I listened to the audiobook version of The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler, read by Kate Rudd. The story opens with the Duke of Kiskaddon returning home from battle. His side was victorious, but there was a small problem, or rather a major problem. At a crucial point in the battle, when it looked like they might lose, the King ordered the Duke to take his men into battle. Sensing that the King would lose the battle and be deposed, the Duke refused to send his men in, an act of treason. So instead, the King and his household knights took to the field, and against the odds, won a major victory.
Because of his treason, the Duke is required to send one of his children to live in the king’s household as a hostage. Owen, the youngest son, is sent. Owen is a smart, but painfully shy boy of eight years and the story centers around his attempt to cope and stay alive in a castle where many people hate him. The boy’s natural tendency is to withdraw into himself but he meets a young girl of the same age who is very talkative and outgoing and they become friends. They get swept up into the affairs of spies and a poisoner as Owen tries to keep himself alive and save his family.
Being both hostage and foster of a King is good soil for planting a story. There are many opportunities for plots and twists. I thought that the world-building in The Queen’s Poisoner was good. New information was introduced as needed to move the story forward. I really liked the religion and magic system and thought it provided a very good fabric that helped to tie the story together. The pacing was good. I never lost interest. There were a couple of times in the first half of the book where it seemed like the story had been tweaked and I was surprised that someone who I imagined in a certain way was later described much differently, but that was pretty minor. This was the first installment in a trilogy, and I’m looking forward to the next books.