“The Queen’s Poisoner,” by Jeff Wheeler, is a quick, fun read with unexpected depth. No cardboard characters. Plenty of moral dilemmas and consequences.
I’ve had this book sitting on my virtual shelf for a long time. Skimming through my Kindle library, I chose it at random—and I’m glad I did. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that met my “flinch-free” standards and delivered a well-told tale.
REVIEW of “The Queen’s Poisoner”
Loosely—and in many places obviously—based on the War of the Roses and historical Europe, this story is a fun, clean read with unexpected depths.
A young boy is torn from his loving parents and sent to live as a hostage to the king—a king with a disturbing reputation and a personality to match it. The child, Owen, must learn to survive in a court filled with back-stabbing politicians, spies, and unexpected allies. This novel boasts some lovely character descriptions and development; they are well-built with their own personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and habits.
Owen is painfully, even debilitatingly, shy, but smart and courageous. I will have to say that he and his friend Evie act more mature and wise than any 8-year-olds I’ve ever known, but it didn’t bother me enough to make me put the book down. In fact, I read it in one sitting, which proves its easy-readability as well as the ability to hold one’s interest.
Evie (Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer) is a wonder. She talks non-stop, knows too much, is completely unafraid of anything, and… is occasionally dangerous. She is a friend with steadfast determination. How fun is that?
Tyrant King Severn has far more depth than his reputation indicates. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him as a “real” person with more than one shade of color to his personality.
Ankarette, the Queen’s Poisoner, is mysterious, complicated, and more generous and gentle than her role would suggest. Not all of her mysteries are revealed in this volume!
The magic is a firm foundation for the story but never overwhelms. Best of all, when Owen begins to come into his magic, he is not suddenly an expert. This—as well as his responsibilities and worldly knowledge—are something he must grow into. There are many hard choices for the characters to make, and what is right is not always easy to decide. Better, there are real consequences to all choices.
Best of all, the story is flinch-free: there is none of the crassness, graphic violence, sex, or language that litter so many other fantasy books. And it is STILL a good story with—as I mentioned before—unexpected depth.
King Severn Argentine’s fearsome reputation precedes him: usurper of the throne, killer of rightful heirs, ruthless punisher of traitors. Attempting to depose him, the Duke of Kiskaddon gambles…and loses. Now the duke must atone by handing over his young son, Owen, as the king’s hostage. And should his loyalty falter again, the boy will pay with his life.
Seeking allies and eluding Severn’s spies, Owen learns to survive in the court of Kingfountain. But when new evidence of his father’s betrayal threatens to seal his fate, Owen must win the vengeful king’s favor by proving his worth—through extraordinary means. And only one person can aid his desperate cause: a mysterious woman, dwelling in secrecy, who truly wields power over life, death, and destiny.
- enjoy well-developed, realistic characters
- like your fantasy to feel like it could be a real place
- are looking for an easy but enjoyable read
This book is not for you if you:
- don’t want to read from a child’s perspective
- expect the 8-year-old to behave and think like an actual 8-year-old
- like your European-based fantasies to be fully “cloaked” (without obvious references to the real world)