THE PRINCE OF POISON by Pamela Kaufman


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Third volume in Kaufman’s Alix of Wanthwaite romance cycle (Banners of Gold, 2002, etc.) tracks the noblewoman’s voyage back to England to face the dreaded wrath of King John and claim her home and husband.

She’s still the most beautiful damsel in all of Europe, as proclaimed by the now-deceased Richard the Lion Heart, whose child she is carrying. (She was abducted by the king two years before and pressed to become his concubine.) Alix is trying to flee France for Wanthwaite when King John finds her in the woods and exposes his impressive “Raoul” for servicing. Alix eludes him—bites him, actually—and is sheltered by the Jewish community in Rouen. There she has her baby, Theo, and sparks a sympathetic friendship with the courtly Bonel. While Alix hopes that Theo might be able to ascend the throne of England, she is eager to return to Wanthwaite, where she hopes her Scottish husband Enoch still lives. Bonel lovingly arranges her flight, but mother and child are separated for good. Uncouth Enoch is in the process of remarrying when Alix finally makes her way home, though that doesn’t stop him from raping her. When Alix finds herself pregnant with his child, the pair conspire to present the baby to the powerful land-owning barons as the true heir to the English throne, despite a slight problem with conception dates. Grasping, capricious King John must be restrained, so Alix and Enoch meet with Cardinal Langton and other barons in order to draft a charter, the Magna Carta, to preserve certain liberties and ownership. They are further enlisted to penetrate Windsor Castle and try to assassinate King John, who dies mysteriously anyway. It’s all rather giddy and far-fetched, though Alix’s kinship with Bonel the Jew establishes a nice historical symbiosis.

A goofy, breathy finale.

Pub Date: April 11th, 2006
ISBN: 1-4000-8063-0
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Three Rivers/Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2006