Scholastic Booktalk

“Wooding’s first novel, The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, was electrifying and deeply atmospheric; his second is even more so.” – Horn Book

“Serpentine plotting and lush, imaginative writing.” – Booklist


This is no phaerie tale. Poison has entered a dark and dangerous world where humans are endangered and evil is disguised as beauty.

Poison was an odd-looking girl who lived in a village in a marsh. She had pale skin, long dark hair, and startling violet eyes. She lived in a hut built on stilts over a weed-choked lake with her father, her stepmother, and her little sister, Azalea. She had always been a contrary child, who seldom did what she was told. She and her stepmother Snapdragon hated each other, and the villagers barely tolerated her. She’d always been an outcast, strange and alien. And while the villagers accepted their hard lives and the frequent deaths of their young children and infants, Poison refused to do so, rebelling against the harshness of her life in her conversations with her only friend, a mysterious old man the villagers just called Fleet.

She had just had her sixteenth birthday—although both parents forgot about it—when she woke up one morning to see not Azalea in the crib beside her bed, but a changeling instead. The Scarecrow had come in the night to kidnap Azalea and take her to Phaerie. Snapdragon was hysterical and wanted to kill the changeling, but Poison kept her wits about her, and stopped her stepmother in time. If the changeling was destroyed, any chance of getting Azalea back would be gone. Poison immediately went to see Fleet for advice. He told her to just go home and wait for Azalea to be returned. It might be days, weeks, years, or never. But there was nothing anyone could do. That answer wasn’t good enough for Poison. She defiantly told Fleet that she was going to go visit the Phaerie Lord himself!

Fleet might have thought Poison’s plan was unwise, but when he saw that she couldn’t be persuaded to stay, he helped her get ready for her journey, and suggested she go to Shieldtown with Bram, the marshwraith catcher. There she’d be able to contact someone who could take her to the Phaerie Lord.

Poison has never before left her village, and all she knows of the outside world is the stories Fleet told her of his travels. As the days pass and she and Bram get further and further from her home, Poison’s excitement grows, and she begins to imagine all the adventures she will have. It’s too bad Poison doesn’t have second sight, the ability to see the future. If she had known when they arrived at Shieldtown what would be waiting for her and why, the future might have turned out far, far differently.

This Booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart