The Poison Court by Amanda Downum
Savedra Severos is back!
Fans of the of Necromancer Chronicles will certainly recognize the name as one of the more popular supporting characters from the second book in the series, The Bone Palace. Here the daughter of the house scion takes center stage along with her charismatic uncle Varis to try and stop a treacherous plot that may involve those closest to her!
Amanda Downum went above an beyond in The Bone Palace to set the stage that is Erisin. She developed a vibrant setting that now shapes this new novel and brings to life more of the world she began building a few years ago. While the earlier novels focused on a necromancer with magic more dedicated to that art, The Poison Court follows a magic system that is broader and has a deeper impact on the world around the characters. That magic system, that is something that reaches beyond the mortal world and can reek havoc on the health of mortals, is rivaled by the tale of intrigue that is flowing in this tale. There is something of the drawback in the novel. So many players that it did get a bit difficult to keep up at times.
Not to take anything away from the novel but the wide range of characters that have such confusing and shifting loyalties did have me flipping pages to reorient myself. Maybe not every reader would have that experience but that is part of the drawback to my read through. That said, Downum’s previous works were favorite re-reads and this one is no different. There will be multiple read-throughs for enjoyment.
Taking the characters into consideration and you will have the main draw of the novel. These are not characters that fit into traditional molds by any means. Our main character, Sevedra, was born into a noble house, is the mistress of the king and is his spymaster while being born as hijra, which is defined as the third gender or transgender. Her uncle, Varis, is the gender fluid court mage to the king that I think most of us would love to have as and uncle and there was a warmth in their interactions that was very palatable. The third main player comes in the form of the young, naive and beautiful Narkissa, a pawn of her powerful aunt that is seeking revenge against the king and Sevedra, but is she truly the pawn in this game or does she have plans of her own. The world is shrouded in such mystery that the suspense is thick as the story goes on. Like the previous novels set in this world, nothing and no one are quite as they seem.
This automatically gives the nontraditional feel to the book, then add in the larger quantity of strong female characters in traditional male roles and professions and you can begin to feel a certain pattern to the novel. For those of us that enjoy reading about strong female leads and support characters while being flawed and imperfect then this is that novel. Simply for the characters this novel, which branches out further than the Necromancer Chronicles in the world and character building, is a step into the future for well written people that do not need to conform to our norms but instead create their own.
I could go on but the best option is to pick this one up and give it a read. It is different while keeping to some of our favorite fantasy traditions, such as magic and action. The areas that Downum expanded on and flipped the script may not be new to everyone but still this novel and her other works are at the forefront of a new class of fantasy that will attract a wider range of readers and tell a damn good story at the same time. My only hope is that the novels do not get so bogged down with characters, this one did just a bit, that we as readers begin to lose the focus of the story.
4 out of 5