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.
The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler
This book was so amazing! Much more than I expected! Even though the main character is an eight year old boy, there is enough intrigue and secrets to make this a fantastic fantasy novel, especially as an introductory book to a larger series. The world building is small, focusing on the immediate area, but feels complete. There is a larger history outside of the book that makes the story feel real. The writing itself is great; I found myself highlighting so many passages as I read.
The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler starts with a worried wife, waiting for her husband to return to battle. When he does, she realises their political gambit has gone awry, and the King has punished them by killing their son and demanding they give him another hostage. They do, a meek eight year old boy named Owen, who miraculously survived his stillborn birth. Watching Owen grow in confidence as he navigates the courtly intrigue is great. He is the perfect focal character that readers can relate to. He has no idea where he is, or why he’s there, just like the reader. It makes what would otherwise be boring and dry exposition on important facts the readers needs to know, exciting and reasonable.
Apart from focal point Owen, we have a spy, Mancini, whom you don’t really recognise the importance of at the start. He just exists as a watchdog, but you grow to realise he is a key player thanks to the character setting all the pieces in motion, the Queen’s Poisoner, Ankarette. She is “fountain-blessed,” someone who was born with gifts such as the gift of foresight. It is Ankarette who sets everything in motion, beginning events that will have far-reaching conclusions in the third book of the trilogy no doubt. She takes over the protector role for Owen and feeds him the information he needs to survive what the King has planned for him. A King who cares little for the opinions of the people, so much so that the reader is left wondering whether the rumours of his kinslaying are true. The characters are all well-developed, fully fleshed, and leave you wondering if everything they say is face value.
Though the world building was constrained to castle life, I expect this to change with the following book in the series as events move North. That said, what we do see is great and feels heavy, as though there is weight to what is being written. There is a history here that the characters all know about and feel, which lends a gravity to the story.
Though this is a fantasy, expect it to be a bit more subtle than a Lord of the Rings, or even ASOIaF. The magic is in the fountain-blessed. I’ve not seen a dragon or a fire-toting wizard. What you do see, and much of, is intrigue! So much juicy intrigue! Everyone is plotting against everyone else for reasons unknown most of the time. Why does the Queen hate the King? What is the Princess’ ultimate goal? Why does Ankarette really want to help Owen? Does Horwath know something? There is so much going on, I just want to know it all!
Thankfully, author Jeff Wheeler plans on releasing the second instalment of the Kingfountain series in May, with the third one scheduled for September. A well-written fantasy series with actual dates for publishing?? Unheard of (I mean look at the Kingkiller series and ASoIaF) and amazing!! Definitely pick this one up, read it, love it, and get ready for the next one!
Quotes & Excerpts
Power. There was power in being able to control how others reacted to you.
– Chapter Five
“Thoughts have a way of growing. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish surprising things. […] Most people suffer from a lack of imagination. They don’t dare enough. […] The reason most people don’t arrive at a destination is they never embark. They think of all the reasons why they can’t do it, so they don’t even try.”
– Chapter Eleven
We glory in the tales of our exploits, of our manipulations. We especially love to trick each other. You see, it is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.
– Chapter Twelve
“New ideas are delicate. They can be crushed easily. New ideas can be killed by a sneer or a yawn… or even a frown.”
– Chapter Fifteen
“When enough people believe something of you, it can distort your view of yourself. We mimic the judgement of others. It would take a very strong person indeed to resist the effects of so much ill will.”
– Chapter Sixteen
“A dish may be a pretty thing, but it’s easily broken. Even if you fit the pieces back together, it won’t hold a meal.”
– Chapter Thirty-Five