Although Wheeler's writing style is still clear throughout, unlike his other books, this story follows a child, 8-year old Owen, as the main character. This lent to a different overall feel from his other books as you learn about this new world through the eyes of young Owen.
Owen is thrust into conflict and must learn to adapt, build courage, and make alliances/friendships to help him survive and save his family. The characters are entertaining (Mancini is my favorite), bringing humor and intrigue to the story.
As Owen begins to feel the magic of the Fountain, we get a lot of foreshadow, hints, and small demonstrations of what the magic entails, but the magic is not what drives the plot in The Queen's Poisoner-- it's the characters. In this way, I felt like I was reading more of a historical fiction, albeit in a fantasy kingdom where the magic of the Fountain Blessed is evident, but running in the background. Magic is not necessarily how kings keep or enforce their rule. It's not the traditional fantasy story (at least in this first book) with some overwhelming evil or tyrant that must be overthrown or an impossible quest. Nearly all of the characters have done good and bad things, with real motivations and consequences, and we get to see what makes them tick. Basically, this is an origin story that sets the stage with a focus on the characters.
It reminds me of how I felt reading Megan Whalen Turner's, Queen of Attolia series, or Sherwood Smith's, A Stranger to Command.
At the end, I was left wanting to know where, and what, Owen's gifts will sprout into and where the conflict will go. In the afterward, it appears book 2 will jump seven years into the future with Owen now fifteen, having been trained and taught the last seven years. I'm looking forward to book 2.
Lastly, as with all of Wheeler's books, I enjoyed the clean aspect to his writing. The Queen's Poisoner is devoid of the graphic violence, sex and language that so easily turn me away from many other fantasy books. But while doing so, it doesn't compromise in the storytelling that I enjoy. I would give it a PG rating since people die, there are some intense situations, threats made, thematic undertones, etc...
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.
You can learn more about Author Jeff Wheeler at his site www.jeff-wheeler.com.