The Queen’s Poisoner
Author: Jeff Wheeler
Publication Date: April 1st, 2016
Synopsis: As usurper of the throne, the rule of King Severn Argentine’s is already highly contested. To keep his power, King Argentine rules with an iron fist and destroys any opposition. In a failed coup attempt the Duke of Kiskaddon loses his son as a permanent prisoner to the king to ensure his loyalty.
THE QUEEN’S POISONER follows the Duke’s young son Owen on his journey for redemption and revenge as he figures out how to survive the court of Kingfountain. In order to keep his head and gain the merciless king’s favor, Owen must delve deeper into the world of mystery and secrecy that surrounds him. Readers will be clamoring for the next installment of The Kingfountain Series.
“But the king’s army prevailed after all,” Eleanor said weakly. “And now he thinks you a traitor.”
“From where I sat, it looked like Horwath would be destroyed. The men were fighting slothfully. No one’s heart was in it to defend Ceredigion from the invader. But then the king summoned his knights and rode into battle himself. The conflict was raging below them when they made their charge. I watched it, Eleanor. There were only twenty . . . maybe thirty knights in all, but they came like a flood. As if the very Fountain were driving them. They clashed with lances and swords. The king himself unhorsed his enemy and then jumped from his injured horse and killed the man with his own sword. The invaders swarmed him, but he fought as if he had the strength of a dozen men. They fell away from him, and when they saw his triumph, Horwath’s men became demons!” His eyes were wide with shock and amazement. “Severn defeated them by himself. Even with his twisted leg and his hunchback, he was unstoppable. I rode hard to join the fray and helped capture the fallen army. The king’s crown had fallen from his head during the fighting and I found it in a hawthorn bush. I told him . . . I told him that I was loyal.” His face went white.
Eleanor felt her knees losing strength. She clutched to her husband, as if they were alone on an island and the waves of the sea were crashing around them, trying to drag them into the surf. Her ears were ringing with the words.
“The king ordered Jorganon’s death. He mocked me, saying perhaps I still had sons to spare. And so he sent Horwath with me to bid you the tidings. Thus sayeth King Severn Argentine to the Lady Eleanor Kiskaddon: Choose you another son to be hostage, to live in the palace of Kingfountain under His Majesty’s wardship. Prove your good faith and obedience. Pick the son who will stand as surety for your house.”
Lady Eleanor would have fainted, but she somehow managed to keep her feet. She looked up at her husband. “I must trust that man with another of my children?” Her heart hammered violently in her chest and she quailed under the weight of her grief. “That . . . that . . . butcher?”
“Stiev Horwath has come to bring the child to Kingfountain,” her husband said, his look full of misery. “If we do not choose, he will execute our entire family for treason now.”
Lady Eleanor sobbed against her husband’s chest. It was a choice no mother should be forced to make. Should she sacrifice one child so that all the others might live? But King Severn was ruthless and cunning. Would the child she selected be the only of her children to survive?
She wept bitterly, swallowed by grief and unable to think. Who could she part with? Why had the choice even been given to her if not to make her suffering more acute? She hated the king. She hated him with all her passion, all her grief. How could she decide such a thing? How would she hand one of her boys over to a man who had murdered his own brother’s sons? The king’s hands were so wet with blood a trail probably dribbled wherever he went.
In her grief, she did not hear the door open or the soft padding of feet. She did not notice until Owen’s arms wrapped around their legs.
He squeezed them both so hard, and though she could not hear any words, she could imagine his thoughts, his childlike attempt to comfort them. There, there, Maman, Papan. There, there! It will be all right, Maman, Papan. There, there!
She stared down at her son, her innocent son. And then a memory stirred.
A memory of the royal midwife who had saved his life.
Her chest became tight with anticipation. Perhaps she could get a secret message to the sanctuary of Our Lady, a plea to protect her son, the boy who had been saved once before. She could endure the separation, the despair, so long as she could cling to a thread of hope.
She knew that a thread was all she could expect.
About the Author and Q&A
Jeff Wheeler took an early retirement from his career at Intel in 2014 to become a full-time author. He is, most importantly, a husband and father, and a devout member of his church. He is occasionally spotted roaming among the oak trees and granite boulders in the hills of California or in any number of the state’s majestic redwood groves. He is the author of The Covenant of Muirwood Trilogy, The Legends of Muirwood Trilogy, the Whispers from Mirrowen Trilogy, and the Landmoor Series.
To learn more about Jeff Wheeler visit his website:
You can follow him @muirwoodwheeler
Q & A with the Jeff Wheeler
1. What do you hope your readers will take away from The Queen’s Poisoner?
Hopefully the realization that no one walks alone. No matter how alone we feel, there are fellow travelers who may be older than us, our same age, or younger. By helping each other, we confront that alone-ness and can achieve things together we can’t do on our own.
2. What book(s) would you recommend to a reader who loved The Queen’s Poisoner, and wants to read something similar?
I’d recommend Brandon Mull’s books (Fablehaven series, Beyonders, and Five Kingdoms). They’re mostly about young people thrown in very difficult situation. I’m also a fan of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. If you need to scratch the history itch and learn about the War of the Roses and the real Richard III (who I based King Severn on), read Sharon Kay Penman’s Sunne in Splendour.
3. Most interesting, craziest or weirdest thing you’ve had to Google for a work in progress?
Actually, is wasn’t Google. I’m a budding family history novice and learned years ago that one of my ancestors fought for Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth field (he’s the character Duke Horwath is based on in the book). I needed someone to become Owen’s friend and so I looked on Familysearch.org to go back in my genealogy to see if he had a granddaughter who was roughly eight years-old. As I found out, he did have a granddaughter who was exactly eight. Her name was Elisabeth Mortimer. As soon as I read her name, this spunky little girl’s character exploded in my brain saying, ‘No, it’s Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer!’. True story.
4. What are three must-have items when you sit down to write?
My laptop with e-mail and Facebook turned off. My noise-cancelling headphones. My white-noise machine. Weird, I know, but I use all three to block out various distractions including, but not limited to, our two Yorkies. My kids are all in school during the day, but when they happen to be home and I need to write, I tape a sign to the door of my office that says ‘World-building in progress: do not disturb!’ My kids have taped additional notes to it.
5. You pride yourself on “clean writing.” What does “clean writing” mean to you and why is it important?
What I mean by this are books that are more PG than PG13 or Rated R. I made the decision years ago that would only write books that I’d feel comfortable if my mom read or my kids. Some people might think this is limiting, but I disagree. Most of the top grossing films are family friendly. I also know many readers get offended by books that have explicit sex scenes, strong language, and graphic violence and will literally stop reading that author. I know this because of how many reviews and e-mails I’ve gotten from my readers who thank me for keeping it clean.
6. What authors inspired you to become a writer?
When I was in junior high, I started reading Terry Brooks and credit him with igniting the spark of my imagination. But as a young writer in college, I was also mentored and admired the historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman. Many of the plots for my books come from history and Sharon’s books expanded my knowledge of the past and the interconnected jigsaw puzzle.
7. What can we expect in The Thief’s Daughter, sequel to The Queen’s Poisoner?
You can expect to find some of the same characters that you came to love in Queen’s Poisoner. But there are some new characters that were also very fun to write, like Iago Llewellyn and king Severn’s new poisoner. You also get to meet a mysterious lord from Brythonica. Stay tuned!
8. All three books in The Kingfountain series are publishing within months of each other. What has this meant for you in terms of your editing schedule? Has it been difficult to work on all three books so close together? Has it been difficult for you to keep track of what happens in each book?
My editing schedule has been a bit hay-wire with this series. As I would write the sequels, I would get edit requests for the previous books at the same time. Some days I couldn’t remember which book I was supposed to be in! Thankfully, I have an amazing editorial team who have been with me since earlier projects. They know my body of work very well and let me know when I make errors in Book 3 related to something that happens in Book 1. I’m a great high-level person in terms of plot and characters. But sometimes I get the details confused. Thankfully, the team does a fantastic editing job and catching and helping me fix my blunders.