(E) Ages 12-15, Adventure/Thriller, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Middle Grades, Mystery, Starred Reviews
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*A Little Taste of Poison by R. J. Anderson

The stakes are higher than ever for Isaveth Breck, plucky heroine of A Pocketful of Murder, when the future of her city is threatened.   

A Little Taste of Poison (Uncommon Magic, #2) by R. J. Anderson.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016, 359 pages.  

Reading Level: Middle Grades, 12-15 

Recommended for: ages 12 and up

*Spoiler Alert for A Pocket Full of Murder*

Months have passed since A Pocket Full of Murder, and times are still hard for Isaveth’s family.  When Isaveth is unexpectedly offered a scholarship to attend Tarreton College, she accepts.  She expects it will be hard since the college is the best school in the city, and she is both poor and a Moshite.  Still, there is the hope of seeing Quiz.  Of course, Isaveth now knows Quiz’s real identity as Esmond, the youngest son of the Sagelord who rules Tarreton.  

Determined and plucky, Isaveth doesn’t want to disappoint her benefactors or her family.  Despite bullying and false accusations at the college, she refuses to give up.  Meanwhile, she and Esmond continue their mission to prove the corruption of one of Tarreton’s most respected politicians. Isaveth and Esmond know Eryx Lording —Esmond’s older brother and successor to the Sagelord— is evil, but the chance to prove it becomes a race against time.                                       

Esmond and Isaveth’s sleuthing leads to danger, and at one point they even witness a murder.  In this sequel, Isaveth keeps secrets from her family, not wanting to burden them. But as both she and Esmond discover, sometimes we need to trust others with our troubles, including our friends.

The alcoholism of the Sagelord and his abysmal parenting, as well as the bullying and discrimination of students toward Isaveth, are not dwelt upon but deliver exposure without gratuitous details.  Trustworthy adults and kind students provide a clear contrast.  Despite outside troubles, Isaveth and Esmond’s friendship grows, and now there is a dangling question, left from the first book.  Esmond, in a rash moment, asked Isaveth for a kiss, and it’s become a joke between the two friends.  Still, there is a little bit of tension, sweetly resolved by the story’s end.  

Corruption and scandal, scheming and politics —there are a lot of irons in the fire of this story.  But readers will again be swept up in the world of Tarreton with its cold winter season, magical warming spells, glamorous parties, and hidden secrets.  The conclusion is both excellent and satisfying.

Cautions: Intense situations (Kidnapping, murder —see above)  Alcoholism (see above)

Overall Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Worldview/moral value: 4.75
Artistic value: 5

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