Armen Pogharian asked me to read his novel "Poisoned Princess". It is a medieval fantasy, and I want to include high fantasy because it is much like a classic Dungeons and Dragons campaign, but it has a small and close scope that is better fitting of low fantasy. It's basically a quest to retrieve a cure for an important political figure.
I will examine Plot, Character, and Polish, before assigning a grade.
There's a somewhat slow start to the main plot. It takes a bit for the princess to be poisoned, and this is a good thing. It provides space for the world to be set-up and characters to be introduced and developed. I also like the event itself, both in being present and how well it is executed; skillful guardians vs devious assassins.
As the story unfolds, the titular poisoning was the assassin's back-up plan rather than their main effort. This strengthens the plot by making the princess' safety a game of cat-and-mouse between the assassins and the warders (who are basically the royal Secret Service). It would have been easy to make this into an excuse plot to justify an adventure but it is developed and better throughout than that.
Even after the princess is successfully poisoned, the assassin doesn't call it done and go home. He spends the rest of the book trying to knife her in her sickbed. This makes for a continuation of the pre-poisoning dynamic with some of the warders while the others go on the quest.
It is a great quest; a quest in the classic epic style. The adventuring party has to travel a considerable distance within a time limit. They encounter everything from bounty hunters to monsters while keeping their mission as secretive as possible. There are many close calls and dangerous encounters, and both are skillfully written by Mr. Pogharian.
The heroes get a couple of lucky breaks that make these encounters easier but so do the villains. I think it evens out. To me, it was never about making things easy for the heroes or artificially giving the villains an edge to stay threatening, but more of a genuinely lucky thing or a matter of foreshadowing.
This is basically a Save-The-Princess storyline, which is one of the oldest in the genre, and I really like it. This is because it is a well-written use of the trope, which I think is more important than being original.
The ending is great. It closes this book's conflict while remaining open to all kinds of new adventures for latter in the series. I respect and admire that kind of planning.
Toran is the story's protagonist (and the hero too). He is a half-elf barbarian fighter who is good with both the sword and the bow. He joins the warders on the recommendation of his uncle at the start of the story.
While he has significant skill in battle and highly skilled in tracking, this is presented as due to his uncle's elven training and the two halves of his heritage mixing well (barbarian strength and battle lust together with elven senses and speed make a formidable combination). My point is, he is a powerful character without being special in someway. This means he doesn't overtake the story and his teammates are relevant.
He has angst about his heritage, and it causes him some problems, but he manages that and is a stable young man overall. That's another thing I like about this story; engaging characters without Dysfunction Junction.
Adrelle is a human noblewoman, and the handmaiden of the titular princess. She insists on going on the quest to help her friend.
Her Establishing-Character-Moment is a thing of beauty. It firmly and quickly establishes her as a both a Deadpan Snarker and a very clever girl. See, the warders aren't used to people tracking their agents back to their hideout.
There's a twist/secret regarding her character, and I thought I guessed it but I was only half-right. That's yet another thing I like about this story. Despite appearing to be traditional fantasy fare, it still surprised me.
Draham is a fine mixture of Our Dwarves Are All the Same and some personal twists. While he is a short and stocky character of great strength, a wielder of a warhammer and is very proud of his large and bushy beard, he is basically a rogue. Yes, he has numerous disguises, aliases and has sufficient dexterity and speed to convincing play the role of a jester.
He's the senior partner of the adventuring party, the veteran with the two young bucks. He acquits himself very well indeed in both battle and outside of it.
Yuden is the assassin who poisons the princess and then spends the rest of the book trying to make sure she dies. He gets a couple of focus chapters that show how he goes about his work. Because of this, the reader knows more about him then "evil poisoner guy". He is not an evil character, so to speak. He's more like an amoral character. As far as I can see, all this assassinating and sneaking around is just his job, and he gets squeamish when it comes to torture.
I don't recall anything in the way of typos. There might have been one or two near the end.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Poisoned Princess" an A+
This has been a free review request. The author asked for an honest review, so I provided one.
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Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).