I loved Luminous Dead and frequently recommend it to anyone looking for a claustrophobic nightmare. So when I saw Yellow Jessamine available, I was thrilled to be approved (bonus points that it came highly recommended by Laurel Hightower).
Evelyn Perdanu is the sole female shipping magnate left in Delphinium. When her ship returns and a mysterious ailment starts plaguing some of her crew, Evelyn is terrified this could be the end of her. As one strange coincidence overlaps with another, it becomes impossible to ignore the implications, and Evelyn must confront her personal demons before it's too late. What a fun, quiet, yet powerful period horror piece. Without the pomp and circumstance, I found myself comparing this to Shakespeare multiple times: the ambition of Lady Macbeth, the tragedy of Juliet awaking to find Romeo beside her. Starling once again proves she's an expert at character development. Evelyn is grim, troubled, and delightfully cutthroat. In spite of a plague and a nameless, inexplicable horror, this is a character-driven novel, and Evelyn steals the show. From her complex emotions about her childhood and Violetta to her rationale in handling dire straits, she's a force to be reckoned with. I could've read an entire book of her internalized dialogue about potions and poisons and their various uses. Perhaps it's that I've killed every plant I've tried to grow myself, but Evelyn's command of her garden is remarkable, and there's something inherently terrifying about a woman sowing her own poisonous seeds on the cusp of a dying town. Overall, Yellow Jessamine is a quick, gripping tale with plenty of scares and heartbreak. Big thanks to Neon Hemlock Press and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.