The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss
|The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss
|Category: Confident Readers
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
|Summary: Dalton Fly almost dies in the opening pages of this gripping story: not surprising, considering he is one of a band of food tasters in a city rent with mistrust and rivalry. And things don't get any easier as he and his friends try to rescue other victims from the devious and relentless killer.
|Date: April 2013
|Publisher: Chicken House
|External links: Author's website
Life in the city of Highlions has suddenly become a lot more dangerous, even for a 'poison boy'. Dalton and Bennie were sent to a banquet to check the food, and when the book opens our hero has just recovered consciousness to find himself lying on the floor covered in Bennie's blood. His friend has been poisoned and died horribly, having literally vomited up his stomach (apologies if you're eating your tea, but this is not a book for sensitive souls), and the same poison has caused Dalton to lose his memory of the whole event. Unfortunately this is by no means the end of his troubles, as the murderer is determined to remove all witnesses.
The old Duke has just died, without leaving an heir, and the great Houses of Highlion are fighting among themselves for the position of ruler. Some time previously the Duke fell ill and all the children of those same Houses who were in line to inherit the title found themselves under threat. So now they are all hidden around the city in the charge of guardians, far from their families: a few in schools, others locked away in private houses. And someone who knows their whereabouts is determined to kill every one of them in order that his chosen candidate can take power.
Dalton and another poison boy, Sal, are forced to flee. On their journey they save the life of Scarlet, a beautiful young girl who is on the killer's list. And that's where one of the real strengths of this book becomes evident. Scarlet is an intriguing character, determined to the point of being headstrong, and as courageous as any boy. She is not the type to submit quietly to rescue: in fact, she does a fair amount of rescuing herself (the character of Princess Leia in the Star Wars films comes readily to mind). Many of the other characters, even minor ones, have equally well-rounded and fascinating personalities. There is the Eyesdown, who knows all the gossip in town. He makes his living stealing and selling letters, and has a particular grudge against Dalton. Luke, the daughter of noble parents, spends her time condemning wealth and privilege (when she's not climbing chimneys). And the evil Tench has a mind as ugly and deformed as his face.
This thrilling tale moves at breakneck speed, with danger never far away. And although one plot-line involving Dalton soon becomes clear, readers will be kept guessing about the traitor until almost the last page — though even then Dalton has further problems to face. Be warned: this is not a happy-ever-after story in the conventional sense, so it might be more suitable for readers at the upper end of the confident-reader range. Several people, some of them children, are badly hurt, and a few die. Dalton lives in a violent and dangerous world, and his profession is not one which promises a long life. It is a rich and exciting story from a prize-winning author, and readers will be delighted to hear that a sequel is on the cards.
Readers with a strong stomach and a taste for the violence and death which are an integral part of this book will also enjoy Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda. And another beautifully-structured and convincing world (though less gory) can be found in A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss at Amazon.com.
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