Book Review: The Antidote
Written by Shelley Sackier
Published by Harper Teen
Publication date: 5th February 2019
Summary (from Goodreads):
Magic is not allowed, under any circumstances — even if it could save someone’s life. Instead, there are herbal remedies and traditional techniques that have been painstakingly recorded in lieu of using the mystical arts. Fee knows this, so she keeps her magic a secret.
Except her best friend, Xavi, is deathly ill. He’s also the crown prince. Saving him is important, not only for her, but for the entire kingdom.
Fee’s desperation to save her friend means she can barely contain the magic inside her. And after the tiniest of slips, Fee is thrust into a dark and secretive world that is as alluring as it is dangerous.
If she gives in, it could mean she can save Xavi. But it also means that those who wish to snuff out magic might just snuff her out in the process.
“Experience will be a book you must review from time to time. The collection of knowledge combined with your memories will be invaluable. Remember, child, you may never find all the answers to life’s secrets, but it doesn’t mean you should give up searching for them. Perhaps somewhere, you will find yourself as well.”
Fee looked up at Savva, pulling the beheaded begonia down into her lap. “What answers do you believe I’m searching for?”
The old healer’s lips curled at the edges with a knowing smile. “Your questions are growing in numbers. It’s easy enough to see them. You want to know why the princess is so cold to you. You wish to know why Xavi is not improving—or at least maintaining health like the rest of Fireli’s residents. But most important, you question your worth in this stillroom.”
Fee sank lower on the bench with each statement Savva spoke. It was as if the healer had a tiny hammer that effectively pushed her farther into a sinking hole she’d been trying to climb out of. She detested being so transparent.
Savva put a warm, trembling hand on top of Fee’s and smiled patiently. “You are Xavi’s fighting chance. Do not give up.” She pointed toward Fee’s daily tonic. “Take yours, and work on his. Sometimes the answers are right in front of us, child. For that is the best place to hide secrets.”
First impressions: I wanted to read this as soon as I read the synopsis! I love stories with magic and am always fascinated by societies where magic is forbidden. It makes it even more interesting that Fee choosing to use or not use her magic has such steep consequences.
This book follows Ophelia (Fee) as she lives a hidden existence as one of only two young people left in her kingdom. A mysterious disease killed many and afflicted others so those that remain inside the borders must drink a daily tonic to avoid succumbing to it. Most of the supervisors have been sent away to the surrounding countries to wait out the quarantine period of ten years.
As the daughter of some people at court, Fee was raised with the crown prince Xavi and his younger brother, Rye as her closest friends. While Xavi must stay so that there will be a member of the royal family in the country, Rye is sent away to a neighbouring kingdom, where he grows up being taught that magic is evil. Unfortunately, his betrothed, Fee, has a strange skill with growing plants and seems able to do lots of strange things…
I loved the relationship between these three, especially as Fee and Xavi are very close without their relationship developing any romantic leanings. I was less convinced by Rye and Fee’s romance, particularly after a decade apart, but it was quite refreshing to see that they still had respect for their parent’s wishes despite everything that happened.
The mystery was revealed in sections and Fee spends a large portion of the book being confused by the people around her. Unfortunately this also meant that I felt like I missed out on some of the world-building I was eager to read more about. Some of the resolution felt quite obvious and I would have liked more about Quinn!
Overall, this is a magical fantasy with some interesting ideas and lovable characters.
Still not sure, or want to start reading it straightaway? Click here to read an excerpt.
“I’m thinking about your protection, Ophelia. I see the potential for grave danger in front of yo— us, and I’m trying to do what makes sense.”
She eyed him carefully, growing both nervous and nettled at the real meaning behind his words. “I’ve been schooled by Savva with an oath to my duty as a healer, and a lifelong promise of protection to Xavi. I will not be deterred by the potential for grave danger.”
She stood and allowed the release of an uncensored tongue. “I am so very tired of being told what to do, Rye and, finally, after a painfully long time, I am just beginning to know what it means to feel myself again. I will not go back—to either the castle we came from, or the girl I was. Drink that. Then go to sleep.”
She pointed to the small pan close to the fire, its contents emitting wisps of steam that mixed with the smoke from the wood. “Wake up tomorrow knowing that I am at your side, both for your sake—despite what you put me through—and for Xavi’s. “Good night.”
Her entire life had been built upon saving people and yet, right now, she felt an unwieldy weight of dread proclaiming that she could not save Xavi or Rye from either of their fates. And if this turned out to be true, then there was no point in even trying to save herself.
What I liked: The magic and the fact that it is forbidden, the relationship between Xavi and Fee, the fact that most characters turn out to have more going on with their stories than you first assume.
Even better if: Because the main character, Fee, spends most of the book being confused, we as readers spend quite a long time being confused too. I would have liked a bit more background about magic and the world.
How you could use it in your classroom: Rather than a book to use as a model text, this would be a great recommendation for any fans of fantasy and could serve as an interesting springboard for discussions about why magic is forbidden and prejudice against people who are different, as well as posing theoretical questions as if your pupils were in this situation e.g. would you return to your country after the quarantine? Should the mins be re-opened? etc
(Thank you to HarperTeen for my e-ARC and to the FFBC for inviting me to be part of the blog tour)
About the Author
Shelley Sackier grew up in a small farming community in Northern Wisconsin continually searching for ways to grow warm. Realizing she would never be able to enjoy ice cream like real people should, she left the state and lived the blissful life of a traveling musician. Discovering her stories needed more space than two verses a bridge and a chorus could provide, she began storytelling in earnest. And then in Virginia. Which is where she lives now and continues to write.
Her first novel, DEAR OPL (Sourcebooks 2015), is a tale about a snarky, overweight thirteen-year-old, who suffers from loss everywhere in her life except on her body.
Her next novel, The Freemason’s Daughter (HarperCollins, 2017) is a story about a 16 yr old Scottish girl living in 1715 who’s raised entirely by six burly Scotsman–and they’re all smugglers. The Antidote (HarperCollins February 2019) is a YA novel about magic and medicine, and the witches who wield them both.
To learn more about Shelley, visit shelleysackier.com where she blogs weekly about living on a small farm atop a mountain in the Blue Ridge and how it’s easiest to handle most of it with homegrown food, a breathless adoration for tractors, and a large dose of single malt scotch.
Don’t miss the other great stops on this blog tour:
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Prize: Win (1) physical copy of THE ANTIDOTE by Shelley Sackier (US Only, sorry)
Giveaway Starts: January 28th, 2019
Giveaway Ends: February 11th, 2019
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Thanks for reading!