Review: “Poison Princess” (Arcana #1) by Kresley Cole


Don’t be fooled by the pretty dress. Or the hot guy standing behind her. Just think that he looks like a creeper, because that’s what he is.

“But Alisa!” you cry. “Look at that hair! And that dress! And the fact that the girl’s so pretty! What could possibly be wrong with that?”

Everything, naive reader. Every possible thing is bad.

Let me start from the beginning. It’s a first-person psychopathic serial killer luring all the surviving women in the post-apocalyptic world to his house to kill them. But first, he gets their stories down. Interesting, right?

Then a girl called Evie comes in, and she ruins the potential for a chilling, terrifying book with her story. Still interesting?

Let’s begin:

Evie is an ordinary girl- definitely not like any other bad YA novel, trying to find her place in the world. No one understands her! Never mind the fact that she has a loving boyfriend and a best friend, both of whom adore her.

Some kids came from the poorer side of town to her school, and of course, the love interest is a part of this group. Slowly, and by slowly, I mean in the four seconds she’s seen him, they fall in love.

And then the apocalypse happens. After over ten chapters. And in those chapters, it’s just high school romance. Even after the apocalypse, it’s still just a high school romance.

And now, for the actual review:

Let’s see. This book manages to be highly predictable, with extremely bad descriptions, misogynistic and abusive love interests, idiotic main characters, attempted rape, a love triangle, highly annoying dreams, multiple stereotypes, racism, plot holes – actually, there is no actual plot – repeated brand-name dropping, the tiniest bit of world building (and horrible world-building at that), slut shaming, a best friend who gets insulted at every turn, unimportant B.S. that no one but the main character cares about – and there’s more. The book even managed to make tarot cards boring (and this is coming from a person who has an obsession with tarot cards and palm reading) fight scenes that seem like someone’s half-stoned dream version of violence, and it ruins Jack Daniels for its readers. This is why there’s vodka as back up. And guess what? I’m reading the sequel.

The only thing that makes me happy is that Jackson – I’m not calling him Jack, because, apparently, that means I have the slightest inkling of like towards him – is going to become extremely ill in the near future because of all that whiskey he’s drinking. And if this book followed the laws of realism, every girl would hate him because he should be drunk all the time.

Oh, Jackson can’t be that bad, can he? I mean, he has an accent. And all accents make a girl go swoon. That’s true, unless said accent is insulting you all the time. Or attempting to rape you, because you make him “feel things that he’s never felt before”. How is this even the slightest bit romantic? Answer: It’s not. He says that a woman belongs to the man, which is one of the most unappealing tropes for me, unless it’s a romance book for a character I actually like, and I’m in an extremely happy mood. He drinks Jack Daniels at every opportunity, and even his nickname is the alcohol brand!

Jackson’s not the only horrible person, though. Evie was an idiot about this. She goes around with some happy smile on her face, even though the world is pretty much destroyed.

Other characters? Like her best friend? Oh, they’re not important. They just get killed off after many chapters of descriptions. It’s Evie’s best friend, and she gets insulted at every opportunity, and when the best friend actually dies? That doesn’t matter; let’s just forget about it.

The plot, if that horrible thing can even be called a plot, has more holes in it than a guilty three year old’s alibi. Why is the world screwed up? What’s causing the mutations? There are many more questions left unanswered throughout this book.

The descriptions for interesting things are so sparse, but the stuff that no one in the world cares about? Oh yes, we absolutely must hear about her precious Coach sunglasses.

The fight scenes? Those aren’t fight scenes! Those are badly written drunken punches written by someone who thinks that tapping someone is a horrible thing to do.

When Evie hears about the kids coming to school, she thinks something like “But they’re Cajun“. Because ethnicity is such a bad thing. She sees a girl who’s dressed sexily, and automatically thinks she’s some sort of slut. Whatever happened to the twenty-first century?

I think I’ll end this review by calmly stating that this was a horrible book and should only be recommended to someone if it was your worst enemy who did something horrible to you. Or if your feeling particularly sadistic towards your friends.

Now, onward towards the next book!

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Alisa is, as evidenced by her old blog name, obsessed with reading. She's always had a book near her and has always loved books. Fiction is her preferred genre of choice- particularly Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance- but she's been known to read anything from psychology textbooks to picture books. She loves sarcasm, writing, and combining the two.


  1. This review gives me life! The ratings in Goodreads and Amazon had been terribly misleading! Sometimes I even wonder if my friends and I are reading the same thing. I despised the protagonists, though I found the premise very interesting. Which is why I’ve managed to burn through the whole series in a matter of days. It was painful, boring, but it was a trainwreck I just had to witness firsthand, even I had to eyeroll my way through it. Looking forward to reading your take on the sequel! This review made me laugh.

    • Thank you so much, Vel! I hate that feeling of disliking a book when all my other friends raved on and on about it. I’ve read the second Arcana novel, and I found it a little better than this book, which I’m glad about. Or maybe I’ve become more tolerant and happy and optimistic. If this series follows my mental projection, the third book will veer up to a kind of slightly decent maybe level.

      On a side note, have you read Cole’s adult series? I know I shouldn’t like them, but they’re like literary crack for me.

      • The third book definitely picks up in pace and action, and Evie’s become more and more a character I could like because she’s finally more skilled and pragmatic (still emotionally constipated though, given the unresolved love triangle), but maybe generally I’ve been Stockholm Syndrome-d as a reader too. I have to keep reminding myself that the quirks in narrative belong to a teenager and not an author who is trying to be “hip, young” and “with it.” I recall a “calm yo tits” line in Endless Knight. Really, Cole? Really? Your time spent on Tumblr is showing. In a decade, the jokes would have become obsolete. And I’m all for puns, I love them, but hers were severely misplaced in a dystopian novel.

        I’ve chosen to take Team Death over Team Jack even if they’re both terrible love interests to have. They may love her, but they feel entitled to her. I think it’s sad that Evie really believes that she has to belong to one or the other. That she’s a prize to be won. Internalised misogyny, Exhibit A! She’s years off full mental cognition, so I can understand that her brain’s addled with hormones at the moment. That, I can sympathise with. The see-sawing between “I want to kill him I hate him so much I can’t stand him” and “oh my fcking tits in a bouncy castle he’s SO BEAUTIFUL” shtick is getting tiring though. Ride his dick or break it, make up your damn mind!

        Okay, calming down. I suspect that by some Plot Twist, Jack reveals to be a significant player in the game. Which means more emotional constipation for Evie because Jack and Death’s dating resumes level off. Cole could string this along for two or more books and I’d lap it up because I’m masochistic like that.

        The Arcana Chronicles are the first series I’ve read from her, and I’m rather iffy about reading her adult stuff if this is how her young adult stuff look. Regardless, I’ve already numbed my brain with Arcana, what are your recs? Looking forward to them!

        • Is that where I got “Calm yo tits” from? Oops. Now I’m doubting every other kind of strange phrase I say. I feel like there’s a fine line between too much moping around in novels (*cough* Katniss) and skipping around with happiness and it’s really hard to portray, so I usually cut it some slack in books. Because I’m (attempting to fool myself into believing that I’m) a nice person.

          I’m Team Death, too! Between him and Jack, he’s the least likely one I want to chop vital organs off of. I guess that’s a good thing?

          I have a hate/love relationship with possessive alpha males. In adult books, I’m more forgiving because I’ve been numbed to them, but in YA, I’m like “Staph. You’re like 16. You’re barely a decade old. Why aren’t you studying? Don’t you want to get into a good college? Don’t you want to learn about the Krebs and Calvin Cycles? Study, child!”

          And yes, I’m so much of a nerd that I still barely recall high school biology.

          I just want to say, you’re second paragraph is awesome. I may quote it and frame it on a wall somewhere.

          Is this not the last book? There’ll be more? O.O

          Some good recs would be:
          Angelfall by Susan Ee (YA)
          The Fever Series by Karen Moning (Adult, and the 7th book comes out on the 20!!)
          The Hathaways series by Lisa Kleypas (Historical Romance, and also literary crack)
          Tiger Lily by Jodi Anderson (YA)
          Anna Dressed in Blood (YA)
          Everneath, by Brodi Ashton (YA)
          Anything by Ilona Andrews, Jeaniene Frost, or Nalini Singh

          Bad Recs are:
          Marked by the Casts (YA)
          Dear Killer (YA)
          Beautiful Bastard (Adult)
          Evermore (Alyson Noel) (YA)
          The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (YA)
          Hush, Hush (YA)

          • Hahaha! Language is constantly evolving, and with the Internet so tightly threaded into our lives it can be hard to notice where we get our patterns of speech from. I still dislike phrases like that being printed in serious literature. It gives novels such a dated feel when they should be anything but.

            I’m a very judgmental reader, but only because my line of study is child development and some books just aren’t consistent with how people actually are in real life. Plus I’ve been rather spoiled by pretty good fanfiction haha!

            I love to read about alpha males too, but the book has to be honest about it being straight up romance/erotica. I would enjoy this book more if it was just raunchy erotica, a bit of action, less high-horsing. Instead, Poison Princess is YA, which is a very impressionable demographic and it’s so damaging to be romanticizing male chauvinism. I feel like Cole is trying to send a message of female empowerment through Evie’s “powers of seduction” thereby “owning her femininity” but all it does is to equate feminine powers with evil. Slut-shaming. Meh.

            Can I just mention how appalling the sex scenes are? I wept blood.

            Why, thank you for liking my second paragraph. I do have my moments haha! The third book had one huge Plot Twist at the last chapter and ended up on a cliffhanger, so I do believe there will be a fourth part.

            I laughed my way through Hush Hush. So overly dramatic. I’ll look your recs up and check out the other reviews at your blog. Please to meet you, Miss Alisa 🙂

  2. I have just finished the first book, which felt as if I was an adult riding a children’s rollercoaster, and I have one question before I atempt to read any further into the series… Did any other ethnicities survive? Are all the major arcana cards Caucasian? Not that it will sway my choice of reading, but I just find that aspect childish and unrealistic. No one from ANY other race survived? No Asians, no Hispanics, no Islanders? It’s unrelatable. Not trolling, just speaking my mind.

    • I don’t recall anybody else being another race. I think the Twins were Russian. That’s it, really. I remember quite vividly them being described with perfect eyeliner (which was strange and hilarious in a dystopian novel where everyone is struggling with basic necessities). Sorry, I don’t recall any other ethnicity. If there was, that aspect of their character was never given importance. I think Death was Lithuanian or Latvian.


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