Title: The Queen’s Poisoner
Author: Jeff Wheeler
Series: Kingfountain #1
Owen never asked for this. Because his father hung back during a crucial battle, preferring to support the challenger to the throne instead of the current king (albeit indirectly), Owen has now been chosen to live as the king’s hostage for his family’s good behavior. It’s a role his eldest brother had until recently. Until the king killed him. Now 8-year-old Owen is caught in a web of adult alliances and betrayals, just trying to stay alive . . .
This book surprised me several times, in good ways. Owen is largely ignorant of the political structure he’s been dumped into, which makes it a good way to find out not only what’s being said, but in the end, that the real story is more complicated than that. King Severn has a reputation for being a monster, and not without reason. But he’s also a man, in a position of power that precludes most friendship, and even the crown can’t protect him from other people’s wagging tongues. I liked all the different angles the book gave to a man who otherwise might have been nothing more than a villain.
Other characters, especially the Queen’s Poisoner of the title, are also very well drawn. The setting, too, has solid detail without ever being overwhelming. Other reviews have mentioned knowing history as background, but I don’t think that’s necessary (I didn’t even catch any connections others mentioned, but it didn’t preclude me from enjoying the story).
I do wish the magic system had gotten more development, although what was there made sense for the story. Owen will likely find out a lot more about this in the future, so I’m content to wait for the next book. The images of the Fountain as a source of magic and life, and the types of power that flow from it, are intriguing.
Overall this is an excellent book. It wraps up decently well, but I certainly am interested to see how Owen grows into his role and abilities. I rate this book Recommended.