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The Queen's Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series, Book 1)

Review

The Queen's Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series, Book 1)

In his new YA fantasy venture, THE QUEEN’S POISONER, Jeff Wheeler poses a poignant question: What would have happened if Shakespeare’s version of King Richard III hadn’t been killed at the Battle of Bosworth? What if Richard really was a child-murdering, ruthless monster who continued to rule England? Wheeler casts usurper King Severn Argentine as Richard and a loosely disguised fictional European country as England. He spins a thoroughly engaging yarn, but it is not one that does much to distinguish itself in a highly competitive market.
 
"In THE QUEEN’S POISONER, Wheeler delivers a solid, enjoyable dose of fantasy to an ever-eager readership."
 
In a recent battle for the crown, King Severn defeated all competition that came his way; he’s brutal to anyone who didn’t stay loyal to him. One such unfortunate subject is the Duke of Kiskaddon, whose oldest son was killed as punishment for his father’s hesitation in supporting Severn. Now, the duke’s wife must sent one of her other children to court as a hostage. The unlucky candidate? Eight-year-old Owen, his mother’s youngest and favorite among her brood. With that royal mandate, the precocious boy is launched into a precarious political atmosphere --- one that will keep readers engaged for the rest of the novel.
 
Owen is a bright lad, one readers are bound to like and sympathize with, but Wheeler's secondary characters are a bit less original. Instead, they’re thinly veiled copies of real-life members of Richard’s court, which is off-putting for knowledgeable readers, as is the author’s initial stylistic choices. At the start of the novel, Wheeler allows the pacing to lag, rather than letting the experiences Owen undergoes and the scenery he passes emerge off the page fully formed. But, as the book progresses and the reader gets deeper into clever Owen’s psyche, the boy develops wonderfully, as does Wheeler’s style.
 
In THE QUEEN’S POISONER, Wheeler delivers a solid, enjoyable dose of fantasy to an ever-eager readership. Though his interesting take on Shakespeare’s "Richard III" is somewhat diminished by a few poor stylistic choices, it’s the clever, young protagonist who takes the cake as the real star of this book. He’s one to watch --- luckily, readers needn't wait long, as THE THIEF'S DAUGHTER, book two in the Kingfountain Series, will be available May 31st.
 

Reviewed by Carly Silver on May 13, 2016

The Queen's Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series, Book 1)
(The Kingfountain #1)
by Jeff Wheeler