Bloomsbury lands Watson's 'potent' YA novel

Bloomsbury lands Watson's 'potent' YA novel

Bloomsbury has landed Blood to Poison, a "potent fantasy" by South African author Mary Watson, to be published next spring.

Ellen Holgate, head of fiction at Bloomsbury Children’s and YA, acquired world rights from Claire Wilson at RCW for Watson’s third novel. Blood to Poison will be published by Bloomsbury on 14th April 2022, supported by a blockbuster global marketing and publicity campaign.

The novel follows the story of Savannah, a girl who is 17 and cursed. The synopsis explains: "The curse is a sinister family heirloom, passed down through the bloodline for hundreds of years, with one woman in every generation destined to rage until she dies young from her uncontrollable anger. The family calls them Hella’s girls, named for their ancestor Hella, the enslaved woman with whom it all began. The anger is bursting from Savannah – at the men who catcall her in the street, at her mother’s disingenuous fiancé, even at her own loving family. 

"Each fit of rage is bringing her closer to the edge, and now Savannah has to act to save herself. Or die trying – because the key to survival lies in the underbelly of Cape Town, where the sinister veilwitches are waiting for just such a girl. Blood to Poison is a potent fantasy about discovering magic, historical rage and love in its many guises. "

Watson grew up in Cape Town during the apartheid years and did a Master’s in creative writing with André Brink. She won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2006 and appeared on the Hay Festival’s Africa39 list of influential writers. Blood to Poison is her third novel for young adults and the first rooted in her South African heritage.

Describing her inspiration for the novel, Watson said: "I wrote this book because I was angry. I felt a constant low-level rage – about misogyny, racism and the spread of disinformation. As I wove a story from anger, all threads came back to an enigmatic and furious enslaved ancestor. Where rage began. This book, one I’ve always wanted to write, is a story of my community and of my beloved home city – a Cape Town that thrums with magic."

Holgate said: "I fell in love with this furious and mesmerising story immediately. It’s nuanced and gripping to the last and will be a hugely important book for Bloomsbury next spring."