The Poison Throne (Moorehwake Trilogy Series #1)
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The Poison Throne (Moorehwake Trilogy Series #1)

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by Celine Kiernan

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Debut fantasy author Celine Kiernan spins a gothic tale of intrigue, adventure, and romance about a girl who defies a kingdom.

When young Wynter Moorehawke returns to court with her dying father, but she finds her old home shadowed with fear. The king has become a violent despot, terrorizing those he once loved. His son and heir Alberon has fled into exile


Debut fantasy author Celine Kiernan spins a gothic tale of intrigue, adventure, and romance about a girl who defies a kingdom.

When young Wynter Moorehawke returns to court with her dying father, but she finds her old home shadowed with fear. The king has become a violent despot, terrorizing those he once loved. His son and heir Alberon has fled into exile and now there are whispers everywhere of rebellion. Meanwhile, Alberon's half-brother Razi has been elevated to his throne. He struggles to meet his King's demands while remaining loyal to his beloved brother and to his friend-Wynter.

Now, she must choose- her father or her dreams, her friend or her king, her duty... or her love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Atmospheric, complex, and intense, Kiernan's debut fantasy, set in a sort of alternate 15th-century Europe, mixes vengeful ghosts and talking cats into political intrigue. Fifteen-year-old Wynter Moorehawke's return to court after five years away should be joyous, but she fears for her dearest friends, the children of insane, tyrannical King Jonathan. Crown prince Alberon is nowhere to be found, and bastard son Razi is being unwillingly groomed to replace him. The king will go to any lengths to secure his throne, even unlocking the mysteries of a horrible killing device long thought destroyed. Wynter must keep her friends and family alive as she slowly pieces together the king's secrets. The beginning of what promises to be a powerful trilogy with YA crossover appeal, this epic starts strong and doesn't falter one iota, ending with a cliffhanger that will leave readers demanding more. (Apr.)

Product Details

Publication date:
Moorehawke Trilogy Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Poison Throne

By Kiernan, Celine


Copyright © 2010 Kiernan, Celine
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316077064

The Voiceless Cat

The sentry would not let them pass. Even when Wynter’s father showed their papers, and explained that they were expected at court, the guards had remained sneering and unpleasant, and refused to open the gates. Eventually, the sentry door was shut and Wynter and her father were left outside while the watchman went off somewhere to “look see”.

They had been waiting there, ignored and bewildered, for an entire quarter of the shadows – two hours on the northern clock – with that heavy sentry door shut in their faces, and Wynter could feel her blood beginning a slow rise to anger.

The men that Shirken had paid to accompany them from the North had gone long ago. She did not blame their guides for leaving. Their job had been to get herself and Lorcan safely from one kingship to another, to get them home, and that they had done. She had no quarrel with them. They had been polite and respectful all through the long journey south, and Wynter did not doubt that they were good and honest men. But they were not friends, they were not loyal, except to Shirken and the job he had paid them to complete.

No doubt Shirken’s men had watched from the top of the rise as Wynter and her father had reached the foot of the hill and crossed the thick beams of the moat bridge. And no doubt they had waited until the two of them were safe within the protective shadow of the gate arch before turning back into the dark pines and heading home. Mission accomplished.

Wynter’s horse, Ozkar, shifted impatiently beside her. He smelled the warm grass baking in the sun behind them, and the dark clear water of the moat. He was thirsty and hungry, and Wynter couldn’t blame him for snorting and stamping his hoof. Still, she tugged his rein to get him to settle and shifted her weight discreetly from one foot to the other. Wynter, too, was tired, saddle-sore and generally weary to her bones of travelling. But, at fifteen years old, she was no stranger to courtly protocol and she remained outwardly stoic, as if undisturbed by this unending wait in the heat.

The well practised remoteness of her expression may have given nothing away, but she was, in truth, barely in command of her impatience. All she really wanted to do was throw off her boots and run up the meadows in her bare feet, fling herself down into the long grass and watch the sky.

They had been so long in the grey cold of the North that this singing heat and the clear sunlight of home were like white wine to her. She longed to revel in it. She longed to get her father out into the sun somewhere and let the summer heat bake some warmth back into his bones. He had wisely remained astride his horse, and now he sat there so quietly that Wynter glanced sideways to check that he was still awake. He was. She could see his eyes gleaming in the shadows beneath the brim of his hat. He looked neither left nor right, his gaze focusing inwards, just sitting, waiting for permission to come home.

His long body had a weary curl to it, though, and the palsy in his hands where they folded patiently against the pommel of his saddle was worse than usual.

Wynter eyed her father’s trembling fingers with concern. Old men shook like that, not strong-shouldered craftsmen of thirty-three. Stop fretting, she told herself, looking forward again and straightening her back. A good night’s rest is all he needs, a nice dinner and then he’ll be right as summer rain.

She rubbed the tips of her fingers against each other, feeling the reassuring numbness of scar and callus. Worthy hands. That’s what the two of them had. Worthy hands, capable of supporting them through anything. Out of habit, she glanced back at the roll of carpenter’s tools on her horse’s rump and then over at the similar roll on the back of her father’s saddle. All present and accounted for.

Imperceptibly, Wynter shifted her aching feet again and, for once in her life, wished she was wearing her women’s clothing and not her boys britches and short-coat. It was so much easier to move your feet and legs when they were hidden by a skirt. She sighed again at the misguided enthusiasm that had sent her leaping from her horse. She had flung herself from his back on their arrival, expecting the gates to be swept wide and a boisterous welcome to have been orchestrated. What childish conceit. And now, here she stood, pride and protocol not allowing her to remount, forced to stand here like a lowly pageboy until the sentry returned with their permission to pass.

An orange cat trotted delicately along the base of the wall, glowing like a sinuous ember as it passed out of the shadows. At the sight of it, Wynter forgot to be calm and courtly, and she allowed herself to smile and nod and follow the cat’s progress with a turn of her head. The cat paused, one paw raised to its white chest, and regarded Wynter with affronted curiosity. Its very posture said, Can I believe my eyes? Have you dared to look at me?

Wynter’s smile became a grin at the familiar weight of feline disdain, and she wondered how many generations of cat brothers and cat sisters had been born in the five years that she had been away. Before taking up her apprenticeship, Wynter had been the King’s Cat-Keeper and she had known all her charges by name. Whose great-great-grand-kitten-grown-to-cat is this? she wondered.

She inclined her head and murmured, “All respects to you this fine day, mouse-bane,” fully expecting the usual reply, All the finer for you, having seen me. But instead, the cat’s green eyes opened in shock and confusion at her greeting, and it flickered suddenly away, a flame in sunlight, flowing across the moat bridge and disappearing down onto the loose gravel of the far bank.

Wynter watched it depart with a puzzled frown. Imagine a cat having such atrocious manners and such easily shattered composure! Something wasn’t right.

The rattle of the sentry gate brought Wynter’s eyes frontwards and the shadows under the portcullis were sliced by a sharp blade of sunlight as the gate opened a crack. The Sergeant of the Watch stuck his head out. He regarded the two of them without a trace of deference, as if surprised to find them still there. Wynter’s court-face slipped smoothly into place.

Without another word to them, the Sergeant pulled his head back in and shut the sentry door with a snap of the lock. Wynter’s heart dropped, but rose again instantly as the heavy door chains began to pull backwards with a grinding whine of metal on stone. Somewhere within the wall, the Master of the Entrance was turning the big wheel that wound the chains onto their spools.

Yes! thought Wynter, We have been granted access!

Slowly, slowly the shadows under the bridge were eaten up by sunlight as the heavy horse gate swung open to reveal the inner gardens and the King’s domain.

Victuallor Heron was striding down the wide gravel path as they passed through the gate, his office robe flapping. He must have been at business to be dressed so formally and, indeed, Wynter saw that his fingers were stained with ink. His wrinkled old face was filled with joy and he was advancing on her father as if he would rise up from the ground, a great amiable bird, and descend upon him, horse and all, to wrap him in a hug that would hide both of them from view.

“Lorcan!” he cried as he swept along the gravel, “Lorcan!” and his immediate informality undid a thousand anxious knots in Wynter’s mind. Some things, at least, were still all right.

Her father leaned forward from the height of his saddle and smiled tiredly down at his old friend. They clasped hands, her father’s big splay-fingered shovel of a hand wrapped tightly in the long fingered agility of Heron’s. Their smiling eye contact lingered and spoke volumes.

“Friend Heron,” said Lorcan, his warm, rasping voice an embrace in itself, the feeling going far beyond the words.

Heron’s eyes sharpened and he lowered his chin a little, his grip on Lorcan’s hand tightening.

“I believe you were kept waiting,” he said, his eyes flicking almost imperceptibly to the sentry. Something in the set of his face made Wynter glance at the attending guards and what she saw made her heart do a strange little pitter in her chest. The soldiers were openly staring at this exchange between Heron and her father. In fact, they were almost perceptibly lounging in the presence of the Victuallor. She swallowed down a lump of uncertainty and glanced back to where her father and Heron were exchanging a meaningful look.

Suddenly her father straightened in the saddle, drawing himself up so that his full height and the true width of his powerful shoulders became apparent. Wynter saw his face go very still. His eyelids dropped to hood the vibrant cat-green of his eyes, and his generous, curving mouth thinned and curled up on one side.

This was what Wynter thought of as The Mask or sometimes The Cloak. It pained her to see it here, despite its magnificence, and she though wearily, Oh Dad, even here? Even here must we play the terrible game? But she couldn’t help the familiar surge of pride as she saw him transform, and there was a touch of cruel pleasure in her smile as she watched him turn in the saddle and put the weight of his suddenly imperious stare onto the lounging guards.

Lorcan said nothing for a moment, and for that little while the guards met his eyes as equals, not yet registering the transformation from mere craftsman to something more dangerous. He sat, regally immobile, in the saddle, and he swivelled his head to take in each man, deliberately examining their faces, one at a time, as if adding them to a list somewhere in a dark closet of his mind.

His long guildsman’s plait swung in a heavy pendulum down his back, seventeen years’ worth of growth, uncut since the day he’d been pronounced master of his trade. The deep red of it was only recently distinguished with swathes of grey, and it gave him the air of prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. Wynter saw doubt begin to grow in the soldiers’ faces, saw iron begin to creep up their spines. Still Lorcan didn’t speak, and as Wynter watched, the sentry crystallised into a military unit. Just like that. A gang of rabblerous louts one minute, a unit of soldiers at respectful attention the next.

“Bring me a mounting block,” said her father, purposely addressing one man, leaving no doubt that this was an order. That one man, the Sergeant of the Watch himself, took off as sharp as you like and crossed the lawn, disappearing around the corner into the lesser stable block at a quick trot.

My God, thought Wynter, He doesn’t even know yet who my father is, and there he goes. A carpenter – for all he knows a lowland shepherd’s son, a fisherman’s bastard, or any such variation on nothing at all – just told him to run fetch a mounting block, and look at him. He’s off. She looked up at her father in absolute awe. And all with the weight of his stare, she thought.

The Sergeant returned at a fair clip, a mounting block held out before him like some precious baby. He placed it carefully beneath her father’s horse and stepped back a respectful distance as Lorcan slipped from the stirrups and dismounted. If it caused him pain to step to the ground, he managed to hide it, even from Wynter who was fine-tuned to see it.

“Take our horses to the main stables; leave them in the care of the head boy. Tell him they are the property of Protector Lord Lorcan Moorehawke and his apprentice. Tell him I will be around to check on their comfort later today.” If the softly rasped orders came as a blow to his pride, the Sergeant certainly didn’t show it, and it was to his credit that he didn’t bat an eyelid when this lowly carpenter’s powerful title was revealed. Instead, he snapped off a crisp salute and gathered Wynter’s father’s reins from him without any further antipathy.

Wynter met her father’s eyes. He would need to go with Heron now. Things were obviously afoot. “Go with them,” he said, gently inclining his head to indicate the horses. “Make sure the tools are safe. Get some food and rest.” He put his hand on her shoulder, briefly. She longed to tell him to lie down, to rest, to eat. But The Masks were on, for both of them now. And instead of daughterly concern, she dipped her head as an apprentice in deference to the master, and stood watching as Heron led him away up the broad sweep of gravel, to the King’s quarters, no doubt, and the entanglements of state.


Excerpted from The Poison Throne by Kiernan, Celine Copyright © 2010 by Kiernan, Celine. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Born and raised in Dublin, Celine Kiernan trained at the Sullivan Bluth Studios as a classical feature character animator and has spent the majority of her working life in the film business. She is also a freelance illustrator. THE POISON THRONE is her first novel; she is currently completing The Moorehawke Trilogy. She lives in Virginia, County Cavan, Ireland. Her website can be found at

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Poison Throne (Moorehwake Trilogy Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good read. Not excellent, but if its raining outside and you need some way to pass the time, this will do nicely - highly enjoyable, but does not hold up for a second read. It's the first book of three (and the other two are as good as this one), so it is an excellent form of procrastination!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had hoped for more fantasy and a lot less politics when the first talking cats and philosophical ghosts appeared, but that hope was short-lived. There are maybe three exciting set-pieces in the whole book and the rest is people sitting around, talking. Very little imagination or world building which is a terrible disappointment after the great reviews I read. I don't know that I will continue the series.
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Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
Wow. Just wow. I was sucked in from the first few chapters. First I loved the setting. It's an interesting blend of fantasy, some paranormal characteristics, and some "real life" qualities. What I mean by that is you have talking cats, ghosts, yet the setting is set someplace in Europe (not really specified). It's hard to explain, but once you read into the book you get the idea. I thought this was interesting and different. The book may be slow to some. Yet I was so interested in the political intrigue, that the pace was good for me. You won't find much action or adventure. Instead, there's lots of politics and a lot of relationship development and character building. Which is fine for me, it's certainly a different approach towards fantasy (where you would expect a lot of action and fighting). It was at a perfect pace and I could read this without feeling confused, and I got the characters all straightened out and was able to understand what was happening as there's several different plots branching out. Considering this if the first book in a trilogy, you won't get many questions answered. That may be frustrating and it may seem as if you really didn't get much out of the book at all, however I feel that this book was a good starter for a trilogy. It created your questions, made an interesting world for you to get used to, and gave you a set list of characters so you know who is who without getting confused. Besides, what would be the point of a trilogy if all questions were answered in the first book? I absolutely loved the characters in this book. I enjoyed Wynter and her relationship with her father , but her friendships with both Razi and Christopher are also interesting and differ from each other. I found no fault with any of them and liked all of the characters. I even liked King Jonathan despite his issues with Alberon and his mistreatment of Razi. They all had their distinct personalities and qualities and were perfectly "fleshed out" so you don't have any two dimensional, wooden characters. I can't say I have a favorite as they're all well done. Although none of my questions have been answered for this novel (well, the majority of them) I am going to continue reading this trilogy. I absolutely loved this book. This one proved to be one of the best reads I have come across so far for this year. It's a perfect "first novel in a trilogy" because it establishes everything for the reader so we're set for the next two books. This book is definitely worth the read.
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Pinkstreaks More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book (and the sequel). The quality I most liked was it's unpredictability. I always wanted to know what would come next. I would try to find a stopping place so that I could get things done in real life, but I'd have to continue to the next chapter because I had to know what happened! Kiernan did an excellent job of developing the characters so that I fell in love with them. I can't wait for the third book! I don't know if this is categorized as adult fiction or juvenile fiction, but I wouldn't want my kids to read it. It has a small scene describing the torture of a prisoner in it, as well as a few other images I just wouldn't want to get stuck in a teen's mind.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for your girls! I can't wait until the 2nd in the series of 3 books comes out.
Melhay More than 1 year ago
Wynter, fifteen, and Lorcan, her father of age thirty-three but shaking like a man much older, have just returned from the five year station in the North helping King Jonathon with relations. Wynter is a female apprenticing her father and doing extremely well in a mans trade, carpentery. Once they are home and Wynter is wondering around, she learns things are rather stressed around the castle. Things are aloft here. There are creatures they are forbidden to talk to, the heir Alberon has left with no traces as to where he is, Razi the kings bastard-son and close friend to Wynter and Alberon has been named to take the beloved Alberon's place and the people are not happy. Then to add to the mix Wynter's father Lorcan is rather ill and is not to leave his bed to help, and is getting worse. Thinking back to what caught my attention... There are the questions I had to the mysteries, and I am still thinking on. I am not sure what has truly happened to change things so much. Along with why beloved Heir, Prince Alberon, left as what seems unexpectedly and no sign of where he went. But it appears as something between him and his father King Jonathon to be the reason for his leaving, and an even bigger issue. 'The Bloody Machine.' I don't know what it is or what it does or why are they so worried about it. But along with the mysteries, I think the characters kept me coming back. I love the character development and the relationships in this story. There are a few secondary creatures, which I did not expect to find, but loved them and found myself wanting to read more of them. I love all the characters; Wynter, Lorcan, Razi, Christopher, and all the secondary characters, and now I need to know what befalls them. I even get the feel the world we get to know is created from these characters. It seems the characters all know of different parts of the world being of different age ranges too, and as they tell of their experiences and knowledge you see the world through their eyes and what the world is that Celine has created. The situations the characters get into and out of, and the reactions they have to the different situations and each other when trying to protect each other maked me love them even more. I am not sure who is up to what or why. Of course I have my suspecions and ideas but I'm not really sure. But I felt the people where doing what they perceived to be the right thing, wheither good or bad, for themself or the people. I am looking forward to the future installments of this trilogy. I am curious where Wynter will lead to. With the choose of staying with her dieing father to the end, following her friend who may need help, or finding the peoples beloved heir to the throne.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
Dying Lorcan Moorehawke returns from the Northland after a five year mission accompanied by his fifteen year old daughter Wynter to their former home Kingcourt, but are not welcomed as befits the Protector should be. That is they feel unwelcome until Victuallor Heron greets them warmly. Wynter is stunned with changes at Kingcourt as everyone fears the king with good cause as he has turned brutal. His heir Alberon was forced to flee for his life and his other son Alberon's half-brother Razi sits uncomfortably on the regal Chair that belongs to his sibling while trying to remain loyal to his older brother and his sire; not an easy task. Razi welcomes home his childhood friend Wynter at a time rebellion and civil war seems imminent with the kingdom split in two between loyalists to a mad monarch and rebels. Wynter will soon find herself caught in the crosshairs of this division between her father loyal to the king and Razi and his cohort Christopher Garron considering the overthrow of the monarch. This is a superb young adult political fantasy filled with plenty of intrigue as everyone at Kingcourt is impacted by the ruler's apparent insanity. The story line fast-paced, but loaded with a strong cast who brings out the depth of life in a dictatorial deadly monarchy. Young teen readers will relish the courageous escapades of the heroine who must choose between her father and her kingdom. Harriet Klausner