The poison throne by Celine Kiernan

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2009. ISBN 9781741758689. The Moorehawke Trilogy Book 1.
(Ages 13+) Recommended. Fifteen year old Wynter Moorehawke arrives at the King's Palace with her father after years away and finds that all she has treasured there in the past has changed. No longer can she talk mind to mind with the palace cats as the King's Cat Keeper. Almost all of the cats have been destroyed. The friendly ghost that she chatted with in the past is forbidden to her on pain of death and her friend Alberon, once the heir to the throne, has been banished. Worst still there is talk of a wicked war machine that her father invented and which may destroy the kingdom. Together with Prince Razi and Christopher Garron, Wynter tries to work out what is happening and why King Jonathon, once a kindly man, has turned into a tyrant.
The Palace is truly a Palace of Poison, a place where the Inquisition tortures prisoners, where danger and intrigue follows the trio constantly. The constant tension and clever plotting kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime and I finished this book in one sitting.
The Poison Throne has all the elements of an absorbing read: an accomplished and likeable heroine, a beautifully described European medieval setting, political machinations, a low key romance, mystery and plenty of action. The characters are all believable and well developed, including the gruff cook and the cat. Wynter is a skilled girl: She is a qualified apprentice, Protector Lady and accustomed to court deceptions. Loyalty to her father and friends is her outstanding attribute and the reader is swept along with her dilemma about staying with her ill father, seeking safe sanctuary or doing something to save the kingdom.
A fantasy that has universal appeal for both adults and teens, The poison throne will be of special interest to girls who have enjoyed books by Tamora Pierce and who relish a strong heroine. I can't wait for the next two instalments.
Pat Pledger