Reviews of A Dash of Belladonna

“Here is a book full of magic and awe, humour and excitement, brought to us through Lottie’s exuberant prose. A zany book, full of narrative zest and high adventure.”
— Mike Johnson

...A Dash of Belladonna is a quirky and original book with lots to recommend it. Lottie is a great character, who is constantly trying to be independent, and getting into trouble. And the book is very humorous, written mostly as a series of letters, which captures Lottie’s enthusiasm and various states of mind as things fall apart around her. I also enjoyed the New Zealand references, and thought it was a nice touch that Lottie comes to New Zealand Aotearoa to have her adventures.
— Karen McKenzie - NZ Booklovers

Magic and potions abound in this adventure set in modern New Zealand. The protagonist is 14 year old Charlotte, a potion apprentice who arrives to further her studies under the best potion maker of them all: Mikaere Tahuriorangi. Shortly after she moves in to his rural dwelling, complete with a garden brimming with herbs both familiar and strange, she finds herself at the centre of an international magical crisis and her life is at stake. Around the world, potion apprentices have been disappearing, a rogue potion-maker is suspected of kidnapping them to use their blood for his own super potion and Charlotte is next on his list.

What follows is an adventure full of schemes, plans, failures and deals made with the magical agency The Order. Charlotte continues her learning and stumbles upon her ability to call up the spirit of the highly dangerous and poisonous Belladonna plant. This unusual ability, though perilous, has potential to help the Order catch their villain, so she sets about learning how to control the Belladonna spirit. Things invariably get out of hand and as they do so she comes to understand herself better, realising her limits and accepting that it is okay to ask for help when you are unsure.

Despite the story being told from Charlotte’s point of view, I personally didn’t feel a strong connection to her. This may be due to the style of narration, which is “Charlotte M Underwood’s collection of letters, notes and relevant excerpts related to the incident now known as ‘A Dash of Belladonna.’” While the mix of alternating styles and viewpoints a great idea to move the story along, I found these jumps distracted somewhat from the flow of the story; one minute we are reading one of Charlotte’s letters, the next an agent’s report, then onto a progress report from one of her tutors and back to more letters, some with herbology notes included.

That said, the writing is strong, the plot has a good pace with great moments of tension to keep you guessing, especially when there are magical spirits who destroy everything around them and uncertain alliances. The cast of characters, Charlotte included, are interesting and with well-rounded personalities and I wanted to keep reading to see how the adventure would resolve. Resolve it certainly did, and Charlotte does learn her lessons (both personal and academic) and finds a new level of understanding about her place in the world where magic and non-magic can live together.

From a book design perspective, the cover is brilliant – bright, lively and engaging, and the spell pages add a nice touch, however they could do with being enlarged and made clearer. On the whole, A Dash of Belladonna is certainly an entertaining read that will appeal to readers who enjoy contemporary fantasy and who wish for their own magic wand.
— Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen

A Dash of Belladonna by J. Rackham is an action-packed children’s fantasy. Written as letters to her best friend Snu, the conversation seemed to be rather one-sided considering there are never any replies, leaving this reader wondering if Snu was merely a figment of the heroine’s imagination. Then, I believe that there may be a point to Lottie’s friend’s seeming silence. Regardless, the story is fascinating, and the twists kept me on the very edge of my seat. I couldn’t find a good place to stop reading; I had to finish the book before I could fully relax! The book is clean, though there were a few blacked out areas of dialogue that were a touch questionable, but the reader would have to guess the poor language choices of the characters. I would recommend this book to young teens as the story is engaging and the message inspiring and essential.
— Alyssa Elmore - Readers' Favorite

I fell in love with the characters immediately. Packed with adventure, humour and a lot of heart, A Dash of Belladonna is a must-read! I’ll be putting it on my keeper shelf.
— Christel Jeffs - Author of Gumdigger's Wife

An enjoyable adventure with an intriguing setting, and some well-written characters - including a rare treasure: a child protagonist who’s narration feels realistic for her age, without being annoying. As a kiwi, the New Zealand references were nice to see, but sparse enough that they didn’t distract from the story - I don’t think they’d be much of a problem for a reader who’s not familiar with the country. Definitely worth a read.

A fantastically exciting read, with clever storytelling. Love the interesting mix of being both magical yet relatable, as well as mixing playfulness with dramatic adventure. Highly recommended!

Loved it, loved it, LOVED IT.
When’s the sequel?!

Really enjoyable book for all ages, would recommend to everyone.

Watching Lottie grow throughout the story was by far my favourite part, and the lessons she learns are genuinely valuable ones. The letter writing format was brilliantly pulled off as well!
I often forgot all about it as I was sucked into the story (Which can be difficult to do for fussy readers like myself :P)

This is my new “go to” when I need a gift for any nieces, nephews, friends’ kids...everyone. Though don’t let the listed age level exclude you! An enjoyable read for everyone.

This is a really fun book — it’s hard to not cackle with glee at some of Lottie’s antics, sometimes because of what actually happened, and sometimes in how you can imagine her sitting there writing, agonizing over a basil plant. Through Lottie’s dramatic worldview the mundane is made whimsical, and the darkness is given proper weight. If you are looking for a fairly light read with a quick pace, I can’t recommend A Dash of Belladonna more!
— Pamela Kotila - Author of Hiromasa amd the Fairy King

Loved, loved, loved this book.
I was hooked in pretty quickly, had to force myself to put the book down to go to bed.
Lottie is clever, and stubborn. Mikaere is an awesome, cruisy guy, and Elyse makes me laugh. I thought I knew where the book was about to go at some points, and was then proven wrong (which is a good thing).
Suitable for ages 9 and up I would say. No romance, and it doesn’t need it. Also loved seeing Kiwisms and the occasional Maori word.

This book was a delight to read!
The plot was exciting and the characters so loveable that I was hooked right away. Don’t get me started on J. Rackham’s worldbuilding skill. Lottie’s world, parallel to our own, was imaginative, exciting, and so much fun to read about.

A book targeted towards younger readers (and I’ll be buying a copy for each of those special youngin’s in my life), but an enjoyable read for anyone!

It’s really easy to read and kept me entertained!!
I also like how the story touched on the risk of anyone getting hooked on power and falling for arrogance or feeling better than others.