The Cruelest Mercy

The Cruelest Mercy by Natalie Mae

Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
Genres: Young Adult Fantasy

Book Review

The Cruelest Mercy is the sequel to The Kinder Poison. My review contains context that will be a spoiler for the first book in the series. Please do not read further if you have not read The Kinder Poison!

Having survived the Crossing, Zahru is looking forward to her new life with Prince Jet. But right as Jet is about to be announced as the winner and the true heir to the throne of Orkena, Kasta walks in. He claims to be the true winner and heir and has the god’s mark to prove it. But what he doesn’t anticipate is Zahru also has the god’s mark. Both determined to be chosen as the heirs to the throne, Zahru and Kasta must work together to protect Orkena from war. But Zahru knows what Kasta has done to win the Crossing, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to prove his true nature.

I didn’t enjoy The Cruelest Mercy as much as I liked The Kinder Poison, and I think a big factor was the setting. The Kinder Poison is more of a quest through the desert with a clear goal in mind for Zahru: survival. Now, Zahru has survived and is training to be a ruler and there’s no quest, no epic journey. It was still enjoyable. I loved coming back to revisit the characters. But at the same time, it was a bit tedious in places.

With that said, I’m hoping this is not the last book in the series. At the risk of this being considered a spoiler, the story ended in a way that could be conclusive, but it was also open-ended and could be continued. I’m desperately hoping that this is not the end and there will be more from this series! 

Thank you to Penguin Teen for sending me a gifted copy of The Cruelest Mercy! All opinions are my own.

Synopsis from Goodreads

In this sequel to The Kinder Poison–which People magazine proclaimed a “delicious high-stakes adventure”–the magical kingdom of Orkena is on the brink of war, and the only person who can save it is Zahru, the girl they once doomed for death.

After surviving the Crossing, Zahru has sworn off adventures. While crown prince Jet navigates the looming threat of war, she’s content to simply figure out what the future holds for them. But they’re dealt a devastating blow when prince Kasta returns with a shocking claim: he’s the true winner of the Crossing and the rightful heir, and he bears the gods’ mark as proof. Even more surprising–he’s not the only one.

Somehow, Zahru possesses the very same mark, giving her equal right to the throne. The last thing she wants is to rule beside her would-be executioner, but she can’t let Orkena fall into his merciless hands. So Zahru, Jet, and their allies must race against the clock to find a way to stop Kasta, because once he’s crowned, there’s no telling what horrors he’ll unleash to win the war.

Zahru will do whatever it takes to keep Kasta from taking the throne…but to stop a villain, is she willing to become one herself?

About the Author

Headshot of author Natalie Mae

Natalie Mae is an ex-programmer, dark chocolate enthusiast, and author of THE KINDER POISON series. She has also been a freelance editor and Pitch Wars mentor, and feels it notable to mention she once held a job where she had to feed spiders. When not writing, Natalie can be found wandering the Colorado wilderness with her family. Visit her online at

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