A Drop of Venom by Sajni Patel
Out Now from Disney Publishing Worldwide; 416 pages
Content Warning: Sexual assault, rape culture, misogyny, violence, gore, mutilation, death
About the Author: “Sajni Patel is an award-winning author of women’s fiction and young adult books. Her works have appeared on numerous Best of the Year and Must-Read lists from Cosmo, Teen Vogue, Apple Books, Audiofile, Tribeza, Austin Woman, NBC, The Insider, and many others” (Bio from author’s website).
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Manisha and Pratyush are monster fighters….at least, they both believe themselves to be. Manisha spends years hidden on the floating mountains, climbing the ranks as a priestess for a religion she does not believe in. Her people were violently driven away, so Manisha hides in plain sight, blending in until her older sisters return for her. However, her plans change after a violent attack forces her from the floating mountains and into a pit of snakes. Manisha must find a way to survive alone, fighting off monstrous men using newfound abilities. Meanwhile, Pratyush, a monster “slayer” by profession, is struggling with his allegiance to the king. As a servant of the kind since childhood, violence is the only thing he knows. However, he sees the potential for change after he meets Manisha. Will his hope be crushed when he discovers that Manisha is the latest man-killing monster he has been assigned to hunt? A Drop of Venom forces readers to question the definition of “monster” and reconsider what it means to fight for good.
In this novel, Sajni Patel thoughtfully combines Greek mythology and Indian legends with hard-hitting messages about feminism, sisterhood, and justice. A Drop of Venom is an innovative and compelling Medusa reimagining that is unafraid to tackle difficult subjects. Readers should pay close attention to trigger warnings, as this book contains several depictions of sexual assault and violence. I thought Patel handled the subject matter gracefully, especially since Medusa’s suffering is often minimalized when people discuss her myth. I loved the overarching themes of empowerment and the healing strength of female friendships. While some of the different women that Manisha interacts with blend together a bit, the feeling of love and support prevails. Female friendships are not the only memorable relationships, though. I particularly loved the friendship between Pratyush and Dev, whose playful interactions lightened the mood of a heavy text. I appreciated how Pratyush’s voice shone through in their dialogues as well as the text itself. It can be difficult to transition between tones in dual-POV novels, but Patel excels at distinguishing the voices and timelines of the two main characters. I couldn’t put the book down as I watched their stories align! A Drop of Venom was an empowering way to kick off 2024, and I recommend this novel to mature teen or adult readers seeking a fast-paced, heartfelt story full of power, pain, and resilience.
Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and Disney Publishing Worldwide for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change before final publication.
Ashley Amacher, Pine Reads Review Assistant Director & Lead Editor