Kiernan, Celine. The Poison Throne (Moorehawke Trilogy, #1). O’Brein, 2008 (reprint). ISBN 978-1847171108 468 pp. $
A promising start to a fantasy trilogy with historical overtones of 15th century life. Fifteen-year-old apprentice carpenter Wynter returns to the court she grew up in with her ailing father, expecting a warm welcome from his old friend the king and her own childhood playmates: his heir, Alberon, and his bastard son, Razi. Instead, Alberon is proclaimed dead to the king due to some mysterious circumstances, and Wynter is among those commanded to sand and plane his visages from the library where they are engraved; Arab Razi has been pulled from his medical practices to assume the position of heir apparent, despite his–and the kingdom’s–reservations. Political intrigue and complex relationships steer the plot. And of course, there’s a romantic interest: exotic Christopher, Razi’s friend, who is full of surprises.
The worldbuilding is solid. Because Keirnan chose to set the book in historical time period before adding in elements such as interactive ghosts and cats that can telepathically communicate with those open to listening, the novel has a plausibility to it. Although not a young adult novel, teens will identify with the very likeable Wynter, whose loyalties are torn, and who has to make challenging sacrifices.