cover image A Drop of Venom

A Drop of Venom

Sajni Patel. Disney-Hyperion/Riordan, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-368-09268-5

Patel (Isha, Unscripted) unflinchingly addresses themes of sexual assault and rape culture, trauma, and consent in this bold fusion of the Medusa myth and Indian folklore. Sixteen-year-old Manisha survived the King’s attempted destruction of her people, the naga, five years ago by posing as a temple priestess. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Pratyush, the last of the monster slayers, serves the King by undertaking hazardous missions across the land. During Pratyush’s repeated visits to the temple, he and Manisha develop a tentative, forbidden bond, but everything changes after another temple guest sexually assaults Manisha and pushes her into a pit of vipers. Still alive and now imbued with terrifying, snake-like power, Manisha wanders into the wilderness, where she’s repeatedly forced to defend herself. Little does Manisha know that Pratyush has been dispatched to slay a reported monster capable of turning men to stone—nor does he realize that he’s tracking the girl he loves. Frequent moments of gore, misogyny, vengeance, and violence are juxtaposed by the star-crossed leads’ sweetly awkward dynamic and set against a mythic backdrop of dark magic and deadly monsters rendered via anachronistic third-person prose, making for a story that, while not easy to witness, is urgent and vital. Ages 14–up. Agent: Katelyn Detweiler, Jill Grinberg Literary. (Jan.)