Published: April 1, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 318 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 2.5/5.0
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.
Looking for an inexpensive audiobook to tide me over until Audible Credit Day, I was inexorably drawn to The Queen’s Poisoner. This book has very high ratings and the cover is quite pretty, plus it was on sale so I decided it would do. Alas, sometimes you get what you pay for.
The Queen’s Poisoner, while interesting, was not a spectacular book by any means. The first and most glaring negative for me was the narration, which reminded me of having my computer read to me with slightly more emotion than usual. It was definitely not a soothing balm to the ears and if I wasn’t going through audio withdrawals at work, I might have actually stopped listening. Eventually I came to terms with this and started to really listen to the story.
The story is about 8-year-old Owen Kiskaddin, hostage to big, bad King Severn to ensure his parents good behavior following an act of treason. If they make one more wrong move, the whole family will be sent over the falls to their deaths. Owen is painfully shy and can squeak out a few words to adults on his better days and at his worst he is completely silent, so his days at court are stressful and terrifying. He does make a few friends, one of whom is a chatty little girl he calls Evee. She does a great deal to cheer Owen up and they get into all sorts of childish mischief. His other closest friend is the Queen’s Poisoner, who secretly dwells within one of the castle towers. She tries to keep Owen safe in many ways, some of which are complex and to be honest, require unreasonable expectations from an 8-year-old.
I had ups and downs with this book. The ups were moments of complex intrigue, nail-biting suspense, and mystery. The downs were seeing through the eyes of a scared child, the cartoonishly villainous king and his equally bad spymaster. I suppose this is understandable, as I think this book is intended for younger readers, but even so, I just wasn’t the biggest fan. The good moments were really good and I was concerned for the characters, the success of their plots, etc, but the bad moments always felt like they were intentionally trying to elicit sympathy for little Owen. I think his very young age was a big damper to the success of the story to me because so little felt believable. Had he been 13-14, many of the plot devices would have been more plausible.
Overall, it was a cute story but I won’t be continuing on with the series. Has anyone else read this book/series? Let me know what you thought!