Ahoy me mateys! Grab your grog! Here is book 1 of the fifth installment of the 3 Bells trilogy showcase. The bonus of this installment is that though the first mate and I have very different reading tastes, occasionally we do overlap in our reading choices. When I found out he had read this series, I commandeered his reviews! So you get one from me and a bonus additional review from me crew. Please note that I write like I talk and the first mate writes like he thinks. Hope you enjoy!
From The Captain:
This novel is the first in Kingfountain series. The title of the book is what originally drew me attention. Who and what does the queen’s poisoner do? (besides poison people of course!) Then the book has a pretty cover:
Then I read the blurb. An evil king. An eight year old hostage. Magic. An assassin. Hooray! Me kind of book. Then I started reading it. Apparently the history of the kingdom is loosely based on The War of the Roses and the king in Richard III. It’s sort of like what would have happened had Henry Tudor lost. Having studied Richard III in depth during me Shakespearean theatre history class, I became engrossed! I finished this book in one sitting and was completely lost in the story.
No joke, I absolutely adored this book. I do not however feel that ye need to know anything about Richard III or English battle history to enjoy this novel.
For one, I pretty much thought the characterization in this novel was fantastic. The main character of Owen is just plain wonderful. He is a precocious eight-year-old whose relationships in the story are at its heart. His relationship with the Queen’s poisoner is one highlight. His relationship with his best friend Evie is another.
Side note: Can I just say that Evie is frickin’ awesome. I was kinda in awe of her. She is only eight in the novel and yet is already strong in her own way. Can’t wait to see how she grows in the series. This book was full of strong intelligent women. Hooray for that!
Secondly. the magic system. The book doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of it in this first book but enough clues are in it to intrigue me and make me want more. In fact the magic system seems to be highly involved in the myths and social mores of the culture. It has a medieval feel to it and yet seems it is its own thing at the same time.
Thirdly, the politics. While Owen is the focus of the story, I rather enjoyed the politics and machinations of the adults. It did not get in the way of Owen’s story but helped enrich it and the world building. Who doesn’t like plotting and secret societies?
Lastly, the plot. Of course I cannot get into this in detail without spoilin’ things but I thought how the story unfolded was fantastic. There were plot twists that entertained me, some that surprised me, and some that made me sad in a good way.
Basically I loved this book so very much that I immediately downloaded two and three. Very happy to have discovered this new author. Off to read book 2 . . .
From The First Mate:
When the Captain finished “The Queen’s Poisoner” she smiled and said, “Now, that was just what I needed.” She’d said that it was a well-told retelling of the Richard III story with magic. I was intrigued, but she said that I wouldn’t like it because the main characters were children. So, I shrugged, went back to my Murakami, and thought no more about it. That is, until the Captain finished the second book and was absolutely livid about the direction in which it had gone. And so, yes, I was well and truly interested. I hadn’t seen a reaction like that since “A Wise Man’s Fear.”
With a bit of trepidation, I dove into “The Queen’s Poisoner” and found it to be simply delightful. The children, Owen and Evie, are thankfully of the Shakespearean variety (i.e., adults with short legs) and thus their age poses no real impediment to their ability to influence the plot. Several of the characters are well drawn (the eponymous Queen’s Poisoner and the Richard III analogue especially) while others are straight out of central casting (there’s a spymaster and his name is, essentially, Dick Rat). The writing is clear and largely invisible, which is, honestly, a welcome attribute in a high fantasy novel. And I rather enjoyed the merging of religion and magic in the world.
If the book has one significant flaw, though, it’s that Wheeler had both a particular plot and several specific scenes in mind and he was going to put them into the novel whether they made any logical sense or not. One particular howler requires a character who is so paranoid that he has children test his food for poison to leave a secret passage to his bedroom completely unguarded. The circumstances in which we learn about this unguarded secret passage made me pause for quite some time to ponder other ways that scene could’ve played out without making the characters look like imbeciles. I stopped coming up with alternate scenarios at nine.
That particular flaw aside, the book and the world are really quite fun. A lot of fantasy novels in recent years have hewn to the fairly popular grim dark conventions, and this yarn is a welcome change from that. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s a Disneyfied high fantasy, but there’s rarely a moment in the novel where I worried for the life and limb of our main character. If you’re looking for grit, you won’t find it here.
Goodreads has this to say about the novel: