I've been looking forward to reading this book ever since it won the 2012 Times Children's Fiction Award under the title of Sleepwell and Fly. It is now finally due to be published on the 4th April 2013 with an improved title of "The Poison Boy" - perhaps a more fitting and intriguing title.
The inspiration for this book came from a visit to Alnwick Castle and it's poisonous garden. Apparently this set the ball rolling for the authors very own adventure resulting in a culmination of hard work and sleepless nights. However, in order to get it to this very point in time it has definitely been worth it. In my humble opinion, it is a very worthy winner of the 2012 award and a book that I'm pleased to be able to speak so highly of.
The first thing the author has specifically developed well are the characters which are both varied and particularly well written. The three main characters are believable. They're not just your average stereotypical characters that you would normally associate with this kind of story. Dalton Fly, food taster to the rich and powerful of Highlions, has a lucky escape after discovering poisoned wine. His side kick is Sal Sleepwell (one of Oscar's gang) whose specialty is mixing anti-venom and staying alive during the tough times. Finally, there's the female injection which is provided by the feisty Scarlet Dropmore, highborn girl, whose life is in danger from assassins. She is strong-headed and appears to be rather pleasing to the eye.
All three characters find themselves being thrown together by circumstance. They set off on a mission to find the answers to the mysterious times ahead and the poison murders of the city. The setting is very well depicted - it must have taken an immense amount of time to make it feel so original and authentic. It has been skilfully thought out - the imaginative qualities make it a little bit special whilst the poison boys deliver a dark edginess, which you all know that I'm very fond of. The use of interesting and imaginative vocabulary provides added flavour. It may help to read the glossary first 'The Language of Highlions' at the back of the book.
This is a swashbuckling high adventure that will captivate readers on many levels. Although I did feel that the three main characters perhaps didn't come up against enough resistance towards the end of the book. Without giving too much away, it all appeared to fall too neatly into place, but nevertheless, it is still a good action-packed ending.
Published By Chicken House - 4 April 2013 - ISBN: 978 1 908435 44 6