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August 31, 2022

Cruel Venom Wine by Allyssa-desiré Brinker ~ a Review

by MK French

In 1860s Athena's Plateau, the human representative of Poseidon is the mayor and the human representative of Athena is the sheriff. Both are used to getting their own way and look down on humans and witches alike. When eighteen-year-old Meredith Gorgon refuses to let Poseidon attack her without a fight, she marks herself as a target. Escaping the town and a hanging, Meredith soon discovers that her magic backfired so that she turns people to stone once she makes eye contact. Caring for her rattlesnakes won't help her now.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of folklore novel Cruel Venom Wine by Allyssa Brinker
July 2022; Indie; 979-8437330630
ebook, print (230 pages); folklore

The book has trigger warnings for the hanging and assault in the beginning, and there are robberies at gunpoint as well. It's a wild west story with magic, following the myth where Medusa was the mortal follower of Athena that was punished for having the audacity of being attacked within her temple. Athena is hardly a goddess willing to look out for truth, and essentially conspires with her fellow god to give him what he wants whenever he wants. The people are left suffering at their whims, which they don't care about at all.

As much as Meredith is haunted by the attack, she knows full well that the punishment for defying a god in any way is death. She escapes the town with her sisters, who are disabled. Her ability to manipulate rattlesnakes comes in handy at times, even though it terrifies one sister and annoys the other. She also winds up working with the bounty hunter Percy to make money, keeping an eye out to see if she was followed to the neighboring town. Meredith doesn't do that great a job at hiding herself, leading to an inevitable showdown.

Meredith's characterization fluctuated throughout the novel. She's proud but unwilling to practice or flaunt her magic, as much as she does try to use it. When she discovers the curse of turning others to stone, she's horrified by the accidental killing. Then out of nowhere, she decides this makes her powerful, and that she can be like a god herself. While trauma can make people have flashbacks or vacillate wildly, this felt like too much of a change. Her sisters are dependent on her but also older, so they wind up depending on her as much as they're annoyed by her changes; while they try to act as the voice of reason and provide some foreshadowing, it doesn't quite reach Meredith. The tragedy that unfolds at the end of the story feels a bit rushed, and the gods are caricature villains with no depth or reason for acting in the way they do other than they can. They come across as toddlers with powers, so I wondered why the Gorgon sisters would even stay in town at all if it felt so oppressive and unsafe.

Having a witchy Medusa story is definitely a new take on the mythology, and this is the beginning of a new series. It's targeted at older teens and up that can handle sensitive topics.

Buy Cruel Venom Wine at Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for FREE)

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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