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Kingfountain #1

The Queen's Poisoner

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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.

336 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 1, 2016

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About the author

Jeff Wheeler

99 books4,563 followers
Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler took an early retirement from his career at Intel in 2014 to write full-time. He is a husband, father of five, and a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jeff lives in the Rocky Mountains.

Jeff's blog and suggested reading order can be found on his website: http://www.jeff-wheeler.com/

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,271 reviews
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,460 reviews9,611 followers
July 3, 2017
7-3-17 This book and the next two or three are $1.99 on Audible for the US right now. I'm not sure about anywhere else.

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List

I got this book free through the kindle first program. I'm doing pretty good at picking winners!


Damn book made me cry, a good cry and sad cry!


Lord Kiskaddon made a mistake when he didn't abide by the King's wishes and he lost his eldest son and had to give over another one of his children as a ward. Lady Eleanor and Lord Kiskaddon decided to send Owen, they had to do this or their whole family would be killed.

Owen is only eight-years-old and he is terrified to say the least. He's so afraid of being away from his family and that he is going to be killed by the King. He finds solace in the kitchen playing with tiles, which seems to be a form of dominoes, and staying out of the way.

Owen makes some friends and enemies in the castle. One of these friends is Ankaretta who is the Queen's Poisoner, she is said to have been killed years ago but alas, she is not dead. She lives in the castle right under their noses. That is the only spoiler I'm giving out about her but lets just say she is so smart and so nice and being a poisoner is not the only thing she is. She starts to train Owen in things he needs to do to win over the King and it's not what you may think.

At one point, one of the king's men brings his granddaughter to be friends with Owen. He is terrified of her at first and wants to run for the hills, she talks up a storm and is scared of nothing. They end up forming a wonderful bond and he can share secrets with Evie and trust her with his life and vise versa. They are such good characters and they made me laugh out loud a few times at their antics.

There is magic in the book as well. There is always magic right?

There are also people in the book that are Fountain-blessed. I'm not going to tell you what that means because you need to read if for yourself. It's really awesome though!


If your thinking this is some high action book.. it is not. The book is about Owen and what all he has to do to try to save his family and figure out his life plan. We find out some things in the book that are not all they seem. The book is just so good, even though I thought it was going to be about something totally different, I loved it just the same. I look forward to more books in the series or trilogy.
Profile Image for Katie B (Bisforbookiemonster).
37 reviews12 followers
March 17, 2016
I'm totally going against the majority of the ratings here, but this book has left me with mixed feelings. I like the premise, a lot, which is the reason that I chose it as my pick for March’s Kindle First. I like the idea of a trilogy where each book focuses on the main character at a different time in his life. Add to that the concept of magic, and I was intrigued.

But that’s really where the intrigue ended.

I’d like to say that this book involves a sly power play for the throne or the tricks and secrets that make up court politics, but it doesn’t. At all.

In fact, if you asked me what the plot of this novel is, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. The few events that do happen just don’t seem big enough to actually carry the novel. Yes, Owen gets taken in as the King’s hostage, and yes, he finds a woman who helps him to “survive.” But the thing is, I never got the feeling while reading this that he was in all that much danger. I never felt the fear.

And without the element of real danger, I couldn’t get into the novel like I wanted to. I felt like I was looking in from the outside the entire time, not like I was in it. The whole plot centers on making sure Owen is indispensable to the king. Maybe I’m a picky reader, but that isn't enough for me.

Jeff Wheeler clearly put some thought into the building of this world, but I thought his explanations were executed in a simplistic, info-dumping way. Yes, that facilitates fast and mindless reading, but that’s not what I’m looking for when I pick up a fantasy series. The writing style also serves to make certain events more superficial and less emotional then they should be.

For example, we get the background of Owen’s mother within the first few pages:
“Her husband had been summoned to join the king’s army on the battlefield to face the invasion, and her oldest son was a hostage in the king’s army to ensure her husband’s good faith.”
Again, I may be too demanding of a reader, but I want to feel this woman’s pain that her husband and her eldest son are in danger and her worry over not knowing what’s going to happen. Instead I get this one sentence explaining why she's so nervous. Wheeler seems to have a habit of telling rather than showing, and this happens multiple times throughout the book.

Then there’s the total condescension of children. Two of the main characters, Owen and Lady Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer, are eight years old. At their first meeting, they talk about the deaths of their family members, and they both are portrayed as not understanding the concept of death. They mention it briefly, express confusion over why people cry when a loved one dies, and then they switch to talking about something else.

I was actually kind of offended by this lack of empathy. Let me tell you, 8-year-olds are most definitely astute enough to understand death and feel grief.

Not to mention this absolutely pointless paragraph:
“The muffin continued to tempt him and he finally succumbed and took a bite. The bread of the muffin was like cake and the seeds crunched a bit when he bit down on them. He had never had this kind before, but it was delicious, and he wolfed it down.”
Just to put things into context, these are Owen’s thoughts right after he’s been taken from his family and is scared of the new place he’s going to. He’s thinking more about a muffin he’s eating than he is about his family. Wheeler appears to have a misconception of the intellectual and emotional development that occurs in an 8-year-old child, and this is how he believes children really think. When they are in safety and comfort, perhaps. But when they’re surrounded by strangers and heading into danger?

Definitely not.

However, I must say that the relationship between Owen and his friend “Evie” is very cute. That is one of the few aspects of these children that actually feels real.

Moving onto the method in which we learn about this world...

It is not subtle. At all. Many tidbits of information seem out of place throughout the story. It is as though they were dropped into the dialogue of certain characters solely for the benefit of the reader, which makes some of the conversations feel unnatural and strange. Curious about something? Don’t worry, because one of the adults will definitely randomly decide to tell Owen the story of how that thing came to be. How convenient!

I also get the impression that no one in this court is actually all that intelligent (except for Ankarette). There are several instances when certain deceits should be exceedingly obvious to a master of spies to the king (he’s a master, for cripes’ sake!), and yet no one sees through those plans.

This was reoccurring throughout the novel: people and plans that are supposed to be clever aren’t actually all that clever upon closer inspection.

But what bothers me the most is the writing style. At times it is so simplistic as to be jolting, and it makes scenes that should be emotional and riveting feel robotic instead:
“He swallowed some tears before they could spill. His throat was thick and tight. He burrowed himself against her. She felt cold. Her hand limply stroked his hair.”
Reading that, I felt nothing. And I really should have.

I had too many problems with this book to truly enjoy it. Between the lack of credit given to a child’s intellectual and emotional capacity, the lack of complexity, and the writing style, any hope I had for the premise was completely stomped into the mud. And yet, inexplicably, I feel a slight tugging to read the sequel.

I guess we’ll see what happens.

Final Rating: 2 stars
Profile Image for Choko.
1,196 reviews2,583 followers
April 3, 2020
This is definitely a book for young readers and as such, it is perfect. The protagonist is only 8 years old and although the narrator is different, most of the story is perceived from that young boy's perspective. The world is very close approximation to Medieval times Europe and the magic is connected to the Fountains, talents that exhibit at the age of about 11 or 12. Owen is a likable kid and his playmate, Elizabeth Victoria Mortimer, is absolutely adorable! I had fun getting to know them(•‿•)
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,032 reviews1,422 followers
September 12, 2016
Actual rating 3.5 stars.

This is the first installment in the Kingfountain trilogy and follows the journey of Owen Kiskaddon, as he is taken from his home to the King's castle as hostage for his father's crimes of desertion and treason. Owen, a shy and serious seven-year-old, was easy to fall in love with and I immediately empathized with his plight. His abrupt departure from the world he knew, the chaos of the King's palace and the new faces he was confronted with, all conspired to give this an adventurous and action-packed beginning. It wasn't until over a quarter of the way through that the reader becomes privy to the fact of the king's magical abilities, aided by the magical fountain water. He is not alone in this aptitude, as Owen soon learns when he meets the mysterious Ankarette Tryneowy, the former Queen's poisoner.

Owen's friendship with Lady Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer made interesting reading, and I adored joining them on their childish and daring adventures. Learning of their quirky ways gave light respite from the surrounding story of political intrigue. 'Evie', as Owen affectionatly calls her, was a little doll and I quickly became so in love with her and Owen's little friendship. They were such an odd duo, which only made them the more interesting to read of.

Despite my initial affinity with this story, inconsistencies began to arise that marred my overall enjoyment. This read partly like a high fantasy or historical fiction novel, as it was full of court intrigue and political workings, but the young perspective led other parts of this to read more like a middle grade novel. Owen is a child and yet his inner-monologues often do not read as one who is such, leading to some ambiguity to also arise over his character.

Overall, I liked the book and am excited to see where the story goes, in the next two installments, but I can't say this is my favourite fantasy story, so far. I think I became more interested in the next episode once I learnt that it is set seven years into the future, and I only hope that the older protagonist will combat my minor dislikes from this book.
Profile Image for Bibi.
1,282 reviews3,270 followers
February 15, 2019

The characters were portrayed with such clarity, the pace was unrelenting, and the best part is I still have 5 more serials to read. Bliss.
May 22, 2019
This is a really difficult book for me to review, because on one hand it was an engaging enjoyable light fantasy read and on the other there were some intensely problematic elements. This book has some of the worst fatphobia I’ve come across and that’s not because being on the internet has made me more aware of it but just because it’s unrelenting in its pervasiveness. It also falls into the trap of the ‘evil cripple’ which is just a trope that needs to die.

I’ll probably give the next book a try because I liked the story and maybe it improves, but I’d be heartbroken to think there are people out there who could go into this without warning and be hurt.
Profile Image for Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net.
242 reviews551 followers
February 7, 2017
Ya'll, I am exhausted.

Truth be told, I probably would have been better off DNFing this one, but I'm stubborn and had already made it 60% in before I started to realize that the story was actually going absolutely nowhere. So the remaining 40% became an exercise in stamina and fortitude for me and boy was it a challenge!

What Drew Me In:
I'm a sucker for High Fantasy. Magic, Kings, Queens, Knights, Vicious backstabbings in houses of nobility, it all appeals to me. The premise of this one caught my eye:

8 year old Owen must fight 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.

Sounds good right?
Wrong, because that's about as good as it gets here.

So What Went Wrong?

Nothing feels organic in this book. The characters are completely one-dimensional. Owen is sweet, noble and brave only.

Speaking of Owen, he was way too intelligent for his years. If you're going to write from the perspective of an 8 year old child, you cannot have him making intelligent leaps and sweeping judgement about people's hidden character the way he did numerous times throughout the story. Kids don't work that way. Certainly not an 8 year old boy who starts the story being ripped from his family. He would be severely emotionally stunted and traumatized, which is never shown here. He read like a 30 year old man trapped inside an 8 year old's body.

All of the main female supporting characters are loving, kind, and maternal only. The leading male characters are all rude, brash and like to call Owen "brat" instead of his actual name. They don't feel like real people and because of that I felt absolutely nothing. For any of them.

Even the Queen's Poisoner, for which this novel was named after, was lame as hell. She wasn't poisoning anyone, and she was living in secret in a tower in the castle that apparently no one else besides Owen had access to. I was a little scared my eyes were going to get stuck in the back of my head I was rolling them so much.

Also, I'm just going to say it. This reads like a first draft. The prose is messy, there are entire pages of infodumping. The first lesson any writer learns is to show, not tell, but in this, any time information needs to be divulged to the reader about something that happened, it's in a long monologue that reflects back over events we the reader weren't privy to. It was beyond boring. The real shame is that there are so many flashbacks that I often felt like the more compelling tale here was the one that wasn't shown, but rather told through them.

Plus, when the author finds an action or descriptive phrase he likes it is used over and over and over again. For example, I began noticing quite early on that female characters had a penchant for tousling/stroking/mussing Owen's hair every time he had a scene with them.

"Lady Eleanor sat at the window seat of hr chambers, gently stroking her son's head in her lap."

"Eleanor glided her fingers through the boy's thick hair."

"Kneeling down by Owen's side... She stroked his head."

"She tousled his hair."

"Liona tousled his hair."

"She smiled again and tousled his mousy hair."

"...mussing his hair."

"she said suddenly, tickling his mussy hair."

"She reached out and tousled his hair."

"She lifted her fingers and grazed his hair."

I think you get the point. I counted, and this happens at LEAST 26 times, with that action alone. I know that there were more repeated behaviors too. This is the sort of stuff that a great editor would catch and strike from a final draft of a novel. Once I started recognizing it, I just couldn't force myself to overlook it.

Oh, also: There's this really weird naming convention in this book with one particular character:

Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer, who I now affectionately refer to as my most hated written character of all time. It takes 10% of the story for Owen to finally nickname her "Evie," and even when that happens, she is still referred to as "Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer," or "Lady Mortimer" by the narrator, every time. It was excruciating! That name became like nails on chalkboard to me just to read, and I ended up skipping it entirely.

Who knows though. Maybe this just wasn't the book for me. Maybe I wasn't in the right head-space for it. You may love it. I sure didn't.

1.5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,847 reviews360 followers
June 10, 2017
Took a chance on a daily deal audio book and bought this gem. It's a typical knights in armor, king in a castle fantasy story with the power of sight and mysticism thrown in. The author does draw inspiration from the War of the Roses however, quite blatantly (white boar badge, drowning in a hogshead of wine, boys in a tower, someone with a crookback, main character actually called Duke of Gloucester, etc), but what he imagines to work along with these historical references leaves one with a delightful read, especially if read to you.


Summer Fantasy Fest read #7
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,867 reviews16.5k followers
July 17, 2022
Jeff Wheeler begins his exceptional Kingfountain world building in this 2016 publication.

Many GR readers have called this young adult fantasy, no doubt because our protagonist Owen is eight years old. I would liken this to Charles Dickens Great Expectations which is an adult novel, with grown up themes and issues but with an adolescent hero. Owen, like Pip, is surrounded by some very adult issues in this marvelous world building that seems likely to give George RR Martin a run for his money.


This is high fantasy without much of the violence and sexuality of Martin’s work. Maybe this is where the young adult label comes from also. I’ve heard this described as clean fantasy.

However it is branded, this is a very cool fantasy that I was enjoying on every page.

Owen is sent to live with King Severn after his parents have been caught in a treason against the king. Owen is held as a ward, really a hostage, against future sedition.

We meet King Severn and we instantly know that Wheeler has modeled the king on Richard III of England.


We soon learn that Wheeler has added many ins, outs and what haves you in this very clever tale that is anything but predictable. Besides the historical / Shakespearean references, Wheeler also includes many other allusions to other histories / fantasies and it was fun to discover the many easter eggs to learn from where his inspirations could be found.

I very much enjoyed the world building and magic rules. The Kingfountain world is a medieval model like fifteenth century English king and also similar in setting to many sword and sorcery fantasies. The magic rules are subtle, with many limitations and I was obliquely reminded of Brandon Sanderson’s world buildings. Essentially, a rare percentage of the populace are “Fountain blessed” and have obscure but potentially powerful or persuasive abilities. Not like superhuman / magic user powers, these are more psychological or telepathic and I think the story is benefitted by this minimalism.

Like many medieval themed stories, this also contained more than its fair share of espionage and court intrigue. Owen finds many secrets in the old castle and this adds to the quality of the tale.

Show stealer alert!

Love, love, love it when a character steals the show and there is no doubt here. Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer – NOT Lady Morimer, that’s her mother – is Owen’s eight-year-old playmate and she is a little spitfire who stole every scene she was in.

Actually, and again like Dickens, this story is filled with colorful players and this plethora of characterization is another reason this book, and presumably the whole series, is so good.

I liked it so much that I barely put this down before I was picking up the next in the series.

Profile Image for Johan Twiss.
Author 24 books122 followers
February 7, 2016
The Queen's Poisoner, by Jeff Wheeler, is book 1 in his new The Kingfountain Series. And truth be told, it was very different than what I expected, but not in a bad way. I'm a fan of Jeff Wheeler and have enjoyed his 3 trilogies in the Muirwood and Mirrowen worlds, and came into this book expecting The Queen's Poisoner to be much of the same, but it was different.

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 7 years into the future with Owen now 15, having been trained and taught the last 7 years.

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...
Profile Image for Heather.
319 reviews287 followers
April 25, 2017
4 stars
Review to come
Free for Kindle Unlimited

Ok ...


If you don't like a slow build fantasy with a shit ton of strategy and politics ... then this book will not be for you.

But like ... that happens to be a list of all the things I love!
Also there is no romance for all of you out there who are clambering for less googly eyes in your fantasy books.

Awesome awesome awesome ... and I can't wait to see where this series goes because this book laid down a pretty strong foundation here!
Profile Image for TS Chan.
698 reviews868 followers
January 20, 2018
2.5 stars.

Honestly, I am not sure how to rate this book so I went right down the middle. At one point around one-fourth in, I nearly put it down as I wasn't enjoying the story told from the perspective of an eight-year old boy, Owen Kiskaddon, who was very shy and timid but seemed to be special. Then the titular character showed up and I was sufficiently intrigued to keep on reading.

The story itself was fairly good and made up of a cast of fairly diverse characters. A supposedly cruel and dangerous king, an ambitious spy master and a hidden spy, the mysterious queen's poisoner, a loquacious young lady and her stalwart grandfather, and the young ward/hostage of said king from a family tested for their loyalty.

It's a tale inspired by events in the late 15th century, of court espionage, lies and politics, albeit played out in front of the eyes and ears of a really young boy. While I wasn't completely taken in yet because of the almost childish tone, the next book seems promising as it leaps forward by nine years. Since this is available on Kindle Unlimited, I might give this series another shot in the foreseeable future.
Profile Image for Chelsies Reading Escape.
631 reviews362 followers
November 27, 2016
Rating: 2.5 Stars

This book wasnt at all what I was expecting. I liked the idea of people being blessed with special abilities. The plot didnt move along fast enough and wasnt all that engaging. I dont think there was enough time spent on the plot. Being the plot driven reader that I am I had a difficult time getting into this story because its mostly character driven with a lot of world building details. Once the world building was laid out the writing was more enjoyable.

We follow Owen as a young boy at the Kings palace as ransom to keep his father, a Duke, in check. At first he is quite timide and struggling to adjust to life at the castle knowing his life is in danger. His brother, who was the last ransom, was killed when his father disobeyed the King. He grows into himself and learns a lot from the Queens Poisoner, who has taken it upon herself to help him survive. At the castle he meets a girl his age nicknamed Evie who he grows close to and helps him be brave.

I dont know if it was Owens age but I struggled to connect with him as a character. I thought he was adorable and intelligent for his age but it took a while for him to grow on me. Maybe Ill be able to connect with him more in the sequel because he will be older. I liked that he had matured quite a bit by the end of the book. I liked how the Princess was kind to Owen when he first got to the castle. It made me like her almost instantly. Evies personality was almost the complete opposite of Owen but I thought she was cute and inquistive. She was one of my favorite characters.

I also thought the Queens Poisoner and Mancini were intriguing characters and made this story a lot more interesting. The King was an alright antagonist but I didnt fear him as much as I would have liked. However I do like when I start to question if an antagonist is as evil as everyone makes him out to be. I enjoyed the political scheming in this book and not knowing who to trust. I know a lot of people love character driven stories and I think they would enjoy this book more than I did because for the most part the characters were compelling.

* Received a copy in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
691 reviews98 followers
June 7, 2019
Wow! I liked Wheeler's writing enough that after listening to 60% of this on audiobook over a few drives, I read the last 40% in one sitting.

So the duke of Westmarch failed to support the king in a military campaign, ending up on the king's radar for treason. The son at court is murdered and now the duke's youngest son, Owen, is sent as a new hostage to the palace to be the king's ward. So Owen learns to navigate the king's court. He has the help of his newfound allies and friends who are still loyal to the queen dowager. He meets the queen's poisoner who is an amazing and unlikely ally. She is also a Fountain blessed, as is King Severn, people who have unique abilities and it appears as if Owen is one of them too. Once he is brought a friend at court, all childish amazing hell breaks lose as Owen essentially uses his safety net to stay alive. Events unfold and, well, read the summary😁

It is interesting that a book with so little real action held my attention so well. There is a ton of political/court intrigue and it was interesting watching Owen toughen up and find his net of allies. The character development is awesome, Owen seems like he's going to be a great character, and Evie is a perfect childhood friend for him. Ankarette is also a wonderful character. Even the king; I have such mixed feelings on him! Also I have to mention that the darn cover is gorgeous.

I know Wheeler said he based the young kids on his son - but it didn't quite feel right. Sometimes Owen and Elysabeth would understand super advanced concepts and prophecies, chess strategies, then not understand a simple explanation. Evie didn't understand death apparently? It didn't bother me too much but felt inconsistent. Also European history isn't my thing at all so I have no context to base the War of the Roses outline on. I am simply going off of enjoyment of the book and have no comment on historical context

I really loved all six Muirwood books and feel like I will like this trilogy as well. Fully recommend for fans of fantasy, historical fiction
Profile Image for Emma.
2,431 reviews827 followers
June 27, 2016
4.5 stars, nearly 5. Well I whipped through this in no time at all. It was a fantastic well paced, well told story. Court intrigue, political manoeuvring, poisoners (obviously!), spies, hostages, magic. Loved it.
Profile Image for Anni.
103 reviews
December 1, 2018
More like 4.5 Stars 🌟

I really enjoyed the audiobook! The story isn't exactly action-packed, but I liked the characters, the atmosphere and the storytelling. I'm looking forward to read the sequels and continue with Owen's story :)

Edit, after reading the next two books: I loved the series and how everything came together. Definitely among my favorite reads of 2018!
Profile Image for Sarah.
634 reviews143 followers
May 29, 2017
It is so rare that a book moves me to tears, but it does happen occasionally. I sit there staring at the pages, or in this case my kindle, blinking them away, silently insisting to myself that I will not cry about a fictional story. And that's exactly what happened this morning.

I love this book. I know that's bad reviewer etiquette- to simply say you love it and walk away. But I did love it. I loved the characters, who were real and fleshed out and had their own personalities and strengths and weaknesses. I loved Owen, the eight year old boy who is both courageous and painfully shy. I loved Ankarette who was kind and loving and generous and clever to boot. I loved Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer who chatters non stop but deep down is a steadfast and loyal friend. And there were others who grew on me but I don't want to ruin anything for anyone who might be considering reading this.

The world building was wonderful. It is reminiscent of England. You'll see many names, like Yourk, which will remind you of their counterparts. To the people of the kingdom of Ceredigion though, a fountain, and a waterfall are sacred. The fountain can grant wishes if you wish upon it. The waterfall determines a man's guilt. The accused are given sanctuary at the fountain. The guilty die on this waterfall. Important people are "buried" this way. Some people, are fountain-blessed. To be fountain-blessed is to receive magical powers. They are rare and they receive different gifts, and it is said that their power will save them from the waterfall if they should go over. I would love to go into more gushing detail about the fountain-blessed but I don't want to spoil anything.

I was about halfway through the story before I realized how much of this book is based on The Cousins War. Ankarette is telling Owen the story of the old King Eredur. How he was brought into power by the Earl of Warrewik. How Warrewik rebelled against him when he did not get his way. How Eredur's wife is now in Sanctuary at Our Lady of the Fountain. How Eredur's sons, the two princes, have disappeared and are presumed dead but no one knows for sure. When I realized this, I started noticing many other similarities and was all the more impressed by the book. I love when history and fantasy collide. The author says in his note at the end, that this is, in a way, based on what might have happened if the Tudor's had never seized the throne from King Richard. And of course, if King Richard and other's had the powers of the fountain at hand.

The story telling here is subtle. The author shows you everything and tells you nothing. You start out feeling one way, or thinking one thing, and he expertly leads you to another conclusion entirely. I genuinely cared about most of these characters in the end. I already have loaned the second book from the kindle lending library, and hope it lives up to the expectations set here.

These books are frequently on sale on Amazon, usually for about $1.99. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys fantasy or books about The Cousins War.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,733 reviews648 followers
July 12, 2017
Thanks to my GR friend, BAM, for pointing me to this book.

This was a good-enough book that could have been better. I have no problem with an author borrowing from history. Here, the mythical kingdom of Ceredigion bears a close resemblance to England during the War of the Roses period and the King is a "knockoff" of Richard III. All that matters little except for those who are deep into that English period and are noting all the parallels.

The book begins with an interesting focus on a young (eight year old) boy being ripped from his noble family in order to be held as hostage for the behavior of his parents. We follow his time at the King's castle and his encounters with plots that swirl around the monarchy. We meet "the Queen's poisoner" and get some sense of a type of magic that pervades myth and may affect our young protagonist.

Where the book falls short is in the plot or lack of one. I was told that this book could stand on its own, but it really is a set-up for several novels that follow. Nothing very coherent happens in this book, while we are introduced to the major characters. Some, such as Mancini (the spy) and the poisoner are very interesting creations. Others, are more "stock" characters we have seen in all of these medieval England-type stories.

The biggest problem was stated in Bookwraith's review: "... there’s the total condescension of children." Either, Wheeler doesn't understand children, or is not capable of making his children believable. Perhaps as the characters age, Wheeler's problem will solve itself. Because children are central to this series, I can't give The Queen's Poisoner more than 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books694 followers
October 13, 2020
This was cute. Younger than I anticipated and falling into a lot of plot holes that only work for younger readers, but I'd give this to a still-forming human who likes fantasy.


Things that were fun:

-Classic tropes. It's just a very comforting series of events and archetypes

-Low stakes. There are some serious things that happen, but not to the MC or really on screen.

-Shades of grey. I liked the author built reasons for people to be as "evil" as they seem, and that this changes as we learn more.

Things that were just meh:

-Too precious. People just seem to want to help this kid because ????? Well he's the MC, so they have to. What about the other child hostages? Apparently no one gives a shit about those ones.

-Some of the grey doesn't wash off. Yeah, if you can straight up murder a kid to punish his parents, you prrrooooobably aren't actually a super good person underneath that crusty exterior.

-No cause and effect. This kid should have died like 6 times from the stuff he did, I don't understand the world or magic, or the mythology, which is rare since that stuff is usually either pretty self evident or the part the author really wanted to spend time on.

Just okay. If I saw the second book in an airport and didn't have anything else, I wouldn't rather watch clouds than try it, but I don't think I'll be pursuing more in this universe actively.
Profile Image for Kainat 《HUFFLEPUFF & PROUD》.
293 reviews720 followers
Want to read
May 20, 2016
This just showed up on my Kindle yesterday! I've never even heard of this book before. Either someone who i share my password with bought it without my permission (dick move) or i preordered it and forgot about it, because it just came out today, i believe. Whatever, at least it sounds like something i would read.
Profile Image for April.
Author 24 books1,077 followers
March 31, 2017
So, this was good...
(I'm already finished with book two and just bought book three. I might be binge-reading and understating a little bit).
Profile Image for Frank.
51 reviews86 followers
March 31, 2016
I'm going to write a really long review for a book that probably doesn't merit one, but with all of the five-star reviews here I'd like to just point out everything that bothered me about it. Maybe see if I'm the crazy one for these things sticking out to me.

I can't say this is a terribly well-written book, but there were elements of the story and characters that were strong and kept me slogging through. For a book that isn't that long or dense it took me a long time to get through it; it simply was not super-pleasurable to read. I have not read any of the author's previous work, so I don't know if his writing style is just a choice for this novel or if this is how all of his novels are. Either way, the sentences are so short and simple that it gives The Queen's Poisoner a choppy feel that really slowed me down. I can't say with certainty but there were simply no long sentences. It was all quite straightforward and blunt, chopping up thoughts and action into so many small sentences at the expense of a good narrative flow. You could take two, three, four of his short sentences and put them into a single, flowing sentence. I get it if that's a choice to mirror the mind of our 8 year old protagonist--but even so it's a choice that got old fast for me, and made me almost feel talked down to; plus, as I'll point out later, much of the dialogue is vastly superior to the narration, which makes me think it was a purposeful choice to write in such painfully simple sentences.

The writing is often redundant too, with such dialogue descriptors like "she whispered quietly", as though we would have thought the whispering was loud? (Of course a whisper can be loud, but given the context why would anyone assume anything besides it being quiet?) The author over-describes certain actions and lines of dialogue that don't need extra clarification, making me quite often say "What else did you expect me to think?" I think there's a trick with writing where you just need to trust your writing as well as the reader, and pull back on description at the expense of beating the audience over the head with the obvious.

Another thing that bothered me is the seemingly limited vocabulary (it seems purposeful--or just unimaginative?) used by the author, as well as repeated phrases that pop up in the actions of certain characters. This is not bad in and of itself, but it really annoyed me. There are at least a dozen times that people say a line of dialogue "gruffly." Voices and people "ghost" up to others (never heard that word used as a verb before, not sure if it's real?). Almost every appearance of Ankarette includes her folding her hands in her lap, possibly multiple times in the same scene. Again, maybe I'm too sensitive to this stuff--all of the five star reviews here would indicate that nobody else really noticed or cared.

The strength of this book, I think, lies in some of the characters (not all! which I will get to), as well as, perhaps unusually, the dialogue. Characters like Evie and King Severn are perhaps the most attention-grabbing, followed possibly by Mancini. These characters all have a bit of danger to them--you're not sure what they're going to do next (of course for 8 year-old Evie, it's more about what brash and mischievous thing she will do; with Severn, it's about what is making him tick, and if he is a good or evil person; with Mancini, it's about whose side is he on, and can you trust him). On the other hand, some of the more "important" characters are way less interesting: namely--and you might laugh when I say this--Owen, our main protagonist, ostensibly whom this series will follow from childhood to adulthood; and Ankarette, who is the titular character of this novel. Neither of them seem particularly multi-dimensional, and while Owen does go through a little transformation from beginning to end (going from a tongue-tied, nervous nelly who is overwhelmed by his surroundings, to a... somewhat less-tongue-tied nervous nelly who is not so overwhelmed anymore), it's not really that satisfying and he has no mystery or unpredictability to him; likewise, Ankarette is pretty predictable once you get to know her, and sometimes seems like she's only there to dispense backstory and work behind the scenes to propel the plot.

The best thing this novel has going for it is the dialogue, which is actually quite good, and is the only reason (along with the good characters mentioned above) that I give a rating of two stars instead of one. King Severn, especially, shines through his dialogue, which shows his conflicted nature. The scenes that are dialogue heavy are easily the best, including the big scene at the end when Owen tells him his last dream. I think the dialogue has the harmful effect of making the narration look extra-poor. I really wish the narration had not been so bare-bones simple.

I'm not sure if I'll spring for book 2 in the series. I might, if the writing style becomes more grown up along with Owen. However I don't think I can make myself go through another installment of the series if it's written like The Queen's Poisoner.

Well, there you have it. You can trust me, one of maybe three people to rate this book under five stars, or all the folks who say that this is a very good book. I know who I would trust!
Profile Image for Solseit.
308 reviews74 followers
August 20, 2016
This book was really entertaining, it has a good story and I appreciated the main character development and the side characters/villains.

The book is a little less than 4 stars really - something around 3.75.
I had some issues with the plot itself. Specifically

I really enjoyed the queen's poisoner and the Mortymer girl. I most certainly smiled and cheered up when they were involved. And I really have a soft spot for Owen, a very shy and scared kid who needs to grow up quickly and learn the ways of court (and politics really).

The narration flows incredibly well though. I really had a great time, it was pure entertainment and I am looking forward to the following installments!
Profile Image for Tammie.
1,323 reviews153 followers
April 2, 2020
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.


I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The characters were endearing and the plot kept me reading. It was an easy, but fulfilling read. I enjoyed reading this from 8 year old Owen's point of view. That could have been an iffy thing, as it could have made the book feel too middle grade for me, but it worked here. I also liked that we got a different perspective of the king, other than he was bad for the sake of being bad. He ended up being a more complex character than I was expecting.

For a good portion of the book I was left wondering about the queen's poisoner. Who it would be, how they would play a part in the story? When I finally met her, I liked the way she was both tied into things and introduced.

Overall I like this author's writing style, and I'm eager to find out what happens in the next book.

Review also posted at Writings of a Reader
Profile Image for Marie.
189 reviews2 followers
March 10, 2016

I rarely give five stars...this one is SO good...definitely worth five!!...or six.... I am anxious for the next installment in May. This is so fun! I had many suppositions as I read..and they were all turned on their ears. This book surprised me multiple times. You will not be sorry you read it!!!!
Profile Image for Katrin D.
285 reviews456 followers
November 13, 2017
This was such a pleasant read, light and yet engaging. Highly recommend it, if you're in the mood for Medieval-inspired court intrigues and secrets!
Profile Image for Serap.
690 reviews72 followers
August 26, 2021
Güzel bir fantastik kitaptı, 5lik mi tartışılır ama sevdim neden olmasın... Ana karakter 8 yaşında... Ağır ilerleyen bol taht entrikası olan bir kitap.
Profile Image for Kavitha Sivakumar.
299 reviews50 followers
March 23, 2018
The author tells that he wrote this book inspired by some true events in Britain's history. I love!!! the book. The story is told from 8 year old boy's perspective. A historic fiction without romance and very gripping. I would like to read more from this author.

The usual story. King waging war, executing the traitors. The boy's father, a Duke, refused to assist the reigning King in the war thinking that the opposite party will win the war and will be King in the future. However, the reigning King win the war and throw the first born son of Duke, who resides with reigning King, over the waterfalls killing him for his father's treason. He also asked another son to come and live with him as hostage. The Duke and his wife chose eight born son, our hero, 8 year old. He is extremely shy and tongue-tied in front of strangers. He get some alliances and friendship of another 8 year old girl who talks non stop and unafraid of anyone including the terror King. It is a trilogy, so the story only go so far of how this boy, who develop some ability (called fountain blessed) and defeat some enemies.
Profile Image for autumn.
272 reviews42 followers
December 22, 2017
basically, this book had the mature plot of a (simplistic) high fantasy/royal politics book (with murders and complicated family relations you have to remember) with the VERY juvenile tone of a middle grade book (told from the perspective of an 8 year old). not a great combo.

mainly i just didnt really get the POINT of the story. there really wasnt very much plot, just a lot of set dressing. why was this book written? what was the message? WAS there a message?

kind of spoilers idk

i did like the mythology of the fountain; i thought those parts were really pretty. i would have liked to see more development from that and the titular queen herself. i assumed there would be a lot more female characters han there was, from the title
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