Sunday, May 8, 2016

"The Queen's Poisoner"

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, a devout member of his church, and is occasionally spotted roaming hills with oak trees and granite boulders in California or in any number of the state's majestic redwood groves. He is also one of the founders of Deep Magic: the E-zine of Clean Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Wheeler applied the Page 69 Test to The Queen's Poisoner, book one in The Kingfountain Series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Come here, boy,” the queen mother said to Owen, her voice soft but urgent.

Owen’s legs were shaking violently, but he managed to close the gap separating him from the queen mother as the burly man continued his approach. The cap was off Ratcliffe’s head, crushed in his fist, and his balding dome looked moist with sweat. He was livid but also flushed with relief to have found Owen.

“There—you—are—young—man!” he barked angrily in a clipped tone. He closed the distance with several long strides, attracting the gaze of everyone in the room, which made Owen cower against the queen mother’s gown. She put her hand on his shoulder and he saw the glittering jewel of the coronation ring on her hand.

“This is supposed to be a quiet sanctuary, Ratcliffe,” the queen mother chastised. “Please ... you will offend the Fountain. Lower your voice.”

His teeth gnashed in fury. “I should have known he would seek refuge here!”

“What are you raving about?” she answered patiently. “This boy? I have never seen him before in my life. Who is he?”

“Owen Kiskaddon,” Ratcliffe snarled. “The king’s hostage.”

The queen laughed lightly. “Ah, your anger makes sense now. I was beginning to think you had lost your wits. You think I summoned him here?”

“He is standing before you, isn’t he?” Ratcliffe said, raising his voice. “How did you manage it, Lizzy? I truly wish to know.”

Owen could tell that the name he used was meant as an insult by the way she bridled her reaction.

“Obviously the Fountain led the boy here, Ratcliffe. I heard he was in the palace, of course, but I did not bring him here. We had not even met until just a moment ago. But I will remind you, sir, that he has the protection of sanctuary and you cannot force him to leave. Severn wouldn’t dare violate it, not after all he has done!”
I had not heard about this "test" before, and I was curious to see how my new novel The Queen’s Poisoner would stand up. Thankfully, I think it stands up very well and shows in just a few short paragraphs the main tension of the story. Eight year-old Owen Kiskaddon is a hostage to King Severn and his life is forfeit if his parents act against the king again. Owen has been traumatized by the change of circumstances in his life and has tried to take matters into his own hands by fleeing the palace to the Sanctuary of Our Lady. Even a child can gain protection being there and cannot forced to leave. My master’s thesis in college was on medieval sanctuary practices, so the topic has been intrinsically interesting to me for years. This scene is important to the story because it’s the first time the reader gets a first-hand demonstration of the magic of this world, magic that is only possessed by those who are Fountain-blessed. Of course, it requires turning to page 70 to see that part, but I like how the tension of the story is represented by this sample when the king’s spymaster, Ratcliffe, confronts Owen at Our Lady just before King Severn arrives.
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--Marshal Zeringue