An Affair of Poisons

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 26 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

I’m not a big historical fiction fan unless there’s some sort of fantastical element to the story, and An Affair of Poisons had that. But it still didn’t quite hold my attention.

Initially, I was hooked. One protagonist makes poisons. Another is the bastard of a king. Immediately interested. I love watching historical dramas and recently finished Versailles on Netflix before reading this book so I was already in the mood. But then things started slowing down. . .

I think part of it was the alternating perspectives. An Affair of Poisons switches between Mirabelle and Josse and that’s all well and good, but I didn’t really care about Mira. I was interested in her work, but not her as a character. I didn’t really know why Mira was a protagonist. She could have been a side character and served the same purpose. I never felt like she really knew what she wanted to do and was just following Josse and his plans. He had a motive, a goal, to protect his sisters in whatever way he could. I understood why he was a main character and enjoyed reading from his perspective. But that meant I spent half the book just waiting for the next chapter and the character change which is never good.

On the plus side, Thorley crafted beautifully flawed characters that felt very real and very distinct so I was never confused about whose perspective I was reading from. Mira just didn’t seem like she should be a protagonist, that’s all.

As for the story, I was intrigued by the idea of overthrowing the government . . and then doing it again. There’s some magic in this world in the form of alchemy but it wasn’t really explained, you’re just expected to take it as is. Which, of course, is the part I was most interested in. The back and forth with Mira and Josse trying to take down the Shadow Society dragged on. I put An Affair of Poisons down several times and read other books in between before finishing it. 

Maybe it’s the genre, or maybe it was the story and writing style, but this book felt like it went on forever. I would definitely have enjoyed it as a TV series which is how I got into historical dramas in the first place, but as a book I struggled a bit.

I didn’t dislike An Affair of Poisons, but I wasn’t WOWed by it either. I think a huge part of that had to do with the fact that I didn’t care about one of the main characters. That said, I loved the dynamic between the book’s cast as a whole, and there were some really great action scenes. I just wanted a bit more magic, a bit more agency from Mira, and a quicker pace overall. I’d still recommend the book to historical fiction fans and think it’s a great standalone for those interested in the era after the reign of King Louis XIV in Paris.
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I loved the synopsis for An Affair of Poisons – unfortunately it just wasn’t for me and I found myself setting it aside numerous times before I was able to really buckle down and get into it.  The initial set up could have been executed better and I found myself confused at times in regard to the unrest surrounding the assassination and the Shadow Society’s role. Overall, this one had some serious potential and I am certain there are readers that will love it, it just wasn’t one for me.
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I received this as an earc on netgalley for an honest review. I thought I would love this. I thought the description was very intriguing but I found myself feeling almost relieved when it was over. I know I have an unpopular opinion but this just wasn’t for me. I ended up giving it a 2.5/5 stars but if this sounds Moreno up your alley I do think you’ll enjoy it.
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I wasn't sure what to expect, but I enjoyed reading this. An interesting story with fun characters. Well written.
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I have to say, I was unaware of the real-life L'affaire des poisons, a major murder scandal in France during the reign of King Louis XIV in which members of high society were implicated and convicted of seeking out drugs and poisons from female fortune-tellers in order to murder their rivals. Addie Thorley's alt-history re-imagining of this time was SPECTACULAR! I fell in love with her characters and world building from the get-go and the story was layered, vivid, and wonderfully fast-paced. I loved it and would highly recommend AN AFFAIR OF POISONS to anyone who enjoys historical fantasy.
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An Affair of Poisons was a exciting historical tale that kept me on the edge of my seat.  Mirabelle had a passion of alchemy and unwittingly helped her mother poison the King Louis XIV so her mother’s Shadow Society could gain power to rule over France.  When she learns what she has done, Mirabelle looks for a way to use her skills and fix the damage that she helped to cause.  Her only hope is a young man, who is one of the remaining heirs to the throne and stop the people that are willing to do whatever it takes to hold on to power.

This was a great story and I loved spending this story in this historical time period. Mirabelle was a very intelligent young woman who wanted to hang on to the memories of her father by following in his alchemy footsteps.  By doing this, she ended up being manipulated by the people that she trusted the most and I was amazed at the things she was willing to do to make things right.  This book was very entertaining and I’m looking forward to reading more from this talented author.
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I’m not usually into historical tales in any way, but this one I enjoyed. 

It’s intense and fast paced, and I loved the bits of real history woven in. 

My one complaint is the lack of differentiation between characters.
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French historical fantasy seems to be a new trend happening this year in YA and I am ALL about it. France has so much rich history (both great and terrible), so much grandeur surrounding it that it’s a setting ripe for drama and storytelling and An Affair of Poisons delivers on both. Set during the reign of the infamous Sun King, the story focuses on a secret society determined to bring down the monarchy and rule “for the people.” As with most political revolutions, all does not go as planned.

The story centers on two main characters who are on opposite sides of the spectrum of the political turmoil in Paris- Mirabelle, the daughter of the rule of the Shadow Society, and Josse, a bastard son of King Louis. When Mirabelle realizes her mother’s intentions are not so pure and focused on helping the poor and sick after all and Josse realizes he’s the only hope of getting his siblings to safety and establishing his brother on the throne, they must form an unlikely alliance to battle the Shadow Society and reclaim Paris.

Though a little improbable, I admit I really got caught up in the story while reading! It was fascinating to learn about Mirabelle’s training in alchemy and to see how she could take elements that were seemingly so ordinary individually and transform them into things that could either heal or kill so quickly. I admired how her skills were won through years upon years of practice, hard work, and training by her father, rather than her being a “special snowflake” type character. Though I didn’t feel super connected emotionally with the characters (or the romance- I feel like this story didn’t need to be a romance), I did enjoy the cast of children and teens who were doing their best to try to survive a situation when all of the adults around them were either dead or had betrayed them, from the dauphin to the Josse’s tiny half sisters who were surprising little survivors as they hid in the sewers with their siblings. It was also fascinating to see the relationship dynamics between all of the royal children, especially when it came to how they were viewed/treated by their father the king (his legitimate children vs. his illegitimate children by his “official” mistress vs. a true bastard like Josse). The complex family dynamics were interesting to read about and added a depth to the story.

I also feel like I learned a lot about France through this story that I didn’t know (which is always a plus for me when reading historical fiction or fantasy). Most of the media I’ve seen regarding France of the past has focused on the French Revolution onwards, so it was interesting to read about a setting prior to then that was inspired by a less well-known conflict. Also, who knew the Lourve was a palace before it was a museum??? (Not I, sadly, but perhaps that is what I get from taking Spanish instead of French in school).

Though this story definitely falls firmly in the “historical fantasy” realm, I think it’s so cool (and wild!) that it’s inspired on real events! According to the author’s note at the end of the book, there was a Secret Society led by a powerful female that did lead to an attempted poisoning of the king and political unrest in France. Thorley took the idea and ran with it, incorporating the magical elements and creating the main characters, but the foundations are all rooted in history (which just goes to show that sometimes truth can be way, way stranger than fiction).

Overall: An Affair of Poisons is a solid historical fiction/fantasy book that adds a magical spin on real French history that hasn’t been overused before. Though I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the characters or romance and the story had some odd pacing and time jumps, I had a lot of fun reading about this alternative version of the Sun King’s reign and overall enjoyed my reading experience.
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Even though this book is based on true events, I really liked the liberties the author took to make us care about the characters and creating subplots. (There’s a really nice author’s note in the back as well where Thorley elaborates more of the characters, true and made-up, and the events.) I enjoyed the magic, too, and the poisoner / alchemist aspect. The plot was well-paced and full of action, while still lingering on character traits and personalities enough for me to actual care. The opening chapter was quick, too, taking us right into the main part of the story. I never thought the book’s pacing was slow, and I found myself eager to return to this world.

I found our main characters, Josse and Mirabelle, to be both believable, likable characters. One of the parts that really frustrated me though was how Mirabelle viewed her father. There’s mixed feelings and twisted stories, but still in the end, I don’t know what to make of him. I’m not quite sure I like him as much as Mirabelle did, and it was frustrating to be honest. Not to say that her mother was shone in bad light because she was, too, and really did what she could to survive while her husband–supposedly?–became so buried in his work he ignored his family. I don’t think Mira understands that as she just has this perpetual dislike of her mother. One of the few times I became eternally frustrated with Mira is her constant battle within herself as to whether or not she was truly responsible for poisoning the Sun King. Yes…but no? Personally, I was tired of hearing her talk about it because I don’t think she played as big of a role in it as she thought, and she was manipulated to do so anyway. I see how Thorley used this to create external tension later between Mira and another character, but man, it was often a pain to read.

I loved Josse’s relationship with this sisters and how their bond fueled most of his actions in the story. I’m a sucker for good sibling relationships and I thought this book did a fantastic job with it.

One of my major complaints and reasons I gave this book 4 stars is the world-building. It almost isn’t there… Which sounds silly, right? For me, it was hard to imagine I was in 1600s France. Maybe this is due to the minor characters in the book, or the fact that the main characters don’t dabble with the nobles a lot. But you could put drop this plot in any historical setting and I think it would have worked. (Yes, I know this is based on true events, so sue me.) Maybe that’s a polite way of me saying the world-building didn’t feel unique, making the story a bit lackluster. But the author really does draw you in with the strong emotions the characters feel. I really had to brace myself for their internal thoughts as they struggled through particular events.
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It’s France, 1670 and the citizens of Paris find themselves in the middle of a revolution!! I loved the setting of this fun YA Historical Fantasy poisoner novel!

Mirabelle feels most at home in her fathers laboratory mixing the alchemical recipe’s her mother has ordered her to make. When her mother puts her in a position to choose between her values and what her mother wants things start to take a wild turn! Mirabelle is so strong given her circumstances & I loved that she didn’t back down from what she knew was right! Her contributions to Paris through her alchemical abilities aim to help sway the majority of the commoners to their side.

Josse is the bastard son of the king who fights to save his siblings and being down the Shadow Society after they burned the palace to the ground. When he meets Mirabelle he’s not sure if he should trust her or get rid of her like his older brother says he should! As the fight rages on alliances are made but who will we see take the throne in the end!

I loved this poisoner book & that it was also paired with magical elements. I think that the combination of the two really elevated the story!

I think we’ve needed these YA Historical Fiction/fantasy novels we are getting these days!
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Every once in a while, I'll pick up a book that completely surprises me. An Affair of Poisons was an enchanting book that I couldn't put down. Also, I'm completely hooked on researching the actual historical events that were reimagined in this book. 

An Affair of Poisons was so atmospheric, it almost felt like I was there in this beautifully imagined alternate Paris. I also loved how Thorley included the politics of the time and explored how power can corrupt ideals. The tension in the book was also great, I loved how the stakes were slowly increased as the rebellion grew from nothing. 

Mirabelle and Josse were both great characters and I loved their character arcs. I also really enjoyed the juxtaposition between their points of view, it enhanced my understanding of the story and their world. Plus the hate to love romance was adorable, particularly because it grew so slowly and naturally. I do wish that Louis, La Voisin, and Mirabelle's sister all had more depth. If the characters in general had been a bit more nuanced, I think this would have been a five star read. 

I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for any future books by Addie Thorley, An Affair of Poisons was an excellent fantasy debut. Just be prepared to want to research the history of the real affair of poisons if you do read this one! 

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher through NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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3.5 stars 

Mirabelle is an alchemist. She makes hunger tonics and medicines for the poor, but Mira also makes poisons. When Mira’s mother, the leader of the Shadow Society, uses one of Mira’s poisons to poison King Louis XIV, Mira realises the true nature of the Shadow Society.
Josse de Bourbon is the bastard son of King Louis XIV. He works in the palace kitchen and uses every chance he can to see his half-sisters. When Josse’s father is assassinated, Josse hides with his siblings in the sewers.
Mirabelle and Josse meet and together they will try to unite the citizens of Paris.
Can Mirabelle and Josse trust each other?
Will they stop the Shadow Society?

An Affair or Poisons was an enjoyable, intriguing read.
I loved the setting and the mix of historical and fantasy.
I liked that it was based on an actual historical figure - one that I hadn’t heard of before and am interested to find out more about.
I thought that both Mirabelle and Josse were relatable protagonists and I enjoyed their interactions. It was good reading as they developed throughout the book.
The plot was interesting and had some twists that I didn’t see coming.
I liked the writing style overall, but there were times when I forgot whose perspective I was reading from.  

Overall this was an enjoyable read that I would recommend.
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An Affair of Poisons is loosely based on the real life events of La Voisin and the Affaire des Poisons scandal back in the late 17th Century in Paris, France. Mirabelle is the daughter of one of the most influential society members. This book is very dark. This very fast paced tale definitely tells the story of Mirabelle and Josse, who are working together to try to start senseless murders from happening. When Mirabelle accidentally murders King Louis XIV for her mother and her mother's society, Mirabelle wants nothing more than to stop what is going on.

The characters were extremely interesting in Affair of Poisons. I really enjoyed the relationship that Josse had with his sisters. This is the one thing that I really wish the reader got more of. I would have loved to see more of Josse and his sisters. I thought the romance in the story was slow burning. It is also a really sweet romance. All the characters has really good personalities. I think that is what kept the book going.

I thought an Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley was a pretty good debut novel. It was pretty interesting to read and the characters make the book. Definitely check it out.
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Historical fantasy? Check. King Louis XIV's reign? Check. POISON? Check. 

This is a beautifully researched and written fast paced little bit of French history filled with intrigue, romance, revenge, magic, and action. Highly recommend.
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An Affair of Poisons is loosely based on the real La Voisin and real affaire des poisons which was a massive murder scandal back in the late 17th century during the reign of King Louis XIV in Paris, France. From the first line, An Affair of Poisons's atmospheric descriptions tantalize all five senses.

Mirabelle is the daughter of one of the most influential Shadow Society members. Her mother is an alchemist who brews poisons during the age of King Louis XIV in France. Mira is her mother's assistant along with Gris, an orphan a couple years older than Mira. Mira is tested in an initiation to the Shadow Society by proving herself with small tasks like poisoning the Duc de Barra, who is a vile man, but her mother and fellow Shadow Society peers fail to tell her that she is actually formulating a poison to kill the Sun King.

Mira is distraught that she has murdered someone she doesn't plan to kill. Her mother has deceived her. Mira finds out that the Shadow Society is plotting to overthrow the aristocrats and to take over the city. Mira's older sister, Marguerite, is always held on a pedestal while Mother treats Mira like a mere laboratory assistant compared to a daughter. Mira misses her father, who died in an explosion when she was younger. Her father loved alchemy. He said, "You will be a great alchemist one day, he used to tell me. Greater than I was." Mother despises Mira for following the footsteps of her father.

Josse is the bastard illegitimate son of the Sun King but a lot of people do not know he is the son of a maid compared to his sisters and brother who are born out of royalty. Josse tries to lead his siblings to safety after his parents are murdered. The unlikely pair of a prince and a poisoner eventually join forces. They are on the opposite tracks. One grew up in luxury and the other one in poverty.

Mira is kept hostage by Josse and his friend Desgrez. They want to use her to barter with the Shadow Society but no avail since Mira's mother doesn't give into the demands. Josse goes against the Dauphin in order for Mira to heal the sisters. Josse and Mira escape in hiding from the Shadow Society. Mira creates tinctures and curatives to help the poor. Readers see how Mira is caught in the middle to do what is right for the people or do obey the wishes of her mother despite the deadly results. Mira has great strength where she finds a way to prevail. She becomes La Vie and brews remedies to the awful poisons La Voisin distributes. Mira becomes the driving hope for the rebellion against the Shadow Society.

The chapters of the novel alternate between Mira's and Josse's point of views. Addie Thorley penned a story with a lot of socio-economic and political issues during 17th century Paris where readers see the differences between the rich and the poor. You feel the struggle of the common people while they fight for their lives. Even Josse has the idea to try to unite the nobility and the common people to overthrow La Voisin and the Shadow Society. With La Vie and Josse at the lead of a rebellion, they win the loyalty of the people.

Gris is definitely an understated character within the novel but without him, Mira would have not succeeded with the rebellion. He is able to play a part on two sides. The most heartbreaking scene in the novel is when Gris makes a sacrifice at the end of the book. I was in awe. Without his detailed planning, the Shadow Society would have won and Mira and Josse would have been heavily punished. Perhaps there is an underlying love and mutual respect between Mira and Gris. I would love to read more about Gris's point of view.

Thorley's research regarding the real events provided her a canvas to tweak history and it allowed her to weave in new personalities within her novel. Many of the characters are based on people that were involved with the murderous events that took place in France. Some names were changed in order the streamline the key characters. Although the real La Voisin only had one daughter who was stuck in the middle between two sides, Thorley decided to include two daughters in her novel. One daughter supports La Voisin and one defies La Voisin to lead a rebellion.

An Affair of Poisons is an intoxicating historical fantasy full of deceit, a test of loyalty and treachery. This book is highly recommended for readers who enjoyed reading Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Enchantée, Stalking Jack the Ripper and/or Les Misérables.
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This fantasy story is based on the real events of the seventeenth century, referred to as the Affair of Poisons. I didn’t realize that it was a real event until I read the author’s historical notes at the end. That made it more fascinating!

This story was fast paced. Many things happened in this fairly short novels. I liked that it was a stand alone story, because many contemporary fantasy novels turn into long series.

For some reason, I didn’t feel connected to the main character, Mirabelle. Compared to her mother and sister, she was a great person, but I wasn’t rooting for her in the story. I liked Josse much more! He was determined to help his family no matter the costs. He was an admirable hero.

I enjoyed this historical fantasy story!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Unfortunately I was not able to finish this book; personally, I did not care for the characters, the plot, or the writing. I'd read about 2/3 of it and very little had happened. The characters were bland, and I found the writing to be a bit too melodramatic.
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For some reasons that I've yet to find out, I actually like history (eventhough I dislike memorizing it--I just like to read it!). Which is why, whenever I found books set in sometimes in the past, I'll add it to my TBR faster than ever. An Affair of Poisons is no different. The other thing that made me interested to read it (other than its gorgeous cover, of course) is because it mentioned the Sun King and rebellion in the summary. So basically, history + royal court dramas + rebellion = my kind of books. 

Now, because I love lists, I'll give you some reasons why you should read An Affair of Poisons :
+ It is based on real events! I admit, I only know halfway through the book that almost all of the characters (with the exception of our protagonists) are a real figures in the past. Catherine Monvoisin, the mother of Mirabelle, really tried to poison the Sun King back then, eventhough she didn't succeed in the end. An Affair of Poisons is basically Addie's imagining of what if she succeed? Since I'm a history nerd, finding out that these are all real is a bonus point.
+ Great and sweet relationship between the characters. In this book, the relationship that I love the most is between Josse and his half-sisters. It's so great and made me wish for the thousandth time that I had an older brother. And of course, I also love the romantic relationship between Mirabelle and Josse. I admit, it took me almost halfway through before I start shipping them, but only because I think the romance is very subtle and definitely not the main focus. Still, I love how they progress from enemies to something more!
+ Fast-paced plot. Usually it took me almost a week for reading 400 pages books, but it only took me 4 days to finish this one. I just couldn't stop reading and need to know what happen next since there's a lot of twist and turns. One thing that I didn't expect is, there's a lot of time jump here and I feel kinda weird that it's pretty long. It's definitely a me thing, since I guess I'm just used to reading fantasy books without any time jump
+ This isn't part of the story, but I love how Addie Thorley includes an author's note explaining the real events and the comparison between what's fiction and what's real. It actually helps me understand the book better!

In conclusion, if you love historical fiction, definitely check out this book. The only thing that left me wanting more is, I need more siblings-relationship between Josse and his half-siblings. There's a lot in the beginning, but practically none in the middle and only a little in the end. Personally I think it's the best part in this book, and I just wish there's more.
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When I first read the synopsis for this book, I was extremely intrigued. I wasn’t sure what I should expect going into this, and honestly those expectations were not high. An Affair of Poisons proved me wrong in the most wonderful way: I absolutely adored this book so much more than I thought I would.

The first word that comes to mind when in describing An Affair of Poisons is fun. There are a lot of things to love about this book. Female alchemists? Yep. A broody, bastard prince? Check. Enemies to lovers romance? You got it. The writing is completely compelling and the fast-paced, interesting plot easily keeps the reader entertained. The plot is full of magic, murder scandals, and mayhem; all set in a historical French setting and based on real historical events (see: L’affaire des poisons). The story Addie Thorley has created is so imaginative and well-crafted. A lot of time, effort, and research went into creating this book and it easily shows.

An Affair of Poisons was the alternate YA historical fiction story that I didn’t know I needed. I really enjoyed this unique and fascinating twist on historical events and the characters that were written to perfection. I’m looking forward to whatever Addie Thorley has up her sleeve next!
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Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Page Street Kids through Fantastic Flying Book Club. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book. 

Mirabelle's passions lay in the curatives she concocts for her mother's Shadow Society. Though she is equally skilled at boiling up a deadly poison, her true love is seeing the benefits of a hunger tonic in the hands of the homeless. 

Meanwhile, Josse is the king's bastard, and he never lets himself forget. He loves his half-sisters more than anything in the world but cannot extend that love to himself. 

Mira and Josse are both flawed characters. They blame themselves for mistakes they have made in their past, and keep themselves from happiness because they "don't deserve it." Mirabelle is quicker to own her guilt: she assesses her skills to find ways to help the people she has hurt. This endeared her in my eyes. Josse was much slower and it felt like every time he accepted a flaw, he quickly took another step back. He lashed out at others, blaming them for his weaknesses. After a bit, I stopped being compassionate and got frustrated. I wanted Josse to grow as a character, but not while he was tearing other characters down. 

A few plot points in this book were harder to swallow than others. Josse leaving his sisters behind for over a week because he fears his brother's wrath is one of them. The character's motivations were not always clear to me, and at times followed the plot more than their characterization. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the fragile relationship between Mira and her sister, Margot. La Voisin's mask of strength was another strong aspect in An Affair of Poisons. I relished the moments this deadly woman showed tiny cracks in her armour, betraying the humanity underneath. 

The characters of An Affair of Poisons all work towards an ending that signals a strong "you are who you choose, not what you were born into" moral. There is a cause worth a rebellion!

Review on blog: March 10 (
Review on Goodreads: March 10 (
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