The Poisons of Caux: The Tasters Guild (Book II)


The Poisons of Caux, Book II

A macabre and funny fantasy trilogy

After the perilous adventure of The Hollow Bettle (Book I), the dark reign of the Nightshades is over at last, and a new day has arrived in Caux, a land long ruled by poison and deceit. The ancient Prophecy-the coming of a Noble Child to cure the one, true King-has finally begun.

But fear still grips the people of Caux, for they live in the ...

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The Poisons of Caux, Book II

A macabre and funny fantasy trilogy

After the perilous adventure of The Hollow Bettle (Book I), the dark reign of the Nightshades is over at last, and a new day has arrived in Caux, a land long ruled by poison and deceit. The ancient Prophecy-the coming of a Noble Child to cure the one, true King-has finally begun.

But fear still grips the people of Caux, for they live in the shadow of the powerful, poisonous Tasters' Guild. Sequestered high within its corrupt walls sits Vidal Verjouce, the Guild's diabolical Director, his dark magic more potent than ever. Eleven-year-old Ivy, famed healer and Noble Child, and her friend and taster Rowan must venture inside the Guild itself if they are to find the door to their sister world, Pimcaux-and fulfill the Prophecy. But a deadly weed-once thought extinct-threatens their journey: scourge bracken, a plant dedicated to domination and destruction, also known, ominously, as Kingmaker. Who else has detected it? And will Ivy's remarkable gift-her dominion over plants and nature-be enough to thwart it?

Susannah Appelbaum's imagination soars with poison inks, flower codes, catacombs, secret crypts, and sinister twists in this middle volume of the macabre and magical Poisons of Caux fantasy trilogy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Booklist, November 15, 2010
"Poison Ivy and her friends search for a magical doorway on their quest to save the king from his illness and deliver the people of Caux from the clutches of the malevolent guild of food testers. Can Ivy find the king before the guild finds her? In this second book in the Poisons of Caux series, Appelbaum continues to thrill and enchant with vivid descriptions and inspired plot twists. Here is an imaginary place to stand alongside Harry Potter’s world, replete with tasty villains and true-hearted heroines, and a worthy next step from Kate DiCamillo’s Tale of Despereaux (2003) or Brian Jacques’ Redwall series."
Children's Literature - Carollyne Hutter
This is the second book in the "Tasters Guild" trilogy. The story centers on Ivy, an eleven-year-old girl and her quest to cure her country's rightful king from a strange illness. This book opens with a new day in Caux, a land once ruled by poison and deceit. But the people still live fear of the poisonous Tasters' Guild, a powerful group ruled by the evil director, Vidal Verjouce. Ivy is a famed healer and Noble Child. She and her friend Rowan, a taster, must risk going inside the Guild, if they are to find the door to their sister world, Pimcaux, and fulfill the prophecy. Danger surrounds Ivy. Her most persistent enemy, Sorrel Flux (her former taster) keeps trying to kill her. When Ivy is exposed to a deadly weed (known as Kingmaker) she is not sure she can defeat it. This weed can transport its victims to a dark realm. Will Ivy's gift and her knowledge of plants be enough to foil this weed? This book is difficult to follow if the reader has not read the first book in the series. It is also difficult to follow because much of the information has to be inferred, and the points of view keep shifting. The story itself is dark with a lot of macabre. It is not recommended for more sensitive children. Reviewer: Carollyne Hutter
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—This second book in the trilogy continues 11-year-old Ivy's quest to fulfill her role as the prophesied "Noble Child" destined to cure her country's rightful king from a strange illness. In The Hollow Bettle (Knopf, 2009), Ivy defeated the evil monarch who usurped control of Caux from good King Verdigris and had a penchant for poisoning the unhappy population. Those with money hired food tasters trained by the secretive Tasters Guild to keep from becoming a victim. Ivy and her friend Rowan, an inept Guild-trained taster, were forced to run away after he failed to detect poison in his employer's food. Now they must save King Verdigris. Many of Verjouce's henchmen pursue them but Ivy's most persistent enemy is Sorrel Flux, her former taster, who keeps trying to kill her. When Ivy's exposed to a deadly weed that can transport its victims to a dark realm, she's not sure she can defeat it. This inventive story is full of strange and mysterious characters with peculiar names and viscerally descriptive locations. Kids are sure to love it.—Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440422488
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 8/9/2011
  • Series: Poisons of Caux Series, #2
  • Pages: 384
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Susannah Appelbaum comes from a family of doctors and philosophers, which instilled in her both an early fascination with and a great deal of caution toward bottles marked "Poison." The idea for the Poisons of Caux trilogy was born when she lived in an old woodcutter's cottage in the French apple country as a child: "Out the door were ancient forests, wild boars, and new and inviting foods to taste."

Susannah worked in magazine publishing for many years and now lives with her family in New York's Hudson Valley and in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where her garden prefers to grow weeds.

She is also the author of The Hollow Bettle, Book I of the Poisons of Caux trilogy, and is hard at work on Book III. Please visit her on the Web at

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Read an Excerpt

The Calligrapher    

Hemsen Dumbcane's withered skin was pasty from a lifetime of library work. He was a sour man whose eyes had long gone rheumy and uncooperative, and he routinely wore a powerful magnifying lens clipped to his thick spectacles. He preferred his small, unobtrusive shop empty, and for most of his long career, he had only one client. But what a client he served! Hemsen Dumbcane was a master calligrapher to the secretive Tasters' Guild—producing the majority of its inscrutable documents—trusted with its most top-secret work and given access to its very private Library.  

Although it was newly unfashionable, the royal seal of King Nightshade still hung over the dusty front door of his shop on the busy Knox bridge, right beneath the large, pointed quill indicating his trade. He figured the unpopular royal seal kept his store quiet, which was how he needed it to be in order to practice not only his calligraphy but also his more secretive, and highly lucrative, secondary trade. For Hemsen Dumbcane was a crook of enormous proportions—stealing and forging ancient, highly valuable,and oftentimes enchanted documents from Caux's libraries and private collections and then selling them on the black market.  

Hemsen Dumbcane had been slowly relieving the land of its ancient maps and pictorials, testaments and charts of odd, indecipherable symbols for his entire career—one spanning many long years. That was a lot of missing paper, although for each he would toil to replace the original with a clever fake, copying it perfectly and returning the counterfeit undetected. Since many of the ancient tableaus were considered to be irreplaceable magical texts, Hemsen Dumbcane was distinctly responsible for the dilution of the ancient wisdom of earlier—and more respectable—kings than his most recent benefactor, King Nightshade.  

At present, in his quiet shop, a drop of perspiration hung threateningly at the tip of his nose. Pausing with his damp kerchief, the calligrapher wiped his face, catching the offending droplet in the nick of time—lest it sully his work on the desk beneath his gaze. Before him, his final forgery.  

A masterwork.  

He had stolen it from its hiding place in the very chambers of the Guild's fearsome Director, a scroll of such beauty and value that he could not bear to be without it. At great personal hazard, he now toiled to produce a counterfeit before his transgression was discovered.  

He heard nothing of the little bell that now rang from the front of the shop, a signal of the unusual presence of a customer. He continued his work, though burdened by a great nervousness that had settled upon him in the middle of the night. For the past week Dumbcane had found himself distracted mightily from his sleep, from his shop duties, from everything. And today brought no relief. He tried to clear his mind and complete his final task, concentrating upon the dark weave of images amid the strange text. His shaking hand attempted to duplicate the sheen of the golden serpent before him.  

There was quite a lot of traffic on the Knox bridge this morning, owing probably to some festivity, a festivity that Dumbcane—if he chose to acknowledge it at all—would find entirely uninteresting. The town had turned out for some mindless event, and compounding the traffic was an annoying amount of construction on the bridge. He had little to do with the life of the city—having long ago aligned himself with the thieves and scoundrels that made up his network of contacts, and the darker sides of Caux from which he profited.  

The little bell rang again sourly—indicating that the door had shut once more. Presumably, someone now awaited him. This time Dumbcane was alerted, and he sat bolt upright, upending a small pot of black ink, a few pages before him scattering to the floor. Quickly he wiped the ink blot with his elbow—a lazy swarm of dark fruit flies escaped his arm just in time, only to come together again and settle hungrily on the stain.  

Peering about the dark room cautiously, he craned his neck forward the door, his earlier nighttime anxieties returning. One large eye—magnified by his calligraphy lens—regarded the shaded room fearfully.  

"What?" he hissed. "Who's there?"  

"Hemsen Dumbcane?" came a nasally response.  

"Who wants to know?" Dumbcane leaned out a little further into the gloomy room. With a start he relieved himself of his ever-present magnifying lens—flipping it upright quickly—but not before he was afforded the shock of one of the biggest noses ever to grace a face, a nose that indeed marked its wearer's lineage.  

A nose as long as a sausage could only belong to a Taxus.  

Dumbcane at once regained his composure. A half smile even made an appearance across his sallow face. Although he had had dealings with the Taxus family over the years, these two before him were new. But he knew the type.   "What, gentlemen, can I do for you today?" Dumbcane asked.  

"We are looking for a certain document," the elder and larger of the two Taxuses responded. This was Quarles Taxus, a man who really never achieved much in his life by respectable means. In fact, over the family's long and feuding history, there had been but one Taxus upon whom any amount of success had been visited. That was Turner Taxus, and he was now dead. Turner Taxus had risen through the ranks of the Nightshade army to a respectable position, only to consume for his last meal some poisoned soup.  

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