by Jeff Wheeler
Published on April 1, 2016 by 47North
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
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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.
I think I missed the memo about this book being amazing…
When I saw The Queen’s Poisoner (along with the sequel) on Amazon and for a discounted price no less, I immediately jumped on that. Where can you go wrong with a political intrigue fantasy?
This would be the start, I suppose.
I made it a few chapters in and wasn’t hooked, so I checked out the descriptions for the second and third books to see if it sounds like the story will improve. Rarely do I look ahead like this but I needed motivation to keep reading. What I learned is each book takes place during a different stage in the main character, Owen’s life, starting from childhood in The Queen’s Poisoner and moving on as he grows older. I thought “Well that’s pretty cool” since rarely do you get to “grow up” with a character except maybe Harry Potter.
I kept reading.
By the time I finished this book, I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what actually happened. From the synopsis I expected a young child, fearing for his life, making his way while living under the thumb of an evil king. But the kid is eight. EIGHT. And the story is written at a much higher level than your average eight-year-old, while at the same time explaining the world as he saw it. The combination resulted in a weird feeling of an adult trying to mimic a child’s thoughts, where the author portrayed the child as not capable of understanding some topics that aren’t above that age by any means.
As a character, I think Owen had a lot of depth especially for his age. He sees things both with a child’s innocence and the maturity of one much older. He’s inquisitive and intelligent. But for all his talk of fearing the king and his new home, I never felt it. I missed the terror edging his thoughts and actions.
I can’t even tell you of the other characters, to be totally honest. They barely left a mark.
When it came to the writing and plot, once again it fell short. This is an intricate world but Wheeler often tells instead of shows, bringing the action to a grinding halt and the most inopportune times. Facts are readily told to Owen so instead of weaving the world-building in, half the book is a story bible. The writing is solid, however, and would be intriguing if not for the execution.
I’d hope for my of a political intrigue aspect but I think it fell short due to the protagonist’s age. Not that I think an eight-year-old isn’t capable of understanding more complex issues, but that the way he’s written left me feeling that he’d be more concerned over a muffin than court power plays. Though, to be honest, I’m not sure the age of the character really matters when it comes to looking at this book’s execution in its entirety.
For all the promises of that synopsis, The Queen’s Poisoner was a struggle to read and I’m leery about bothering with the sequel or not. The series premise overall is why I finished this one in the first place so I may give it a go. But in terms of this title, I don’t think I’d recommend it to the fellow fantasy reader.