Wednesday 17 April 2013

The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss

That lucky Jack, spattered in Bennie’s blood, had somehow saved his life. From where he was hiding, Dalton could see the Jack’s face staring at him, smudged in red. He couldn’t leave it.
Published by Chicken House Books in April 2013
336 pages
Winner of the Times Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2012
Summary from
Poison boy Dalton Fly, a lowly food taster to the rich, has a lucky escape after drinking laced wine. But his mate is less fortunate, and Dalton wants answers. Who murdered his friend and what were they were really after? With the help of aristocratic girl, Scarlet Dropmore, whose life he unwittingly saved, he sets out to rescue his city from the poisoners within.
Reviewed by K. M. Lockwood
With a beginning like that, and a bloodstained cover with a skull-handled dagger on it, you know what you’re getting. Fletched Moss delivers what he has promised and more in this exciting story for 10+ readers. There are more poisonings, some treachery, daring escapes and uncovered secrets – and a map.
You will enjoy this if you like a convincing adventure set in a city full of intrigue, some time before the Industrial Revolution. There are black-hearted villains and unexpected allies, some funny and some poignant moments and a band of friends that many readers will wish to know more about. The book ends convincingly, but there is room for further adventures (I can’t say any more without spoilers).
I particularly appreciated the use of language. It doesn’t get in the way of the action, but adds to the character of the story. It’s all bit like a Hogarth print – and all
the better for that. The inclusion of a glossary was a nice touch. Having made such an effort to provide clever alternatives, I was surprised that there were ordinary swearwords in the book. It’s a personal opinion, but I found them distracting. Hardly important, though. 
I should point out that it’s quite violent – but I think that’s pretty much signalled before you even open the cover, to be fair. None of what happens is there just for the sake of it, however – it all makes sense in terms of the plot and the characters. There is also a delicate blush of romance but nothing that a ten-year-old would find too off-putting.
Recommended – like a modern-day Leon Garfield but with his own distinct voice.

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