Author: S.G. Prince
First Published: 04 April 2023
Series: Heirs of Isla
“Our tale is not like the horizon over the sea, a single line that might be traced, but a constellation, a scattering of silver points through which our history is woven.”
I will start by saying that I was given an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own. Thank you so much to S.G. Prince for sending a copy my way!
Selene is the youngest daughter in a gifted line of healers, born to serve as the king’s royal physician. Yet when Selene’s mother Persaphe embroils her in a plot to kill the king, Selene finds herself poisoning the very man she is sworn to protect.
Things seem bleak, but there is another problem—the poison doesn’t work, and the king doesn’t die. Rather, he awakes from his coma paralyzed, aware of the attempt on his life, and furious.
With the palace in a state of upheaval and everyone hunting the king’s poisoner, Persaphe flees, leaving Selene the task of rehabilitating the man she aimed to kill, all while hiding her true role in his demise. What follows is a journey spanning years and continents, as a king and his servant develop into unlikely friends…and more. Yet the closer Selene grows to the king, the more her secret weighs on her, as does her growing fear that Persaphe—having failed to kill him once—might return to try again.
To Poison a King is a beautiful tale of the romance between a poisoned king and his unwilling poisoner. It includes a deliciously slow-burn romance. The tale has a lyrical and nostalgic fairytale vibe, which gives the story a timeless feel. Overall, this was a joy to read.
Selene is from a gifted family of healers who are destined to work for the royal family. She has trained her whole life for this and dedicated most of her waking hours to peruse her craft. Everything goes sideways, when Selene’s mother, Presaphe, convinces Selene to add poison to the King’s cough mixture. However, the plot doesn’t go to plan. The King survives the poisoning. He’s furious at the attempt on his life and left unable to walk. Selene is left to fend for herself as her parents flee the city. Selene is appointed chief royal healer and spends her day trying to undo the effect of her mother’s poisoning.
This tale spans several years. I enjoyed watching Selene grow up, embrace her abilities and find her place in the world. She is spurred from the court as she refuses to bow to societal standards. She would instead prefer to spend hours roaming the neighbouring forest, foraging for new herbs and plants for her medical cures.
Elias and Selene’s relationship is a super slow burn. They go from enemies to friends, back to enemies to lovers. If you love forced proximity, enemies to lovers with a splash of grumpy/sunshine in your fantasy romance then this is for you. This a closed-door romance so is low on the spice scale. I enjoyed that this is the first romantic relationship for both Elias and Selene, which I haven’t read much of. Elias also has an aversion to touch and, since the poisoning, has locked himself away from the court with only Selene and his guards for company.
Selene does all she can to help improve Elias’ mobility, even finding him a wheelchair. She constantly encourages him not to give up or give in to his depression. In return, Elias slowly shows Selene that there is more to life than just her purpose as a healer. I adore that he introduces her to stories, in particular, The River of Reversal. This story draws the pair together and soon the overall plot starts to mimic the fabled they both know and love.
Persaphe is your quintessential fairytale villain archetype. She cares for nothing more than obtaining power. The way the plot unravels is well crafted, even if it is slightly predictable.
The magic in the world is subtle and comes through Selene’s exploration of her healing and creating tonics and medicines. It is beautifully done. I adore how connected to nature it is. Since Persaphe abandoned her at a young age, Selene has pretty much had to learn about her abilities through trial and error. All she has are the stories that her mother has told her about her family lines and her skill at creating healing tonics.
I am interested to see what comes next in this series of standalone stories. I’ve been completely enchanted by this world. If you love Lava Red Feather Blue by Molly Ringle, Stardust by Neil Gaiman or The Princess Bride by William Goldman, I highly recommend you pick this one up as it has the same cosy fairytale vibes.