s other mom, Mo, feels a need to shelter Bri after her partner’s death; Marie (Bri’s love interest) opens up about the loss of her first love and how that baggage carries with her into this potential relationship; and Circe explores what it means to have Bri as her only living relative. But this book is not a tragedy; it is far from it. And through Bayron’s exploration of grief and healing, these characters are no longer just characters by the end. They are living beings who survive trauma, loss, and grief, people who find love, joy, and happy beginnings.

My only qualm with this second book is how different it is from the first. At times, I felt as if I were reading a different duology. Its focus on Bri’s plant powers seemed pushed to the back burner in this hero’s journey story. The first book felt suspenseful, mysterious, dangerous even. I was on the edge of my seat with anticipation—who are these creepy people stalking the house? Why does poison not harm Bri? What’s with these mysterious messages? What’s going on with this dark version of The Secret Garden? This Wicked Fate no longer has these mysteries, and instead feels more like an epic. Readers see Bri on a hero’s journey, dealing with the various obstacles that come with tracking down the last piece of the heart—not because Bri and her chosen and blood family spent the first book finding the other pieces, but because they oh-so-coincidentally have them all, as members in her chosen family have already fused with pieces of the heart. While I did enjoy learning more about the family’s history and all the connections to Greek gods, it no longer had the dark mystery that captivated me so deeply. That isn’t to say that this isn’t a good book—it’s a difference I wasn’t expecting, a difference that, had I known, would have allowed me to let go of my preconceived notions from the first book to more fully enjoy this one.

For those waiting for this book, This Wicked Fate is a captivating read that neatly ties up a lot of loose ends. While the tone is vastly different from the first, it’s still a good read that will leave readers feeling hopeful and content for their new fictional friends. I recommend this book not just to those who are looking for answers after This Poison Heart, but also for those looking to immerse themselves in magic with reality as a backdrop.

Esther Hsu

Esther Hsu is a high school English teacher based in California. They graduated from the University of California, Davis, with a BA in English and Japanese and from SJSU with their Master's in Educational Curriculum and Instruction. When they're not thinking about ways to upset the current educational system or include diverse voices in curriculum, they can probably be found playing a board game, immersing themselves in video games, binging Netflix, trying to get their cat to love them, or studying languages.