top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Fiction Fox

Review: A Botanical Daughter -

Genre: Magical realism, horror, classics-retold

Published: Titan Books, March 2024

My Rating: 4/5 stars

“A family! Simon, of course! That’s what binds people together. if we can be a family then contextual issues solves itself. Mutualism, homemaking, protection… and if ill providence robs one of a birth family, one simply as to find another. Or make it from scratch.”

I originally intended to save this one until closer to its release-date, but once I got my hands on the ARC there was no controlling myself. Let me tell you the story of how a humble debut novel became my most anticipated release of (the first half of) 2024, and most importantly, whether it managed to live up to that insane hype I set for it…

The Story:

A Botanical Daughter somehow managed to include not one, but two of my recent literary hyper-fixations in its set-up: it’s a Frankenstein-retelling ánd centers around botany/herbology/plant-magic. We follow a duo of two queer (in more ways than one) Victorian gentlemen, living a secluded life in caring for a large botanical garden at the edge of town. Here, away from the judgmental eyes of their peers, they’re free to express their love for each other and practice their respective scientific projects; for Simon, the art of preservation and taxidermy, and for Gregor, the care and cultivation of exotic plants and fungi. For their next project however, their joined talents will work together to a creation that will surpass anything either of them have done on their own. In a Frankenstein-esque experiment, the two set off to build a living human from body-parts, plants and fungi.

What I loved:

Upon first glance, it was clearly the concept, themes and “vibes” that attracted me to this book most, and I’m happy to say that Noah Medlock made excellent use of all of them. Thematically it strikes all the notes you might expect from the synopsis and it being a Frankenstein-retelling: there’s the ethics and complications around science and creation, the exploration and redefinition of the queer and the “monstrous” and a generous helping of found-family and paternity. All of it is wrapped in lush descriptions and botanical imagery, which brings the story to life before your eyes in vibrant and verdant colour. Medlock gives his writing a distinct Victorian edge, which was hit-or-miss for me personally, but was a nice nod to its source of inspiration.

If you want to get a feeling for the vibes this book will offer, look no further than the stunning cover-art. It perfectly combines the beauty and tranquility of nature, and the almost cottage-core-cozy vibe the book has, whilst contrasting it a few creepy and unsettling events sprinkled in. Cozy-cottage-core and horror sound like they shouldn’t work together, but somehow this is a genre I want explored further. Might I propose we coin the term “cottage-gore” for it…?

Room for improvement:

Beware, very mild spoilers ahead to illustrate my points, more indepth spoilers to be found in my Goodreads-review linked below.

Although I overall loved this debut, there were two aspects that kept my enjoyment from being at a full-5-star-worthy-level. Firstly, there were the characters and their narrative voices. As much as the plants and setting came to life for me, the characters did not. Simon, Gregor, Jenny and Chloe all felt a little too flat and lacking in distinct personality for me. The personalities they did have were fairly one-dimensional and a few “change-of-mind-moments” and character interactions fell flat for me as a result. In particular, the falling out between Gregor and Simon over Chloe’s “monstrous nature” felt unearned. Neither of them had expressed such strong opinions beforehand, so the emotional change of heart felt too abrupt.

Secondly, some of the themes I mentioned I loved were also explored too shallowly for my liking. With the set-up created, there was so much more emotional and ethical depth to be explored here. (I cannot illustrate this point without giving away a major plotpoint, so if you're interested to read more, please visit my Goodreads-review and check under the Spoiler-tag.)

Had this been done, in combination with more rounded and complex character-development, I would’ve had a new favourite on my hand.

Regardless of the room for improvement, I had a wonderful time with this novel and am looking forward to what Medlock writes next. Many thanks to Titan Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


- The House in the Cerulean Sea if you’re looking for more cozy-gay-cottage-core with a helping of found family.

- Mexican Gothic or What Moves the Dead for more botanical/fungal horror.

- Our Hideous Progeny if you’re looking for the best feminist/queer Frankenstein adaptation penned to dated, in my personal humble opinion.

Find this book here on Goodreads.


bottom of page