Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Poison Throne - Celine Kiernan

Set in a fantastical medieval Europe, The Poison Throne tells the story of Wynter, a 15-year-old qualified apprentice who, at the beginning of the book, has just returned with her sick father, the Lord Protector Lorcan, to the court of King Jonathon, after years spent in the Northlands training. She remembers the court as a joyful place, where she grew up playing with the king's two sons, Alberon and Razi,whom she considers her brothers. But now everything has changed. The once civilised, illuminated realm is oppressed by the King's brutal inquisition. Cats, once revered and cared for, are being persecuted, accused of spreading malicious rumors throughout the court and no one speaks to them anymore. Ghosts have been declared officially non-existing.
And gibbets have been reintroduced.
The happy times Wynter hoped to come back to have been replaced by fear and conspiracies, suspicions and tortures. But why? What has led king Jonathon to change his ways so dramatically?
Wynter is desperate to find answers. Especially because the lives of her beloved brothers might be in danger. Alberon, the legitimate son, is missing, while Razi, the bastard son, is being forced to take his place as the heir to the throne.

This story is not your usual fantasy adventure for teenagers. And maybe that's why it took me a little longer to get into it. It's a story about intrigue at court, yes, but at its core it's a story about relationships, about the strong bond that can exist between friends, family or lovers. It's real, and it's intense, but in a world ruled by protocol and politics, personal affections can become obstacles, or even powerful tools, depending who is using them.
In this first chapter of the Moorhawke trilogy, nothing is revealed easily. The reality of what is happening is uncovered little by little, and it gets increasingly engrossing by the page.

At first I wasn't particularly drawn to the main character, Wynter. I didn't like how she judged Razi's friend Christopher, so quickly and superficially, as soon as she met him. But as the story unravels, and we get to know her more, she gains more credit for being a strong, confident young woman, who's mature for her age, skilled in the art of etiquette and court's discipline, and filled with deep love for her father and her friends.
Christopher is another very interesting character, whom I'd love to read more about. He has a mysterious past, which we can only guess is not the happiest, and is incredibly loyal to his friend Razi.
There's not much more I can say about the characters and the story without ruining it. But I can talk about the writing, which was rich, elegant and detailed, despite the use of some strong language and some mild swearing. It was very honest and physical too, creating some very intimate moments, which I didn't expect. It was also visually violent, sometimes, so beware younger readers.
As I said, it was the first chapter of a trilogy, so there is no real conclusions. It has only started.
Which is why I'm so thrilled to have the ARC of the second chapter, The Crowded Shadows already in my possession!
I'm looking forward to seeing what is expecting our heroes, as the scene moves from the claustrophobic walls of the castle to the dangers of the outside world. Exciting!

other views:
Book Focus


Ana S. said...

Can you please stop reviewing awesome-sounding fantasy books that to make matters worse are part of a series? K thx bai :P

Seriously though, a great fantasy story that is at its core about relationships sounds like something I would definitely like.

Ruth (Book Focus) said...

Hey - I reviewed this book as well, a while back, hope you don't mind if I link to your review from mine! Thanks :)

valentina said...

of course not, go ahead! I'll link yours too.