I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae back in 2019 and since then, I’ve been obsessed! I couldn’t wait for the sequel and oh my goodness, it lived up to my expectations and then some!! If you haven’t read The Kinder Poison, check out my spoiler free review here!
Thank you to Penguin Teen for providing me with an advanced finished copy. This is an honest, spoiler free review and all thoughts and feelings are my own.
The Cruelest Mercy by Natalie Mae
Published: June 15, 2021
Genre: YA Fantasy
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?
If you haven’t read The Kinder Poison, first off why are you here? and second off, GO READ THE BOOK NOW! It is one of my favorite YA fantasy’s and an obsession I had back in the early quarantine days. It was one of the books I read in a single afternoon because I was locked inside of my house with nothing to do and I’m so glad I was able to binge it.
Like The Kinder Poison, The Cruelest Mercy slowly eases you into the storyline and gives some great background and character development before quickly shooting us off into an intense plot line and all the action! I love, love, loved the character development Zahru goes through in this book, especially after the events of book one. Always the kind, caring, and trusting person, Zahru has to rethink how she goes about life. Clearly, trusting and believing in the good in everyone doesn’t always work out and it was so interesting to watch her doubt that innate kindness less and less.
Of course, then we have her friends, like Jet, who also see the change Zahru is going through and aren’t sure what to make of it. I mean, having to rule alongside your attempted murderer and nemesis is awful, and I don’t blame Zahru for not only wanting to get as far away from Kasta as possible, but for doing everything she can to make sure he can’t seize power. Though it does make her friends hesitate a little bit…
Unfortunately, just like in book one, I totally fell in love with Kasta’s character. He is just so charming and horribly manipulative and I fell for it. Again. I was rooting for him the entire time and was so excited to see him be so kind and considerate with Zahru, especially in uncomfortable and awkward moments. Until I realized I’m a clown and what did I really expect? I still love him though and I need an epilogue to the epilogue to know what happens next!
And similarly to book one, though Zahru is going through some changes, she still preaches kindness above all. The last thing she wants is to push the country to war, or hurt anyone. And even though she kind of sees the benefit of cruelty at times, kindness seems to be her main motivator. Even if it ends up being her ruin.
This book, this series in general, is just so beautifully written. The transition from book one to two was so seamless and the struggles Zahru faces, while different, are equally challenging. I adore this series and highly recommend everyone read it! The rich history of these nations, the important messages and narrative, the cool world and powers that come along with it – this book has everything you could want in a fantasy novel.
And Natalie is the queen of epilogues. I was slack jawed when I read it and I am so sad this is the ending. There’s no more books when there absolutely should be! Though Natalie has said that she hopes this will be a trilogy, so maybe we’ll get more books! Ahh, I hope so! Overall, if you liked The Kinder Poison, you will love the ending The Cruelest Mercy brings. And I can’t wait for more books from Natalie!
If this series sounds interesting, be sure to also check out Thorn by Intisar Khanani or Shielded by KayLynn Flanders!