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Anne’s Good Reads – The Poison Boy

I regularly post book reviews here on the blog. I read a lot. I don’t believe you can be a writer without also being a reader. I read a variety of genres and I’m equally fond of non-fiction and fiction. The only category that I’m not all that keen on is literary fiction. I’m either not intelligent enough to get it – or it really is pretentious twaddle.

Anyhoo – why am I telling you all this? Because today I’m starting a new series – yes here comes another series – of posts – which will all be book reviews. The reviews will all be categorised here on the blog as  Anne’s Good Reads and any subsequent reviews that I do after this series ends will also have this phrase as a prefix to the book title. The books reported on will all be new publications i.e. brought out in the current year. And they will be drawn from all genres.

And why only ‘good reads’? Because I say so. I’ve said here before that I only review books that I can say mainly positive things about. For me life’s too short to dwell on, or write about, the negatives. I suppose you could say that I do book recommendations rather than reviews.

So let’s  begin with the first official entry on the list of  Anne’s Good Reads :

The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss


magical storytelling for all ages

Wow! What a read! It’s easy to see why this first novel from Fletcher Moss won the 2013 Times/Chicken House Children’s novel competition.

It’s a swashbuckling, sewertramping, riverswimming, mudswilling, punchflinging, pistolshooting adventure story. Set at an indeterminate time – but one that recalls aspects of the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras – and in the fictional town of Highlions – a sort of smaller, darker London type city – complete with river running through, the book has crime, intrigue and plenty of surprises – as well as a bit of sweet and innocent first love.

And, hurrah, there’s not a vampire in sight!

The story is told in a succinct and uncluttered way which gives it the brisk pace that its target readership demands. The plot is essentially a quest – a quest for justice and to solve a mystery. The main character is Dalton Fly who works as a poison boy. His work involves pre-tasting the food of the rich in order to ensure it’s safe to be eaten. After his friend and fellow poison boy dies horribly having drunk some poisoned wine, Dalton is on a mission to find the poisoner. The mission is dangerous, shocking and throws up some unexpected truths for Dalton.

The characters are complete originals. Dalton is a wonderful and endearing hero who is both brave and vulnerable. His friends, acquaintances and adversaries are also well-drawn. A few deft brushstrokes and his friends including Sal Sleepwell, Scarlet Dropmore and Luke Eppington  are brought instantly to life. You only need to meet them once and you feel you know them.  Dalton’s enemies are equally vivid. The truly awful Pallis Tench is gruesome, grotesque and great!

We are led through sewers and tunnels, up chimneys and along rivers, lanes and streets. We are steeped in mud, river water and filth. We see the sights, hear the sounds and smell the smells with lifelike clarity.

The imaginative use of language is superb. I especially love the character names and the ‘swear’ words – all complete inventions.  And I suspect readers may well want to adopt ‘dreck’ and ‘kite’ as undercover curses.

The novel is aimed at 10 to 14 year-olds and would probably appeal most to the middle of that age range. But I have a feeling it could well be a ‘crossover’ book – appealing to adults and children alike.

This a stunning debut. I would love to read  Dalton Fly’s further adventures and really hope there’s a sequel planned.

The Poison Boy is published by The Chicken House and is available from bookshops and on Amazon.

You can follow the author is on Twitter at @FletcherMoss

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