The Poison Throne: Moorehawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan

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The Poison Throne: Moorehawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Intriguing fantasy tale featuring a strong central trio of heroes, an impressively well-rounded antagonist, and enough intrigue and mystery to have readers guessing right the way through – and beyond, as this first in the Moorehawke Trilogy ends on a cliffhanger.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 512 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841498218

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After years away from her childhood home at the court, Wynter Moorhawke – now an apprentice carpenter to her seriously ill father Lorcan – returns, desperate to see her childhood friends Prince Alberon and his half-brother Razi. But Alberon is in exile, and his father King Jonathon, far from being the kind ruler Wynter remembers, reigns with an iron fist. As Razi, Jonathon’s illegitimate son, is appointed the unwilling heir to the throne, Wynter must help him and his friend Christopher survive in increasingly dangerous times.

For an author writing her first novel, Celine Kiernan really excels herself in many ways here. Most notably, her world building is phenomenal – within about three chapters she confidently establishes that we’re in a medieval European type society, apart from two major differences – cats can talk to humans, although they no longer do so as they’re scared of the King, and ghosts exist, but Jonathon will execute anyone who admits this. Without ever resorting to big chunks of exposition, Kiernan sets the stage here – and then draws us into this world by introducing us to some fascinating characters.

Wynter is the main protagonist, a likeable heroine, and the relationship between her, the handsome stranger Christopher, and her old friend Razi, who’s like a brother to her, is actually significantly more interesting than just a simple fantasy love triangle would have been. Lorcan is also an excellent character – a really devoted father, looking out for Wynter, who’s also trying to work out just what happened to his old friend Jonathon. The most interesting character, for me, though, is King Jonathon – he’s clearly a despot who has most of his subjects, including his own son, absolutely terrified of him, and yet there’s enough sympathetic parts to make us convinced that the ruler believes what he’s doing is completely necessary for the survival of his kingdom.

Having said that, while the air of mystery around the king, rather than making him just another megalomaniac fantasy villain, is welcomed, the book is perhaps slightly too shrouded in secrecy in parts. There’s lots of references to a mysterious war machine which Lorcan considered too terrible to ever use, but Jonathon has used anyway, but after all the build-up, nothing about this dreadful weapon really gets explained. I’m sure that Kiernan will have the resolution for this in either the second or third books of the trilogy – but the ending seems a bit too inconclusive for my liking, and is probably the only thing holding an otherwise superb book back from getting five stars.

Still, strong, strong recommendation to all fantasy fans. Adults and mature teens alike will find Wynter’s world deeply engrossing, and the characters who live in it compelling. I’m certainly looking forward to the follow-ups, ‘’The Crowded Shadows’’ and ‘’The Rebel Prince’’.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For more brilliant fantasy set in a court full of mysteries, I’d highly recommend the first book of the Inheritance Trilogy, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin. You might also appreciate The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan.

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Buy The Poison Throne: Moorehawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Poison Throne: Moorehawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan at


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