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The Cruelest Mercy

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In this sequel to The Kinder Poison--which People magazine proclaimed a "delicious high-stakes adventure"--the magical kingdom of Orkena is on the brink of war, and the only person who can save it is Zahru, the girl they once doomed for death. After surviving the Crossing, Zahru has sworn off adventures. While crown prince Jet navigates the looming threat of war, she's cont In this sequel to The Kinder Poison--which People magazine proclaimed a "delicious high-stakes adventure"--the magical kingdom of Orkena is on the brink of war, and the only person who can save it is Zahru, the girl they once doomed for death. After surviving the Crossing, Zahru has sworn off adventures. While crown prince Jet navigates the looming threat of war, she's content to simply figure out what the future holds for them. But they're dealt a devastating blow when prince Kasta returns with a shocking claim: he's the true winner of the Crossing and the rightful heir, and he bears the gods' mark as proof. Even more surprising--he's not the only one. Somehow, Zahru possesses the very same mark, giving her equal right to the throne. The last thing she wants is to rule beside her would-be executioner, but she can't let Orkena fall into his merciless hands. So Zahru, Jet, and their allies must race against the clock to find a way to stop Kasta, because once he's crowned, there's no telling what horrors he'll unleash to win the war. Zahru will do whatever it takes to keep Kasta from taking the throne...but to stop a villain, is she willing to become one herself?


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In this sequel to The Kinder Poison--which People magazine proclaimed a "delicious high-stakes adventure"--the magical kingdom of Orkena is on the brink of war, and the only person who can save it is Zahru, the girl they once doomed for death. After surviving the Crossing, Zahru has sworn off adventures. While crown prince Jet navigates the looming threat of war, she's cont In this sequel to The Kinder Poison--which People magazine proclaimed a "delicious high-stakes adventure"--the magical kingdom of Orkena is on the brink of war, and the only person who can save it is Zahru, the girl they once doomed for death. After surviving the Crossing, Zahru has sworn off adventures. While crown prince Jet navigates the looming threat of war, she's content to simply figure out what the future holds for them. But they're dealt a devastating blow when prince Kasta returns with a shocking claim: he's the true winner of the Crossing and the rightful heir, and he bears the gods' mark as proof. Even more surprising--he's not the only one. Somehow, Zahru possesses the very same mark, giving her equal right to the throne. The last thing she wants is to rule beside her would-be executioner, but she can't let Orkena fall into his merciless hands. So Zahru, Jet, and their allies must race against the clock to find a way to stop Kasta, because once he's crowned, there's no telling what horrors he'll unleash to win the war. Zahru will do whatever it takes to keep Kasta from taking the throne...but to stop a villain, is she willing to become one herself?

30 review for The Cruelest Mercy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    IF KASTAZAHRU AREN’T ENDGAME SO HELP ME GOD

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ria Visweswaran

    Every single person who wanted Alina to have a corruption arc and rule the word with the Darkling should read this book. Every single fan of Jude and Cardan should read this book. I consume a lot of YA fantasy. I see the same stories told in countless ways and the same archetypes recycled again and again. And yet, I rarely see this level of character building and risk-taking in the genre. I wish I could physically push this book into people’s hands because this story deserves recognition. Pl Every single person who wanted Alina to have a corruption arc and rule the word with the Darkling should read this book. Every single fan of Jude and Cardan should read this book. I consume a lot of YA fantasy. I see the same stories told in countless ways and the same archetypes recycled again and again. And yet, I rarely see this level of character building and risk-taking in the genre. I wish I could physically push this book into people’s hands because this story deserves recognition. Plot The Cruelest Mercy picks up a few weeks after The Kinder Poison. Zahru has survived a death-defying race across the desert and is now a symbol of worship amongst the kingdom. But she is no longer a naive girl seeking adventure and she finds herself blessed with unimaginable power. Meanwhile, our favourite stabby prince Kasta returns with the mark of the gods, signifying that he is destined to rule. Zahru has the same mark, and much to her dismay, the priests believe that they are destined to rule together. She has a month to prove that Kasta is unfit for the throne or she risks ruling alongside the prince who betrayed her, the man she can’t stop thinking about. But in order to defeat the villain, Zahru will have to become one herself. This book is much slower and more cerebral than its predecessor, but equally as compelling. It’s extremely rewarding for fans of intricate character building, particularly with Zahru and Kasta. Characters Zahru: If the Kinder Poison was an ensemble, this is Zahru’s book. No one takes the spotlight away from her. Her slow descent into villainy coupled with her burgeoning powers is wonderful, and yet, we still see flashes of the hopeful girl she used to be. “I flex my hands, shivering. Because I’m recognizing that I‘ve indeed become the worst parts of him. I’ve gone to extremes to get what I want, and justified it with my own pain. I’ve let fear drive me, and allowed it to overshadow everything I do, no matter the expense.” Kasta: Kasta is a fascinating mix of sad, vengeful, conniving and romantic. There’s something inherently likable about him, even when he’s declaring his intent to kill everyone. I think it’s the fact that Kasta continues to be an underdog, surrounded by people more powerful than him, forced to use his wits to outsmart them. It’s rewarding to see him get his way after a lifetime of suffering. “This was so much easier to handle when I thought he was dead. Then, I could rationalize that he got what he deserved and move on. I don’t know how to move on from this. From seeing him every day, from remembering, from agonizing over what he could have been, in another life." Jet: Jet takes a backseat in this book, but his morals are vital to Zahru’s inner conflict. There are also some sweet moments with him in the first half of the story. I would have liked to see more of an emphasis on the relationship between Kasta and Jet. Jet still believes he can have his brother back, so there’s a goldmine of fraught history there just waiting to be explored. Hen: Hen is the friend we all need. She’s funny, perceptive, and she doesn’t shy away from telling Zahru the hard truths. I wanted more of her in the Kinder Poison, so I was thrilled she had such a large role in this one. Romance I’ve seen a few people mention that there’s no romance in this book which is mind-boggling to me because there is absolutely a slow-burn central romance. It’s complicated but it’s there. And I may or may not have lost it at a certain sword-fighting-angst-fuelled-scene. Just look at the material, the chemistry is off the charts: “What if it’s dangerous? What if I need help?” He turns at the door, his lip curving. “You have the Wraiths. Unless there’s a reason you’d prefer me, personally, beside you?” His own loaded question. My stomach tightens. Now it’s me who can’t answer without sounding like… Something we aren’t. Point to him. “No,” I say through my teeth. “Goodnight.” A smile and he slams the door. And this: I fight against the gratefulness flickering through my chest. The comfort of having him close. The harrowing whisper in the back of my mind that saving me is much more than political strategy; that something between us has shifted again, as steadily as a slow rising tide. His gaze drops to my lips and for a moment I panic that he’ll kiss me and it will not feel like nothing. For anyone wondering, the story pretty decisively takes a stance on the love triangle, which I appreciated. Overall As a sequel to the Kinder Poison, this book is immaculate. It sets up the central conflict, forces the main characters to grapple with their inner darkness, and develops the relationships. As a series ender? I don’t know how I feel. I could probably accept this as an ending, but I know in my heart that there is more to this story. If The Cruelest Mercy at all sounds interesting to you, consider picking it up and giving it the hype it deserves. It has everything you could possibly want: corruption arc, humour, an actual enemies-to-lovers romance, high stakes and a fascinating world. "Maybe this is the cruel mercy, to spare him from servitude only to chain him to me instead." ______________________________ Pre-reading Me: Don't overanalyze My Brain: Okay, so here's a 10-page essay on why the title, The Cruelest Mercy, implies a Zahru and Kasta endgame

  3. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Mae

    Update 6/19/21: Regarding a potential book 3, I'm hoping to have a concrete answer in the coming months and will update the status here once I know either way. In the meantime if you want to help me out by continuing your wonderful shouting about this series, please do, it really does make a difference! --- UPDATE 4/16/21: eARCs have been updated with the correct ending! You'll need to download the file again to view. You'll know you have the correct ending if the epilogue starts with "My new room Update 6/19/21: Regarding a potential book 3, I'm hoping to have a concrete answer in the coming months and will update the status here once I know either way. In the meantime if you want to help me out by continuing your wonderful shouting about this series, please do, it really does make a difference! --- UPDATE 4/16/21: eARCs have been updated with the correct ending! You'll need to download the file again to view. You'll know you have the correct ending if the epilogue starts with "My new room overlooks..." (There are also minor changes to the very end of chapter 31 and start of 32).

  4. 4 out of 5

    aqsa (villain stan)

    GONNA WRITE THE REVIEW WHEN IM COHERENT SINCW I WAS READING ALL NIGHT AND ITS 11AM NOW LOL BUT YEAH YUP THAT WAS GOOD 💚 ______________________ OKAY the cover is sexy- i LOVE the snake & the crown imagery its giving me slytherin vibes i love it 🐍👑 _______________________ i have felt like the author is righting the wrongs of some wack YA books that failed us villain stans in the past SO. wallahi if Kasta x Zahru aren’t endgame i’m gonna k word i need them back together so bad 😭 (they’re giving me alina GONNA WRITE THE REVIEW WHEN IM COHERENT SINCW I WAS READING ALL NIGHT AND ITS 11AM NOW LOL BUT YEAH YUP THAT WAS GOOD 💚 ______________________ OKAY the cover is sexy- i LOVE the snake & the crown imagery its giving me slytherin vibes i love it 🐍👑 _______________________ i have felt like the author is righting the wrongs of some wack YA books that failed us villain stans in the past SO. wallahi if Kasta x Zahru aren’t endgame i’m gonna k word i need them back together so bad 😭 (they’re giving me alina x darkling vibes & i don’t wanna hope because lord knows i’ve been burned by that so bad lmao but i can’t help but see it in their entire dynamic)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Namera [The Literary Invertebrate]

    ⤅ Three words for you: Second Book Syndrome (SBS). I think it's a pretty well-documented phenomenon by now that the second books - especially in trilogies - are generally inferior to both the first and third. (Here's a totally random aside, feel free to skip it. First and Third is the name of the boat club at Trinity College, Cambridge. Originally, the college had three boat clubs: First Trinity, open to all college members, Second Trinity, open only to Theologians, and Third Trinity, only fo ⤅ Three words for you: Second Book Syndrome (SBS). I think it's a pretty well-documented phenomenon by now that the second books - especially in trilogies - are generally inferior to both the first and third. (Here's a totally random aside, feel free to skip it. First and Third is the name of the boat club at Trinity College, Cambridge. Originally, the college had three boat clubs: First Trinity, open to all college members, Second Trinity, open only to Theologians, and Third Trinity, only for Old Etonians and Old Westminsters. Legend has it that Second Trinity was disbanded in 1876 after their cox was accidentally killed by a crew from rival St John's College, during the May Bumps races. The rest of the story is that this is the reason why John's is the only college not allowed to have its boat club named after its college; instead, they're Lady Margaret Boat Club, or 'Maggie'. Though people have died during Bumps, that's probably not the reason Second Trinity was dissolved. But in any case it vanished, and First and Third ended up merging in the 20th century, giving us a behemoth of a club which is oozing money but not particularly good at the actual rowing.) Okay, sorry, aside over... I don't usually go on rowing tangents, but the Boat Race is this weekend and I'm very excited, so it slipped out. Many apologies, back to the book review now. So, I really didn't enjoy this as much as I was expecting to. Let's do a quick overview of the plot first before we jump in. Zahru and Prince Jet have just returned from the caves, supposed to be the scene of her sacrifice which would enable Prince Kasta to be chosen as the next Mestrah. Only, they've left Kasta behind - in the care of his enemy Maia, whom he's not likely to survive - and returned confident that Jet will be crowned. Unfortunately, problems start presenting themselves almost immediately. Zahru has developed a striking rune on her chest which - if she's got things right - means she's supposed to be the next Mestrah, not Jet. She plans to keep her mouth shut about this until the day of the coronation ceremony, when a bigger problem arises in the shape of Kasta, who's miraculously back from the dead. And... he has the Mestrah mark too. But Jet doesn't. The Mestrah ends up choosing both Zahru and Kasta as his heirs, and forces them to work together throughout the book so he can make sure they'll be good co-rulers when he dies. But Zahru is convinced that Kasta has a cunning plan to kill them all. ❌ This brings us to problem one: the fact that for most of the book, there's basically no plot. I genuinely can't overstate this enough. The first 80% is Zahru sneaking around looking for evidence to fit her theories while Kasta eludes her through his absence. There are no plot twists and no surprises. Not until the final 20% is there even any major action. Political-intrigue novels are famously often considered slow and boring anyway, but I've never thought so myself... until I read this one. ❌ There's very little Kasta in this book. In fact, there's very little Hen, Jet, and Marcus too, for that matter. They pop in and out of Zahru's narrative like fleeting birds, leaving barely an impression on the reader. Where are the strong personalities which dominated the first book? And speaking of strong personalities, while Zahru undergoes something of an interesting transformation, her character had moments of unexpected inconsistency. ❌ I won't lie, it really frustrates that nobody in this book - not Zahru or anyone else, except possibly Kasta - seems to have ANY SYMPATHY AT ALL for the Queen's position. She is literally married to a man who had an affair, and kid, with his childhood best friend, a kid who's treated as a prince equivalent to her own legitimate children. Yet somehow she's painted as the bad guy because she has an understandable aversion to Jet (the illegitimate prince) and isn't very demonstrative in her emotion. I realise royalty have always had mistresses, but their kids have rarely been considered legitimate, which must absolutely gall. And for not a single character to express any sympathy for the queen - instead, demonstrating respect and affection for Jet's mother, who knowingly and consensually had an affair with a married man - grates on me to the extreme. ❌ There isn't an iota of romance, even less than the first book. Not with Jet and certainly not with Kasta. ⤅ Overall I'll be reading the third book, because the final 20% was finally decent, and Mae is for sure a good writer. But I hope things pick up.

  6. 4 out of 5

    esha

    1/04/21 ALRIGHT I'VE FINISHED! (Thank you to Edelweiss for the E-ARC). *MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD* EXACT RATING: 4.5 GLOWING STARS The Cruelest Mercy was a much-awaited sequel for me; it was my most anticipated book of 2021, and it did NOT disappoint. TCM dives right into the story with no wasted time (for which I was so grateful). I was quickly immersed in the beautiful relationships Zahru has with her family and friends, as we got to see many loved characters again (that's you, Hen, Melia *pulls ou 1/04/21 ALRIGHT I'VE FINISHED! (Thank you to Edelweiss for the E-ARC). *MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD* EXACT RATING: 4.5 GLOWING STARS The Cruelest Mercy was a much-awaited sequel for me; it was my most anticipated book of 2021, and it did NOT disappoint. TCM dives right into the story with no wasted time (for which I was so grateful). I was quickly immersed in the beautiful relationships Zahru has with her family and friends, as we got to see many loved characters again (that's you, Hen, Melia *pulls out list*). This book never fails at creating a strong atmosphere, the hilarious, yet beautiful writing had me hooked immediately, and I felt every emotion Zahru felt right along with her. I completely loved the tension between Zahru and Kasta, and I may have screamed at some scenes (in a good or bad way? I guess you'll have to find out yourself). Zahru's character took a very interesting turn, as she started levitating towards villain territory. This was super fun to read about, and some of her actions definitely caused a bit of a shock. However, although I loved this new Zahru, I felt as if the fluctuation between the 'good' and 'bad' parts of her were a little too fast. One second, she's ready to [REDACTED], and not long after, her morals seem to come back? I totally understand how people do not just 'turn evil/bad' all of a sudden, and there's a huge internal struggle within, but Zahru seemed to go back and forth a little unsmoothly. I also wished we got a little more romance, but that might be because I'm content-starved for my ship. Overall, I loved all the characters and the plot had me very intrigued! There were so many funny moments that had me laughing, and there were moments that made me want to cry. This book definitely lived up to its expectations, although a few tweaks would make it even better! Fingers crossed we get a third book, because, like, I NEED it. Like, the same way I NEED oxygen. FINAL RATING: 4.5 STARS __________________________________ KASTAZAHRU ENDGAME OR I'M CRYING. Look me in the eye and tell me their chemistry doesn't LEAP off the page. (Jet is alright too, but for me, he lacks that spark with Zahru) Kasta, on the other hand.... ;)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Arundhati

    Before I give my thoughts on this book I just want to say that, I NEED A THIRD BOOK AND FOURTH AND HOW MANY EVER IS POSSIBLE. PLEASE TELL ME THEIR IS A SEQUEL😭😭😭😭. TAKE MY SOUL ALREADY, I DON'T NEED IT ANYWAY BUT GIVE ME ANOTHER BOOK. THIS CANNOT BE THE END😭😭😭!!!!! I am litreally buzzing with restless energy after finishing this and I don't know what to do. Thank you for not being a disappointment. This was such an anticipated read for me that it would have killed me to rate is any less than 4. B Before I give my thoughts on this book I just want to say that, I NEED A THIRD BOOK AND FOURTH AND HOW MANY EVER IS POSSIBLE. PLEASE TELL ME THEIR IS A SEQUEL😭😭😭😭. TAKE MY SOUL ALREADY, I DON'T NEED IT ANYWAY BUT GIVE ME ANOTHER BOOK. THIS CANNOT BE THE END😭😭😭!!!!! I am litreally buzzing with restless energy after finishing this and I don't know what to do. Thank you for not being a disappointment. This was such an anticipated read for me that it would have killed me to rate is any less than 4. But in all fairness I have rated it 5 stars ONLY AND ONLY FOR KASTA❤. I just couldn't see anything beyond him. So I will try my best to write a coherent review. Forgive my excessive fangirling over Kasta🙈. Plotwise I definitely think The Kinder Poison was stronger. Not much of action happens in this book. Rather there is a lot of scheming and politics involved. Not much is accomplished in terms of going ahead with the plot. We do get more details on the political situation and the brewing war. Focus is shifted more towards the world building and the magic system. Even though there is not much action happening, plot is very engaging. Writing is simple and overall the story is well paced. Now off to the best part of this series. The characters. Zahru - I have mixed feelings about her in this book. I love Zahru as a narrator. She is under a lot of stress given she is now chosen as Mestrah to rule alongside Kasta. I am glad she didn't lose her sense of humor in all this high stress situation. But honestly she was just a paranoid mess for the entire duration of the book. It is so opposite to how she was in the first book where she always looked at the best in people, whereas here she just assumed the worst of everyone( well not everyone but only one person counts everything to me so..yeah😤). She was just so petty all the time. Her pettiness was endearing sometimes but annoying most of the time.She definitely became more interesting?? Darker?? I am not sure how I exactly feel her moving in that direction. But I am glad she started becoming accepting of Kasta's ways and came to understand that certain things needed to be done to accomplish a bigger goal. She certainly grew out of the naive wide eyed adventure seeking girl to a leader. I am not quite sure if she will be a fitting ruler as most of her current decision are based on her advisors. It would be really interesting to see what kind of leader she comes to be. Jet - Jet is really sweet as usual trying to make Zahru happy and calm. He has a righteous way of looking at things, so his actions are justified. The way he always came up with gifts and everything to cheer Zahru up was so adorable. We get very less of him in this book which I was ok with tbh. Hen- She is a total badass. I so loved Zahru's and Hen's friendship. It's so precious and needs to be protected. Hen is absolutely crazy and such an amazing friend. I totally love her for that. She always comes to Zahru's aid even without her asking and supports her regardless of her decision is just so priceless. Mestrah- I hated Mestrah from the first book for what he did to Kasta😤 But I came to eventually forgive him towards the end. For whatever he did I absolutely loved him for putting Kasta and Zahru together even when they were not willing and making them work together. Secretly I think he too is a KASTAxZAHRU shipper🤭. Kasta- Last but not the least in any way Kasta❤❤❤ All the love I have for this series is due to him. And God he didn't disappoint me at all. He is such a complex character. He is filled with so much pain and desire for revenge. He desperately wants to do the right things but just not in the right way. He is the king🤴 of morally grey characters. Like seriously. He grew so much throughout. Actually tried so much to change. I am really trying here to not give much away. Just I love him ❣ and thank you Natalie for giving the world Kasta The Romance "I made you a promise" I know a lot of people believe there is a love triangle in this series. I want to firmly say NO. It is clear as day, it is KASTAxZAHRU. How anybody can think Jet had a chance is beyond me. OMG the romance. Kasta and Zahru's chemistry is 🔥🔥🔥🔥. Their scenes were amazing. The tension OMG😭😭😭. They litreally go from wanting to kill each other( like litreally stab stab) to kissing each other. And the throwback to the promise Kasta makes to Zahru. Kasta stood by his promises.My poor heart can only handle so much. Their love is so tender and fragile but still so passionate. I love them together SOOOO much. Enemies to lovers has never been done so well. EVER.❤ How can I possibly end this review without mentioning the EPILOGUE.OMG!!! I was not expecting this but I couldn't thank the author enough for that fantastic epilogue. It just left me in tears. I need the next book. I need to know what happens to my precious Kasta. Overall I just loved this book with all my heart. Yeah there were faults but I am just gonna overlook them totally.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Booktastically Amazing

    I’m fangirling over Kasta and everyone else can literally take a super expensive hike to Tartarus. Taxes included.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Athena of Velaris

    "Good can come from even the most lost of causes." First and foremost, more people need to read this series because IT IS SO GOOD! The plot is fast and addicting, the characters are unique, the world is super cool, and the writing is light and easy. This book in particular is the jaw dropping sequel to The Kinder Poison , picking up about a month after book one ends. The story gets started right away, and though I can't say much to exact plot events because it would massively spoil the first b "Good can come from even the most lost of causes." First and foremost, more people need to read this series because IT IS SO GOOD! The plot is fast and addicting, the characters are unique, the world is super cool, and the writing is light and easy. This book in particular is the jaw dropping sequel to The Kinder Poison , picking up about a month after book one ends. The story gets started right away, and though I can't say much to exact plot events because it would massively spoil the first book, know that a hated enemy returns. "Maybe this is the cruel mercy, to spare him from servitude only to chain him to me instead." Zahru's morality is such a huge portion of the story, making this book a stand out amongst other YA novels. She tiptoes between good and bad constantly, and her choices make her perception of both sides fluid. She does what is right for her, not what is right for everyone else and GOODNESS DOES THAT MAKE THIS BOOK AMAZING. It is so so rare to see characters actually go evil, and even when it happens, it is never done as well as it was here. If you characters like Kaz Brekker (SoC), Rielle (Furyborn), Jude (Cruel Prince), or Julian (TDA), you'll probably love Zarhu. “This was so much easier to handle when I thought he was dead. Then, I could rationalize that he got what he deserved and move on. I don’t know how to move on from this. From seeing him every day, from remembering, from agonizing over what he could have been, in another life." The earlier Zahru/Jet romance fell to the background, but I was okay with that. I actually really liked that Zahru questioned whether she would even care for him if it weren't for their shared experiences. It made her seem more human and understandable. A lot of people (and I do mean a LOT of people) really want a Zahru/Kasta romance, and I can see the pieces being laid out here *cough* epilogue *cough*. I am completely onboard with this ship for two reasons: Kasta sees Zahru as an equal, and villain romances are amazing. "Like so many things in the palace, the map is deceptively beautiful." Speaking of Kasta, he was certainly interesting. As I said in my Kinder Poison review, he's horrible but easy to understand. Rarely do "villains" have such detailed and complicated motivations. It was easy to see where Kasta was coming from and sympathize with him while also low key hating him. He is Zahru's mirror in more ways than one, and I am so excited for a hopeful romance between them. "'Rule with me', he says, and my stomach drops. 'Fight beside me, and we will be unstoppable. I will do everything you ask.'" This is truly Zahru's book, though the side characters do still play important roles. Hen adds humor to the story, Marcus and Melia pull Zahru back from the edge when she most needs them too, and Jet serves as a punching bag (that's how I saw him at least). The story--though high fantasy--uses modern language and speaking styles, so it is easy to follow: you never get lost in the layers of the dialogue. The writing is lyrical without being overpowering, something that made this book even better. "I feel many things [...] but afraid is not one of them." If you like... -Fast paced fantasy -Villain romances -Questionable morality -Characters going evil -Court intrigue -Manipulative magic -Humor -Royalty -Slowburn romance (with crazy good tension) -Large friend groups Then this book is definitely for you.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nashita

    I WASNT a huge fan of the first one.....but now I wanna read this Why? KASTA AND KASTA ALONE

  11. 5 out of 5

    Reviewer King

    need kastazahru to happen please

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nihal

    i- i did not expect that ending. i simply did not see it coming. its not often I'm surprised. I'm still a lil torn whether its a good surprise or something i should readily accept. idk. this book was written in a way there could've been a hundred possible endings. the most predictable and the one most used in ya media was not chosen and That surprised me. more than the ending itself. the epilogue?? *****. he was simply obsessed. smitten. turned into eugenides. anyway! i want this to be spoiler f i- i did not expect that ending. i simply did not see it coming. its not often I'm surprised. I'm still a lil torn whether its a good surprise or something i should readily accept. idk. this book was written in a way there could've been a hundred possible endings. the most predictable and the one most used in ya media was not chosen and That surprised me. more than the ending itself. the epilogue?? *****. he was simply obsessed. smitten. turned into eugenides. anyway! i want this to be spoiler free but i don't think it's possible tbh. we'll come to the characters later. i cannot find anything wrong with this book and that is why I'm giving it 5 stars. did things go the way i wanted them to? no. was i still squealing like a school girl over twists and finished this book in two sittings? yes. that in itself is a sign of a good book. the writing flowed like water. not a single sentence was extra, or unnecessary. i saw a few reviews saying it got boring in the middle GIRL WHERE?? for a debut, this was solid writing. thoroughly impressed. I'm not the one to highlight quotes and get swayed by flowery prose. just give me direct, to-the-point flow. Characters: jet. I'm SO glad he wasn't mal-ified by the end. he stayed the flimsy, slightly helpless but eager to help self. he wasn't vilified or turned into a annoying, misogynistic character to progress the romance and for that, I'm so thankful. I liked him from day one. I just want the shippers to stay AWAY. he always tried his best but was done a lil dirty ngl. everything was taken away from so quick and we didn't really get to see him get angry or jealous. he moved on way too quickly. i would've liked if his feelings were acknowledged and wasn't cast away as a main character? he wasn't even there for most of the part. gotten rid of him too conveniently.... him being there would've complicated things but idc! kasta. from my updates you would think i dislike him but i don't. it was hard to hate him because zahru was feeding off assumptions and so were we. to be honest, I wasn't sold on him because I liked jet lol. and i generally don't warm up to manipulative characters like him that may or may not be good people. zahru. omg she went CRAZY in this one. the denial, the crazy nature she adopted, the STRESS. it was radiating off of her. I lowkey felt stressed too at some points. i was like imma take a break even if she doesn't want to or doesn't have the time. she was too quick to change her mind but that's to be expected because she's an amateur? so no problem detected. hen. i loved her comedic, bold, savage character so much. i would love to read a spin off based on her. though rest of the side characters weren't developed as much as i would've liked but i still loved them. considering the length of the duology, i grudgingly accept the drawback. i am just Now realising it wasn't romance- focused at all. i was reading too much into it. now THAT is what i like. romance where the Reader has to dive deep in and look out for clues. keeps you on your toes. a blatant, laid out plan is boring. if you're looking for heavy smoldering and heart eyes, well, look away. I've changed my mind! I like the ending. Shippers didn't exactly win so I'm happy. Reminds me of Warcross' ending. for anyone looking for a reason to pick up this duology: do it if you're looking for some non- committal fun. ALSO good for getting out of reading slumps. trust me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    avani

    update: LOOK AT THIS FANART OF KASTA AND ZAHRU OMFG [image error] ac: bloodydamnit istg if this doesnt convince people to read it holy hellfjghfzkdjg reread 20 days later: the length of this book is an actual crime. it is way too short. I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH OH MY GOD IT IS JUST EVERYTHING I COULD ASK FOR IN A FANTASY ROMANCE. just scroll down to the unofficial review with the stars to read how i feel right about now. pls the things i would do to be able to experience reading this for the first update: LOOK AT THIS FANART OF KASTA AND ZAHRU OMFG [image error] ac: bloodydamnit istg if this doesnt convince people to read it holy hellfjghfzkdjg reread 20 days later: the length of this book is an actual crime. it is way too short. I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH OH MY GOD IT IS JUST EVERYTHING I COULD ASK FOR IN A FANTASY ROMANCE. just scroll down to the unofficial review with the stars to read how i feel right about now. pls the things i would do to be able to experience reading this for the first time again ------------------------ this book was everything i wanted and more. it has joined the hall of fame in my all-time favorite books ever. official review The writing was still the easy, flowing prose as it was in the first one. This was again a very character-driven book, and the characters were definitely my favorite part. Zahru's development was incredible- it was fascinating to see her grow into her new power. She never lost her snarky sense of humor and it genuinely had me huffing with laughter. I'll say this about Kasta- he was one of my favorite characters, right next to Zahru, and I could talk about for hours. He was also written phenomenally and his character is one I think about quite often. All the other side characters were in this a lot less, and I will say they weren't developed as much but its a minor complaint. The Egyptian influences that inspire this world are also so beautifully described, and I loved them. I can't say I've read any other books inspired by Egyptian mythology so this uniquely stands out. Overall, I don't have much, if anything, to complain about. I knew I was going to love this but I didn't expect it to be even better than The Kinder Poison, which it was. The ending was an emotional rollercoaster, but I was a little stumped over the epilogue. I am now dying for the third book, and the fact that it's not even confirmed is breaking my heart but fingers crossed. The Cruelest Mercy immediately shot up into my top 15 books of all-time, and I will definitely be raving and recommending this series to everyone I know. I cannot wait to buy a physical copy as I know this will be a series I love and reread for years. thank you so so much to Edelweiss+ and the publishers for the arc in exchange for my honest review! ★★★★★★★unofficial review★★★★★★★ OHHMYYYGODDSSS FKJDGHREREI ITS OFFICIAL, THIS SERIES HAS BECOME AN ALL-TIME FAVORITE I LOVE IT SO SO MUCH. zahru was still hilarious omg i was cackling the entire time. KASTA KASTA KASTA oh my gods he was so morally grey, he bordered on being the cruelest villain to being a genuinely good person the entire time AND IT WAS AN EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER. i was teetering on the edge of completely loving him or completely hating him (no thats actually a lie- i loved him the entire time). THE TENSION, THE ANGST, THE PUSH-PULL BETWEEN ZAHRU AND KASTA OH MY GODS PLS- IT WAS PERFECT, ALL THEIR SCENES WERE PERFECT. stupid jet i hated him here. he was giving me mal from book sab vibes- and not in the good way. i could talk about this book for hours, i cant stop thinking about it, but i'll leave saying i really hope this isn't the end to the series. i would dislike the ending, specifically the epilogue, even more if i knew there would definitely be no third book but i'm crossing my fingers and still hoping there will. it left me very confused and i'm not exactly sure i know what happened. EITHER WAY I LOVE THIS SERIES SO SO MUCH AND IT IS NOW THE MOST UNDERRATED SERIES ON MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE SHELF SO PLEASE GO READ IT IF YOU HAVENT, I NEED MORE PEOPLE TO TALK TO THIS ABOUT AND I PROMISE ITS AMAZING

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cassidy

    4 stars Warning: this review contains a lot of run-on sentences and full-on fangirling. If you’re someone who facepalms every time someone else makes a big grammar mistake, you can expect your face to be red and stinging by the time you’ve finished reading my review. Hi I’m back with another warning: this review will contain minor spoilers for the first book, The Kinder Poison. okay GUYS. THIS WAS ONE OF MY MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASES OF THE YEAR, AND I’M SO HAPPY BECAUSE I GOT MY COPY BEFORE THE B 4 stars Warning: this review contains a lot of run-on sentences and full-on fangirling. If you’re someone who facepalms every time someone else makes a big grammar mistake, you can expect your face to be red and stinging by the time you’ve finished reading my review. Hi I’m back with another warning: this review will contain minor spoilers for the first book, The Kinder Poison. okay GUYS. THIS WAS ONE OF MY MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASES OF THE YEAR, AND I’M SO HAPPY BECAUSE I GOT MY COPY BEFORE THE BOOK EVEN CAME OUT (for clarification, you can see my status update here)!!! I have to say, though I really really really enjoyed the book, it was also kind of a mild case of Second Book Syndrome :/. I just feel like The Kinder Poison was a lot more action-packed and plot-twisty than this one, ya know? So basically, there’s this gal named Zahru (our main character), and she’s trying to save the world from imminent doom (why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, maybe because that’s basically the plot of every YA fantasy book ever. But whatever.). Sounds interesting, yes? Well, Zahru dearest doesn’t actually do much to try and stop the bad people. Instead, she kind of just wallows in self-pity and frustration because who-knows-why. We really only get action in small spurts, and it always comes out of nowhere. HOWEVER, whenever that action DOES show up, IT’S REALLY GOOD. Like, REALLY REALLY GOOD. Soooo….🤷‍♀️. I also thought that while certain scenes in the book were redundant, others were super super fascinating and absolutely amazing. So I guess the plot was kind of hit-or-miss? 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️ As with the plot, the quality of the characters were inconsistent. For example, while Zahru and Kasta undergo a LOT of interesting development, some of my favorite characters from the previous book (like Marcus and Melia) kind of just sank into the background. We barely get any scenes with them, which was SO DISAPPOINTING. BUT. KASTA. HE IS SUCH A COMPLEX AND INTRICATE CHARACTER. WE GET SOOOO MUCH DEVELOPMENT FROM HIM, AND HIS MORALLY-GREYNESS IS PERFECT! I FEEL LIKE THAT KIND OF EVENS OUT THE LACK OF APPEARANCES FROM MARCUS AND MELIA (???). Aaand it was super interesting to watch as Zahru changed from a starry-eyed stable girl to a ruthless(ish) ruler. So like I said: the characters are pretty hit-or-miss. Okay but the biggest sigh-inducer for me was that we got alllll this talk about a dangerous enemy, but we didn't even get to meet the enemy’s ruler. What’s up with that? I feel like we could’ve gotten much better character development for the antagonist. OKAY SO SO FAR, I HAVEN’T SOUNDED VERY ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THIS BOOK, BUT AS WE MOVE ON TO THE NEXT COUPLE PARAGRAPHS, YOU WILL SEE WHY I RATED IT FOUR STARS. (grammar aficionados, get ready for a lot of cringing.) SO SO SO SO SO. LET’S JUST TALK ABOUT KASTA AND ZAHRU FOR A SECONDDDD. THESE KIDS ARE PROBABLY MY OTP OF THE YEAR, EVEN THOUGH THEY ABSOLUTELY HATE EACH OTHER!!!! (I mean, come on - in the previous book, Kasta tried to kill Zahru. The hate’s pretty justified.). THEY ARE THE DEFINITION OF ENEMIES-TO-LOVERS (actually they aren’t even lovers but we’re gonna ignore that fact) AND I LOVE THEM TO THE END OF THE WORLDDD. WHY?? WELL. LET’S SEE. -THEIR CHEMISTRY IS OFF THE CHARTS -THEY ARE SOOO UNPREDICTABLE - WILL THEY STAB EACH OTHER? WILL THEY KISS? WHO KNOWS??? IT’D BE ENTERTAINING EITHER WAY!! -DEEP DEEP DEEP DEEP DEEP DOWN, THEY KNOW THEY LOVE EACH OTHER AND IT’S SO CUTE -THEIR BANTER-ISH TALK IS SOOOOO CUTEE AND I LOVE ITTT -THE SLOW-BURN ROMANCE IS PERFECTLY EXECUTED!!! JET HONEY, YOU BETTER BACK OFF BECAUSE YOU AIN’T GOT NOTHIN ON KASTA. (yes, there is kind of a love triangle. no, it is not childish or annoying.) So BASICALLY, I’d say that although I liked The Kinder Poison more, The Cruelest Mercy wasn’t that bad either. But I’ll admit that Kasta gave this book half of its stars.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Squyres

    honestly im with everyone else jet is a nice guy and all....but i cant help but feel like kasta needs zahru and her kindness and that somehow they PERFECTLY just go together. idk what screams that since all the things happened in book 1.. i just love kasta and i dont want him to be the villain we fall in love with just to end up hating. they NEED to be endgame. if they are not end game, it will drastically change the read for me im so strongly set on this LOL (view spoiler)[ plus i totally think honestly im with everyone else jet is a nice guy and all....but i cant help but feel like kasta needs zahru and her kindness and that somehow they PERFECTLY just go together. idk what screams that since all the things happened in book 1.. i just love kasta and i dont want him to be the villain we fall in love with just to end up hating. they NEED to be endgame. if they are not end game, it will drastically change the read for me im so strongly set on this LOL (view spoiler)[ plus i totally think jet and melia would be much better together and i could of sworn i saw some moments pointing at this but tis what tis (hide spoiler)]

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alina

    Congratulations, new favourite added to the list. From now on, you will be emotionally wrecked. 4,5/5 stars THIS WAS AN EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER. Okay so, this book is really new, right? I am glad I started reading the second it was out. Everything about this book is so perfect. The only thing I disliked was the love triangle with two brothers in it... Anyway, everything else was too awesome for me to give it four stars. Disclaimer: this is kind of really short.. I had many questions when I read The Congratulations, new favourite added to the list. From now on, you will be emotionally wrecked. 4,5/5 stars THIS WAS AN EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER. Okay so, this book is really new, right? I am glad I started reading the second it was out. Everything about this book is so perfect. The only thing I disliked was the love triangle with two brothers in it... Anyway, everything else was too awesome for me to give it four stars. Disclaimer: this is kind of really short.. I had many questions when I read The Kinder Poison, and I am happy to inform everyone reading this that all of them were answered. The relationships became even better while staying realistic, the best part of it all being Zahru not forgetting her family out of nowhere. The love triangle was still weird, however, I found it tolerable because Zahru's relationship with Jet was not completely romantic. The whole novel was 200% better than most thrillers -without being a thriller-, it kept me up at night, wondering what might happen. Another thing I loved was that the reader becomes Zahru, being suspicious about everything and finding it hard to trust ANY character. Also, my favourite thing here was the Mestrah shipping Zahru and Kasta, assigning them to stay and work together. It felt like watching my shipper heart help these two beautifully paranoid characters get together. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Jet. He is my favourite, HOWEVER, I will not throw my beautiful ship away just for Jet's awesomeness. I think Kasta and Zahru really reflect each other's personalities and childhood lives. They belong together :) THAT EPILOGUE THOUGH- OH, GOD. OH MY GOD. OH, MY F*CKING GOD. I am so in love and this is the best epilogue in the hundreds of books I've read. The second I started reading, I prayed God for a chapter from Kasta's POV; and I got it. YES. I had many predictions for the end of this story but never expected this. It is far too good to be real. Here is the sentence that gave my heart to this lovely author, Natalie Mae. NO, actually, I gave my heart to her skilful hands the SECOND I read it. Any time she writes a new book, I will be here to read it. And... Dear Natalie, if you are reading this, please, PLEASE, give me another masterpiece. It is my mission to force everyone I know -and don't know- to read the Kinder Poison duology and any other book you write. I love you and forgive you for this heartbreaking ending. Also, PLEASE I BEG YOU, write a novella about my lovely couple and how Jet ends up... ANYWAY, the sentence we were saying. "She can feel the truth of it in my veins. Perhaps it took this long to work, that kindness she poisoned me with so long ago, when I told her I was nothing and she saw so much more." In conclusion, please read this duology. The author and her work deserve more love... Also, the second book has two maps, they are both beautiful- thank you for reading, I will be back at my miserable life, now containing a new trauma. HERE'S ANOTHER HERE'S ANOTHER "If she wants peace, I can't let her forget it. And if that means my only purpose from here forward is to sew her back together as she did for me, to remind her that good can come from even the most lost of causes... then I must do it." PS: I love you Kasta.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Autumn (inactive til August)

    Oh wait this comes out tomorrow??

  18. 4 out of 5

    Katie Prouty

    "'Rule with me', he says, and my stomach drops. 'Fight beside me, and we will be unstoppable. I will do everything you ask.'" The trio is back: Jet, Kasta, and Zahru! You heard me. Kasta is back (surprise he's not dead!) and claiming HE is the true heir to the throne and winner of the Crossing bearing the gods mark as proof. And Z's love for chocolate is still s-t-r-o-n-g but she has this annoying, persistent bruise on her chest that kind of looks like the mark the winner of the Crossing is sup "'Rule with me', he says, and my stomach drops. 'Fight beside me, and we will be unstoppable. I will do everything you ask.'" The trio is back: Jet, Kasta, and Zahru! You heard me. Kasta is back (surprise he's not dead!) and claiming HE is the true heir to the throne and winner of the Crossing bearing the gods mark as proof. And Z's love for chocolate is still s-t-r-o-n-g but she has this annoying, persistent bruise on her chest that kind of looks like the mark the winner of the Crossing is supposed to receive. Jet is managing the kingdom of Orkena and the threat of war. Will Z and the gang be able to stop Kasta from becoming Mestrah and disastrous king? A satisfying sequel to The Kinder Poison series! I could not make up my mind which Prince I adore but I am now officially joining #TeamKasta! Z is still full of sass and sarcasm that will make readers LOL. Her love for baked goods is relatable. Jet is a peach! Kasta is the Deathbringer, stabby-stabby psychopath prince. Cool, cool, cool. I forgive you. I love you. Bring on TKP 3! READ IF YOU LIKE: -high stakes adventure -morally gray characters -politics, secrets, & control -magic & enchantments -apology chocolate & a kitten -#IsThisAKissingBook: "His kiss burns on my lips." TWO Princes, readers. But #TeamKasta! Song: Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Lorde Thank you penguin young readers for an advanced copy!

  19. 4 out of 5

    ;3

    kasta just diet cardan. but whatever KASTAZAHRU NATION LET’S GO 🥳

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brinley

    I don't even know how to feel about this. Because that ending HURT. I love morally grey characters, don't get me wrong, but this was a completely different direction than I was expecting. I gotta get this out of the way now, so I might as well say it. I hate Jet. He's the only thing standing in the way of a Zahru/Kasta endgame, and it's driving me crazy. I couldn't be happier if he just walked into a lake of lava. He plays like he's mister nice guy, but he's really a manipulative asshole. Kasta I don't even know how to feel about this. Because that ending HURT. I love morally grey characters, don't get me wrong, but this was a completely different direction than I was expecting. I gotta get this out of the way now, so I might as well say it. I hate Jet. He's the only thing standing in the way of a Zahru/Kasta endgame, and it's driving me crazy. I couldn't be happier if he just walked into a lake of lava. He plays like he's mister nice guy, but he's really a manipulative asshole. Kasta on the other hand is my favorite. He's the perfect mix of sweet and vicious, of brooding and romantic. We got quite a bit of him in this one, but I still wanted more. I just knew that any scenes with him would be absolutely filled with tension, and they were. And Zahru is the heroine we all want. She was willing to do anything for her beliefs. Sure, I got a bit tired of her jumping to conclusions and always assuming the worst, but I felt like her ultimate arc was done so well. I was in complete shock at the ending, as I had NO idea what was coming. I'm not sure if I love this as a conclusion to the series, but considering the author has said there may be more books, I'm keeping my fingers crossed. The epilogue wasn't enough, I need my ship set in stone. No arguments, I need them to survive and be a power couple together.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christine Manzari

    As much as the first book was about the power of Zahru’s kindness and the potential for redemption, this book was about the darkest parts of the characters and their willingness to make bad choices for what they think is the right reason. I need a third book in this series…I need redemption💚

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I get that Kasta and Zahru had tension but does anyone remember when he tried to kill her on multiple occasions??? Even after they kissed, he was still planning on sacrificing her!!! And he wouldn’t have to choose between her or the throne if he hadn’t been the reason she was the sacrifice! Y’all are nuts.

  23. 5 out of 5

    bookwormbullet

    Oh my God??? This book was such a rollercoaster of emotions, but continued to prove why I love The Kinder Poison series so much. Natalie Mae is such an incredible fantasy author and I truly think any YA fantasy lover should read this series!! Her books remind me why I love reading YA fantasy in the first place. I'm crossing my fingers SO HARD that she gets approved for at least a third or fourth book because that epilogue was not enough omg. I had so much fun returning back to the world of The Ki Oh my God??? This book was such a rollercoaster of emotions, but continued to prove why I love The Kinder Poison series so much. Natalie Mae is such an incredible fantasy author and I truly think any YA fantasy lover should read this series!! Her books remind me why I love reading YA fantasy in the first place. I'm crossing my fingers SO HARD that she gets approved for at least a third or fourth book because that epilogue was not enough omg. I had so much fun returning back to the world of The Kinder Poison in The Cruelest Mercy. The vibes of this sequel were very different than the first book (the first book was a super fun adventure out in the desert and this book is more focused on political intrigue and the character relationships). Nevertheless, I was still on the edge of my seat the entire time--just as much as I was in the first book. Natalie Mae builds such great tension between Zahru, Jet, and Kasta, that at any moment I was convinced that one of them would turn on the other (including Jet!). Speaking of the characters, Zahru still remains one of my favorite YA heroines. She's so hilarious and I loved watching her journey from being tossed around as the Living Sacrifice to becoming her own person and growing into her role alongside Kasta and developing her powers. I also really liked the natural progression of her relationship with Jet. I was (and to an extent, still am) a hardcore Team Jet reader, especially in The Kinder Poison, because he seemed so much more supportive and caring of Zahru's needs than Kasta. However, it felt really realistic that Zahru and Jet's relationship would turn the way that it did in this book. I'm curious to know where their relationship stands at the end of The Cruelest Mercy because it wasn't totally clear. I also enjoyed seeing Kasta's character development--he seemed like such a different person than he was in Book 1 for so much of the first 2/3rds of the book. Zahru's choice at the end of this book is going to have such an interesting impact on their relationship and I'm super intrigued to see how this will affect her relationship with Jet as well. Overall, I'd give this book 4.5 stars! I think the ending could have been more flushed out (I was still left with many questions) but this is definitely an amazing YA series that I will always recommend!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dinda

    PLEASE TELL ME THERE'LL BE ANOTHER BOOK!! i heard that this series is a duology but please i need more!! I liked this one just as much as the first one if not better. was it perfect, No. But i did enjoy it immensely. the ending is such an open potential for another book. but what i feel was lacking in this book was some kazta&zahru moment! I thought things would get a lot more steamy, and if natalie is planning on doing a third book she owe me that much. I NEED MORE!!! PLEASE TELL ME THERE'LL BE ANOTHER BOOK!! i heard that this series is a duology but please i need more!! I liked this one just as much as the first one if not better. was it perfect, No. But i did enjoy it immensely. the ending is such an open potential for another book. but what i feel was lacking in this book was some kazta&zahru moment! I thought things would get a lot more steamy, and if natalie is planning on doing a third book she owe me that much. I NEED MORE!!!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ashlee » libraryinthecountry

    *whew* This one was even angstier than the first and I loved the turn of events that played out through it! I love how this one gets darker as it progresses and seeing characters toe the line of villain and not. My bad boy loving heart is still Team Kasta.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    Thank you Netgalley and PenguinTeen for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars TW: violence, death, mentions of parental death, mentions of child neglect/emotional abuse Rep: LGBTQ+ (side characters), racial diversity I’m going to start by saying I wholeheartedly believed this was a duology, so you can imagine my confusion as I was reading and realized that there were still a lot of loose ends. Now, I thought the The Kinder Poison was a fun, quick read, but it didn’t Thank you Netgalley and PenguinTeen for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars TW: violence, death, mentions of parental death, mentions of child neglect/emotional abuse Rep: LGBTQ+ (side characters), racial diversity I’m going to start by saying I wholeheartedly believed this was a duology, so you can imagine my confusion as I was reading and realized that there were still a lot of loose ends. Now, I thought the The Kinder Poison was a fun, quick read, but it didn’t really bring anything new to the table. I’d have to say that I felt similarly about The Cruelest Mercy, except some of the elements I actually enjoyed in book one were withered away here. Truthfully, I was annoyed by a majority of this book - however, I do believe this was the author’s intent, so she actually did a good job writing the story. Zahru has a pretty major character shift, which ultimately is understandable as she is recovering from trauma. I did observe the lack of trauma attention in this book. We as the reader see how Zahru is coping, but no one around her really mentions it or checks in, besides to simply state “you’ve been through a lot.” This felt off. I actually had a lot of complaints with how the side characters were portrayed in this one. Especially considering Zahru’s friends and family are not very present in this book at all. I understand that part of this is because Zahru has pushed people away, but it felt really out of character for the others to not reach out and push and challenge her. There was a single attempt to aid her, however it was so lackluster and watered down it hardly counts. People were passively aggressively reacting to her but it was not helpful in the slightest. I know there is a whole Team Jet versus Team Kasta conversation, which I am very neutral on. Katsa is probably one of the most interesting characters of the series, and although Zahru is our main protagonist and narrator, this also very much feels like Katsa’s story as well. I mean their fates are interwoven at this point. It feels like Jet is the obvious choice, the safe, good choice, but I believe he has a weak resolve and cowers away from confrontation. He really disappointed me in this novel, because he felt like, in many ways, he simply gave up. It felt out of character and unjustified. Kasta is always a question, making both Zahru and the reader unsure of his motives and leads one to question their own truths. There is so much to reconcile about this character, because he is past the point of being morally grey, but you can also understand his logic and his twisted manner of thinking. What I Enjoyed: 1. Zahru came across as a semi-unreliable narrator, which created a lot of moments for me to ponder and try to piece together the truth. 2. Harsh experiences in life can leave lasting effects, Zahru does not come out unscathed. While I did not enjoy many of her choices, they made sense with her how she now viewed herself and others. 3. Several questions from The Kinder Poison are answered. 4. The romantic moments were not forced and were few, and far-between. I know many people will be disappointed by the reduction in romance, but forcing a romance with everything that was going on would have felt inauthentic to the storyline and the characters. 5. Similarly, to The Kinder Poison, the epilogue is engaging and leaves you curious for the next book. What I Disliked: 1.Slow plot progression, we were primarily just in Zahru’s head and getting a new character study on her for about 80% of the novel. There was not a lot happening, just showing new dynamics. I don’t necessarily want to say this has middle book syndrome, because I see what the author was trying to do. However, she lingered too long in certain areas and didn’t explore others enough. 2. Unjustified characterization changes - why were Zahru’s friends giving countless furtive looks, but could never open their mouths and vocalize their true thoughts? They were not the outspoken, present bunch we have come to know. I say that it's unjustified because we get no real reason for why they act the way we do. We get some explanation for Jet, but as I stated it felt out of character making his actions feel questionable. 3. A few check-ins with characters that did not lead to anything, perhaps this will be explored in the third book?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lori Goldstein

    I was lucky to get an early read of the sequel to the thrilling, funny, page-turning THE KINDER POISON. No spoilers but, trust me, you will be surprised, you will be on the edge of your seat, you will certainly laugh, you may cry, and you most definitely will be in love with every character in this creative fantasy adventure!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Permanently_Booked

    “Leave the monsters to monsters.” There comes a moment when a morally grey character walks into your life and upends your sense of self goodness. Mae, you officially have me questioning my heart’s sanity after finishing this round. Book two picks up a moon or so after the closure of The Kinder Poison. Now anyone can read the synopsis of this second installment and have the mouth drop ending of book one blown, but I will skate around that portion for those who haven’t had a chance to read it yet. “Leave the monsters to monsters.” There comes a moment when a morally grey character walks into your life and upends your sense of self goodness. Mae, you officially have me questioning my heart’s sanity after finishing this round. Book two picks up a moon or so after the closure of The Kinder Poison. Now anyone can read the synopsis of this second installment and have the mouth drop ending of book one blown, but I will skate around that portion for those who haven’t had a chance to read it yet. It really set the stage for how much I enjoyed this series. Skipping the plot line, I’ll go into my overall feelings which begin with the characters. The characters… I love them. These are character driven novels and I appreciate the depth and emotion Mae puts into each one. Even down to the furry counterparts running amuck. Zahru may make some questionable life choices, but she is a character that has shown growth in every book so far. I even believe I saw an inkling of the morally grey streak her persona this round and I have to admit that I liked it. Still debating if I am a fan of Jet. You know those characters that seem just too good to be true?! Maybe I am just used to being blindsided by a dark side too often, but this is what makes these books so fun. Jet, I am keeping an eye on that one… you just never know what will happen next. Mae definitely keeps things on edge. The magic system sticks to the same easy to follow level but with a few added twists that amp up the fantasy factor and really play into the climax well. There is still a simplistic worldbuilding too me since it is character driven, but I do love the vivid descriptions when they are present. If I had any qualms it tended toward the inner monologues of Zahru. Her inner mental battels made me want to shake her sometimes. Who doesn’t get that way though when the story is in the thick of it? There are some slower areas but overall, I loved getting back into this world. If you’re a fan of The Kinder Poison, I am pretty sure you’ll enjoy where book two takes you. I’d also recommend this to YA fantasy lovers who enjoy a well-crafted character driven read. Thank you, Penguin Teen, for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ellie (Princess of Ink)

    This book is insane in the absolute best of ways. If enemies-to-lovers is among your favourite tropes and you wished Alina had a corruption arc in Shadow & Bone, you can rate The Cruelest Mercy 5 stars before you even pick it up. There are some books, I find, that simply demand to be talked about in full detail, spoilers aplenty. Unfortunately, The Cruelest Mercy seems to be one of them, and so writing this review is likely to be harder than I originally anticipated and may not convey just how mu This book is insane in the absolute best of ways. If enemies-to-lovers is among your favourite tropes and you wished Alina had a corruption arc in Shadow & Bone, you can rate The Cruelest Mercy 5 stars before you even pick it up. There are some books, I find, that simply demand to be talked about in full detail, spoilers aplenty. Unfortunately, The Cruelest Mercy seems to be one of them, and so writing this review is likely to be harder than I originally anticipated and may not convey just how much I loved it. I finished it in little over 24 hours though, so I really did love it. I might even do a spoiler-filled review/discussion post once it’s out, so that I can talk about everything in a way that I simply can’t here. I had no idea what to expect going into The Cruelest Mercy, having very few theories prior to starting it, but was equally delighted and shocked with all the twists and turns. I had to be forced to put this book down – it was that good (though I’d hope given how much amazing The Kinder Poison was, that isn’t a surprise to anyone?)! The Cruelest Mercy begins around a month after the end of The Kinder Poison: Jet has been crowned Dommel (Crown Prince), and after spending time apart, Zahru isn’t sure of their relationship status anymore. Sakira and her team are still missing, Kasta is presumed dead, and no one knows about Maia’s death (Rest in peace, my fave. You were gone too soon.) Things seem to be looking up for Zahru when Jet awards her a position on his advisory team, but quickly go south again when Kasta returns, gatecrashing Jet’s coronation, announcing he has Numet’s mark – the sign he’s the victor of the Crossing. As luck would have it, Zahru has this mark too, and the Mestrah proclaims the pair must rule together. Returning to these characters was no doubt my favourite part of reading The Cruelest Mercy. Being back in Zahru’s head was such a joy, thanks to Natalie Mae’s comical writing and Zahru’s constant overthinking. If I had to pinpoint a single favourite thing about this sequel (which would be very hard, because I love ALL of it!), it would be her character arc. Zahru’s journey throughout this book is hinted at in the summary, but seeing it realised on the page is another thing entirely – experiencing her struggle, with realising just how far she’s willing to go to stop Kasta becoming Mestrah and watching others around her react to that, was almost indescribable (in the absolute best of ways!). From the first page of the first book to the last page of this one, Zahru develops from a naïve girl with a strong sense of right and wrong, to a wiser, more worldly individual, who understands that both people and the world around her isn’t as black and white as she might like to hope, and that the right choice to make isn’t always the easy or the most ideal one; it’s a choice I really commend Mae for making, and one that makes me love Zahru (and this series) even more. As a proud Kastazahru shipper, I of course can’t talk about Zahru without discussing her equally devious, handsome love interest… the one and only Kasta. If I had to describe this entire book with one word, it would be ‘subterfuge’. There’s a lot of scheming happening, both on Zahru and Kasta’s part as they continually attempt to undermine the other and have their way. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot I can say about Kasta without spoiling… pretty much the entire plot… but I can tell you there’s a lotttt of tension between the two of them and if you’re a Kasta fan, you’re going to be happy with, well, pretty much everything you read. Understandably, for Plot Reasons, characters who had more page-time in the first book are less present here. Jet starts off sharing the spotlight, as Dommel, but fades to a supporting character once his superior half-brother Kasta makes an appearance. I enjoyed the page-time he got though, and he still has a role of note in the story, so Jet fans shouldn’t cancel their preorders just yet (or… at all). Jet’s companions, Marcus and Melia, only have cameos this time around, serving as a reminder to both Zahru and the reader of the relative simplicity of the Crossing compared to the challenges Zahru faces now. One character I was surprised to see make a comeback, though, was Hen! Oftentimes, characters from the protagonist’s old life are left to fade into memory, but of course that wouldn’t do for our favourite gossip and Original Designer of Lotus Boots (damn you, Galena!). Hen provides some much-needed comic relief and keeps Zahru up-to-date on all the drama she’s missing out on while she tries to work out, you know, her Real Life Stuff. If you thoroughly enjoyed the beginning chapters of The Kinder Poison and all of Hen’s antics, you’ll love what she brings to The Cruelest Mercy. The plot of The Cruelest Mercy is probably the thing I can say the least about (insert sad face here). All I can really say is that it’s an emotional rollercoaster, and that you’d better clear your schedule because you will not want to put this book down. The tension is dialled up to eleven, the worldbuilding is expansive, the twists and turns are crazy and the ~romance~ scenes will leave you tweet-screaming at Penguin for a third book. I had the honour and privilege of reading four (yes, four) epilogues for The Cruelest Mercy, and I love the setup for a potential third book that this final version gives us. That being said, while it does provide ample setup for a third book, if the series was to end here, I don’t think readers would be too disappointed with how things turn out. 😉 Let this serve as a reminder though, that preordering is the best way to show an author and publisher that you love a series! The higher Cruelest Mercy’s sales are, the more likely it is that we are blessed with a third instalment (which I so desperately need)! Knowing me, I’m probably forgetting something, but I think that’s about all I can say about The Cruelest Mercy without going into spoiler territory! I loved this sequel so much. I don’t know quite what my expectations were for it, but they were certainly exceeded. Natalie Mae is a masterful writer, and whether or not the next thing they write is a third Kinder Poison book or something completely different, I need it in my hands immediately. And, regardless of if this is the end of the road, The Kinder Poison series will always remain a firm favourite and one I hold dear. This review and more can be found on my blog, Princess of Ink.

  30. 5 out of 5

    chantelle

    4.5 stars? the kinder poison was slower to get through but i fled through this book within a day and loved every second of it. the plot twists and journey along with zahru's struggle to get through everything, feeling paranoid and her ending!! i love the direction the story is taking and frankly for whatever her arc continues to be. the corruption! the almost-villain arc! and questioning of how far she would go was simply amazing. i also love kastazahru's relationship, the way it is... the consta 4.5 stars? the kinder poison was slower to get through but i fled through this book within a day and loved every second of it. the plot twists and journey along with zahru's struggle to get through everything, feeling paranoid and her ending!! i love the direction the story is taking and frankly for whatever her arc continues to be. the corruption! the almost-villain arc! and questioning of how far she would go was simply amazing. i also love kastazahru's relationship, the way it is... the constant betrayals and surprises from both sides, idk how they're gonna get through half of it, but do i enjoy it? yeah so...

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