No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Saturday, March 12, 2011

2011/10: The Poison Throne -- Celine Kiernan

In the fifteen years of her life Wynter had come to understand and accept that most human beings were unpredictable and untrustworthy, faithful only for as long as the wind fared well. But ... ghosts and cats had always just gone their own way, and although you could never trust a cat to serve anyone's purpose but its own, you always knew where you stood with them. (p.14)
  1. Set in the early Renaissance of an alternate Europe where there was no Moorish invasion and no Crusades: there are many small European powers, rather than two or three major ones. Until now, racism wasn't an issue. (one of the protagonists is half-Arab).
  2. This is the last kingdom in Europe where cats still talk to humans -- or did. But the cats are not simply being rude. They want revenge. So do (some of) the ghosts.
  3. Wynter Moorehawke, daughter of skilled artist and inventor Lorcan, returns to her home after five years' absence: much has changed: what had happened here, that cats wouldn't reply to a simple greeting and ghosts were afraid to converse with a friend? (p.13)
  4. The Poison Throne features an intriguing trio of young protagonists: Wynter (feisty female, a young woman being successful in the traditionally male-dominated profession of carpentry); Razi (bastard heir who wants to be a doctor and is determined not to let harm come to those he loves); Christopher (charming rogue with a dark past and missing fingers). The interplay between them has more vibrancy than the larger story. Overall, the characterisation is more convincing than the worldbuilding, which feels vague.
  5. The novel is told from Wynter's point of view, and her relationships with Razi, Christopher and especially her dying father Lorcan form the heart of the novel. She sometimes seems mature beyond her years, but she does have depth.
  6. There's a strong sense of what Clute calls Wrongness; a sense that, only yesteryear, the world was a happy golden peaceful place. Then came the Great Changes ...the King (Jonathon) has become a bitter, cruel despot, and the whole kingdom is under a shadow.
  7. A terrible weapon of war, the Bloody Machine, built by Wynter's father when he was young: more recently it's been used to quell civil disobedience, 'every living man dead in minutes'. (433) Wynter thinks this might be a good thing, an end to war.
  8. I'm going to be reviewing the whole trilogy elsewhere, which will be the place to discuss story arc. I think it's unreasonable to criticise the omissions in the first volume of a multi-volume work. But nonetheless ...
  9. Many sentences run on to an extent which makes me wonder if some of the commas used to be semi-colons but were cruelly decapitated.
  10. Almost all the women in this novel are absent or dead. (Out of the three protagonists, one is an orphan and the other two had mothers who died when they were young.)

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