The Poison Boy
Fletcher Moss




Poison boy Dalton Fly, a lowly food taster to the rich, has a lucky escape after drinking laced wine. But his mate is less fortunate, and Dalton wants answers. Who murdered his friend and what were they were really after? With the help of aristocratic girl, Scarlet Dropmore, whose life he unwittingly saved, he sets out to rescue his city from the poisoners within.

"An action-packed. Historical adventure, full of grisly goings-on, dastardly plots and near-death escapes. We loved it." TBK magazine

"Readers will be gripped from the opening pages of this richly-imagined story. Action and suspense are balanced by well-drawn characters and convincing relationships, and Moss's shadowy city of political intrigue is a particularly appealing fantasy world. This unusual adventure story will leave readers eager to read more from Moss." Booktrust
Andrea, from Wren Academy Barnet

The Poison Boy is a book about a boy bound to a life of tasting for poison in case his master is to be killed.

Since the boy's immune system develops after a life of tasting, someone gets poisoned and dies yet the boy does not. He and his friends go on a dangerous quest to find who the killer was, and why he did it. On his mystical journey he discovers different mysteries and so on.

I would recommend this book to anyone over the age of nine. Preferably for boys yet nevertheless still would be entertaining for anyone. It has a very elaborate plot but it could be better written or include a sense of 'I want to read this book and I will not put it down until it is finished' but still entertaining when you start to get the hang of it.

2.5/5 stars

Angelo, from St James Catholic High School

The Poison Boy begins with a wow and ends with a bang. The principle character Dalton Fly, a poison tasting boy, is plunged from his normal life into a life full of adventure. After the horrible death of his friend, Dalton teams up with Scarlet and begins a quest to find all the “marked” children before it is too late.

I personally felt that the book was pretty good and it has a great twist. Read Poison and find out who really is Dalton Fry. I can assure you, you will not be disappointed.

Aran, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Dalton Fly, a food taster for the rich, has had a near-death escape when he and his close friend, Bennie Jinks, discovered poisoned wine. Unfortunately, Bennie isn’t so lucky. One event leads to another, and eventually Dalton finds himself joined by Scarlet - a girl whose life he saved - to try find out who poisoned the wine - and why.

The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss is a gripping book full of suspense, action and lots of twists. One thing I loved about this book was its start: unlike many books, which start off rather slowly and build up, The Poison Boy starts off with immediate intense action - which Fletcher Moss kept up throughout the book. This start got me hooked into the story in no time, and is definitely one of the book’s strongest selling points.

Another feature of the book which I enjoyed was its storyline. This was full of action and moments of tension and had very few boring sections. I also particularly enjoyed the many twists in the plot - I was never quite sure how the events were going to turn out next! This helped keep me reading the book and made it into something I could hardly put down.

The one improvement I thought could’ve been made was that sometimes I thought Fletcher Moss could’ve described things in more detail. This is because I occasionally felt that the image of what was going on was created in my mind from a blank canvas - there were too few descriptions for me to build on. By describing more things instead of just stating them or not even referencing them, this book could’ve been even better.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book due to its twisting, gripping plot and its action-packed content. I would recommend it to anyone 10 or above who enjoys action, mystery or anything of that sort. I would rate this book 9/10.

Avani, from Wren Academy Barnet

The book The Poison Boy by Fletcher Moss has given me an insight into the lives of royalty or the hierarchy as it brings out the responsibilities they have to take upon themselves to prevent catastrophic disasters. For example this is shown through the fact that many parent leaders of high status had to part from their children to keep them safe. 

An interesting point which is shown in the story is that if natural order is disrupted then in the end it will always be restored back to normal. This is shown through Doone De Bello’s repetitive attempts to become king by poisoning and brutally murdering other potential heirs to the throne after the Duke’s death. However, he fails to fulfil his strong desire to have control over society with an even higher status because of Dalton Fly…

Another factor of the book that I found interesting was the different poisons used and the treatments they needed. This gave a science effect to the book as the book also showed what each type of poison did and how long it took to kill the victim. The description of the cruel murders of Bennie Jinks, Felix etc. really hooked on the reader as it created suspense and fear in the reader’s mind for the character.

My favourite part of the book was when Dalton and Sleepwell were inside the palace, entered a room and found Tench waiting for them. The fight between them forced me to read on and I couldn’t possibly think of even letting go of the book. The section really made me think about possible future events in the end of the story as I wanted to know whether it was too late for Dalton to become the duke or even to live. 

Unfortunately, in my opinion, I felt that the ending of the book was not fitting to the build-up of suspense that had been created throughout the last few chapters. The ending paragraph to the book says:

Somehow he managed to find enough air to suck in a breath and make words. “Well, thanks,” he said, and his voice, he realised with relief, sounded calm and firm. “But if there’s someone in trouble here, it’s probably you.”

Scarlet grinned.

…This paragraph let me down as …

Overall I think that the book is aimed at teenagers and young adults. 

I would give the book a recommendation of 3.5/5 complete stars.

Charlotte, from Wren Academy Barnet

This book was completely “unputdownable”.  The chapters flowed incredibly and the switching between characters and scenes really held my attention. I am the sort of person who reads more than one book at once but from the beginning but I read this from beginning to end without picking up another book. The story was cleverly written which meant that I the truth about Isis Holt really surprised me.  The ending was cleverly written and it made me laugh a lot.

Debbie, from Wren Academy Barnet

I really liked the full world Fletcher built for this tale – it comes across in every sentence, living and breathing. Every time I picked up the book after a break I was instantly back in Highlions with Dalton again: poison boys, sentaways, and different language. The imagination of words like ‘dreck’ ‘ghosted’ all represents different words and what I really like is the glossary at the back! This is good writing, plotting and character drawing. 

I feel the ending may be a little too predictable, but one of the best bits for this 13 year old boy was the blood, guts and gore, the splatters and the explosions and the running, running, chasing and ducking that goes on. The narrative is filmic in the way it comes alive in your head as Dalton dashes hither and thither getting ever more deeply entwined in plot intricacies. The pace of the story is breathlessly moving forward, with no space to relax but the characters Fletcher has written here makes it interesting, Dalton and Sleepwell's closeness and banter make you warm to their difficult lives very quickly. I recommend it to people who like adventure, mystery solving and unpredicted deaths.

Welcome to the exciting world of Dalton Fly, Poison Boy. You’ll love it. Just don’t drink the wine.

Harleigh, from Wren Academy Barnet

I think that this book was very well written and I enjoyed it even though it was a bit weird. I liked how the story develops and how you found out important information at the same time as the characters. Also I liked how the beginning and the end were very similar. My favourite character is this book was Scarlett as she liked being involved in the mystery.

Hector, from Queen Elizabeth's Boys School, Barnet

Dalton Fly is a food tester. If the foods are clean, he lives. If the foods are poisoned...He dies. When some poisoned wine kills his friend and almost kills him, Dalton must protect the girl for whom the poison was destined, and try to stay alive as the black, deadly world of politics is revealed. The Duke is dead and the next in line are being mysteriously killed; Dalton must find and save them before the poison gets to them, all the while avoiding the guards and mercenaries sent after him. And as his unusual mix of political children, thieves, and friends make their way across this alternate Victorian world, Dalton finds out there is more to this past, and future, than he could possibly have imagined…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The fantastic, alternate Victorian setting, with its own vocabulary, customs and structure, is only one of the things that makes this book amazing, it gives the book such a sense of completeness and depth I found myself starting to believe this city was more than just fiction. The adventure, gripping storyline, and tension all amounts to overall an utterly incredible story.

Anyone interested in fantasy, alternate worlds, action and adventure, and thrilling escapes (with the odd bit of romance thrown in) would absolutely love this book. Who wouldn’t? It is the author’s first book, but I have no doubt that more books will soon follow; Fletcher Moss writes with elegance and fluidity, and he kept me on the edge of my seat from start to end.

I found the ending was slightly rushed, but this was the book's only major fault. I personally would have liked some indication of what was to become of Dalton and his friends, but the ending was still thoroughly enjoyable.  Perhaps I just wanted to remain in the world of Dalton Fly and The Poison Boy for a little longer.

Jacob, from Jewish Community Secondary School

The Poison Boy is written by Fletcher Moss. It is about a Poison Boy (a boy who tastes food and checks if it is poisoned) called Dalton Fly. He finds poisoned wine while tasting for a rich family, one of his colleagues takes a bigger dose and dies from the wine and Dalton Fly wants justice. After searching for answers with his other friend he finds himself entangled in a even bigger mystery. 

Dalton Fly is the main character; he is a Poison Boy whose friend 'Bennie' dies, he is very brave but does not have a good knowledge of the district he lives in. Scarlet is a rich man's daughter and she is very clever and smart and helps Dalton Fly out on many occasions. Sal is Dalton's best friend and he knows all of the streets and underground tunnels in the whole of the city. Throughout the book he is in need of a haircut. Oscar is Dalton's employer and is head of the poison boy company. 

I think that this is a must read for 11+ year-olds and it is based on accounts of food tasters throughout history. This is a very good book because it always holds a sense of mystery which makes it hard to put down. It is also very exciting due the amount of action. It draws you in making the reader actually feel part of the story. All those items of interest contribute to why it is good.

I would rate this 4.5/5, the 0.5 has been taken because there are a few small plot holes. Overall this is a very good book and I think that the writer has outdone himself. 

Jamie, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Dalton Fly is a food taster for the rich. One day he tastes for poisonous foods for the Dropmore family with his best friend Bennie Jinks who gets poisoned by some food that was indented to kill the 16 year old girl Scarlet Dropmore. Scarlet and his friend Sal try and seek justice of all their friends. 

Be prepared for a thriller if you read this book. Dalton Fly is a brave boy that wants to put others’ lives before his own. I loved the beginning of this book because it got to the point straight away and this made the book very hard to put down. Also at the end, it leaves you on a cliff hanger because you are left wondering what is going to happen to the characters. At some point the book was a bit slow and a bit boring with too much detail and description in some places, but when you are in the good parts I couldn’t to put it down for example I stayed up until midnight to finish it.

I would rate this book 4/5 stars because it was a little slow in places but extremely interesting and involving and used a great variety of language. I would recommend this book for children from about 10-15 because some young people might struggle to understand the Victorian English language in the book.

Jessica, from Jewish Community Secondary School

I didn’t particularly enjoy The Poison Boy because I thought it was really slow and quite hard to get into. The reason for this could be that I don’t really enjoy this genre of books or it wasn’t really aimed at people like me, I don’t know why but I just didn’t get into it at all which meant I read it really slowly. Some of the time I didn’t really understand what was happening in the story. I think the story, however sounded really exciting but maybe however if it was written slightly differently I would have enjoyed it more. I would recommend this book to boys and girls of about 12 and older however the genre and story might be aimed more for boys but of course girls can still enjoy it too.

Joshua, from University College School London

From the first page to the last, The Poison Boy is packed with action, mystery and adventure.  It tells the story of orphan, Dalton Fly, and his best friend Sal Sleepwell, as they try to find out the truth behind the horrific death of Benny Jinks, their friend and fellow food-taster.

Life in the city of Highlions has suddenly become a lot more dangerous, even for a 'poison boy'. Dalton and Bennie were sent to a banquet to check the food, and when the book opens our hero has just recovered consciousness to find himself lying on the floor covered in Bennie's blood. His friend has been poisoned and died horribly, having literally vomited up his stomach and the same poison has caused Dalton to lose his memory of the whole event. Unfortunately this is by no means the end of his troubles, as the murderer is determined to remove all witnesses.

The old Duke has just died, without leaving an heir, and the great Houses of Highlion are fighting among themselves for the position of ruler. Some time previously the Duke fell ill and all the children of those same Houses who were in line to inherit the title found themselves under threat. So now they are all hidden around the city in the charge of guardians, far from their families: a few in schools, others locked away in private houses. And someone who knows their whereabouts is determined to kill every one of them in order that his chosen candidate can take power.

Fletcher Moss weaves a complex but rock-solid plot that ties together beautifully by the end of the story.  His characters are strong and believable and his prose exciting, clean and purposeful.

Dalton and another poison boy, Sal, are forced to flee. On their journey they save the life of Scarlet, a beautiful young girl who is on the killer's list. And that's where one of the real strengths of this book becomes evident. Scarlet is an intriguing character, determined to the point of being headstrong, and as courageous as any boy. She is not the type to submit quietly to rescue: in fact, she does a fair amount of rescuing herself (the character of Princess Leia in the Star Wars films comes readily to mind). Many of the other characters, even minor ones, have equally well-rounded and fascinating personalities. There is the Eyesdown, who knows all the gossip in town. He makes his living stealing and selling letters, and has a particular grudge against Dalton. Luke, the daughter of noble parents, spends her time condemning wealth and privilege (when she's not climbing chimneys). And the evil Tench has a mind as ugly and deformed as his face.

This thrilling tale moves at breakneck speed, with danger never far away. And although one plot-line involving Dalton soon becomes clear, readers will be kept guessing about the traitor until almost the last page — though even then Dalton has further problems to face. I have to say, I was slightly put off by the cover illustration, as I think it makes the book look like a horror story, which it is not. Anyway, cover aside, Fletcher Moss has created a real page-turner so if you like an exciting edge-of-your-seat adventure, look no further! Several people, some of them children, are badly hurt, and a few die. Dalton lives in a violent and dangerous world, and his profession is not one which promises a long life. It is a rich and exciting story from a fantatsic and imaginitive author. 

Lara, from Jewish Community Secondary School

The Poison Boy is about a boy named Dalton Fly. Actually maybe he really isn’t called Dalton Fly? There is no way to know, he was found in a barrel at a very young age with apparently no history. He grew up as a poison boy, someone who eats samples of the upper class’ food to taste if there’s poison in it. But then he meets an upper class girl called Scarlet Dropmore and together they go on a hunt for Dalton’s past.

At first I strongly disliked The Poison Boy; within the first chapter a boy was coughing his guts out - literally. Also the first half was very slow and boring but then it turns very exciting. At the point where it starts to go interesting the book was non-putdown-able. I would recommend this book for anyone aged 10-14.

Lauren, from Jewish Community Secondary School

The Poison Boy is about a boy called Dalton Fly, who tastes food for the rich to check if it’s poisoned.  But when he discovers poisoned wine, and his friend dies, he wants to find out who did it, and what really happened. With the help of Scarlet Dropmore, a girl he saved, he tries to find the murderers.

This book is quite exciting at the beginning, but is also quite hard to get into, and has a bit of a sped up end. I love how detailed it is though, and how adventurous it is. My favourite character is either Scarlet or Sal. Scarlet because she’s so daring, brave and adventurous. Sal because he’s funny and witty. 

What I didn’t enjoy about the book is that I had trouble fully getting into the story, and I couldn’t stay with it properly for some of the story.

I’d recommend this book for ages 10-14 years old.

Matthew, from Jewish Community Secondary School

The Poison Boy is a thrilling novel about a teenage food taster, Dalton Fly.  He goes on a thrilling adventure to find his heritage and save his friends.  I found this to be a fast moving novel that is an entertaining and thrilling read for anyone who loves easy to read action.  

On his journey from street cellars to a prison island Dalton's plot doesn't fail to surprise, confuse and amaze you sometimes all at the same time. In my opinion this works part of the time, however, it confuses the story a bit towards the end although not enough to stop my enjoyment of the book. Overall, a satisfying blend of mystery and horror that I loved.

Melis, from Wren Academy Barnet

This is a powerfully hard-hitting book, with the beginning pages of the novel pulling no punches and showing the characters’ painful struggles right from the first chapter.

For 14-year-old Dalton Fly’s, the protagonist of the book, life has never been easy. He is one of the two remaining of ‘Oscar’s Honest Dozen’, and is a lowly food taster to the rich. After a lucky escape (during which 12-year-old friend Bennie Jinks was poisoned) Dalton, Sal and the high-born Scarlett Dropmore - whose life he saves - set off to save his city from corrupt politics and warring families.   

I found it very hard to read through Dalton’s memories of nights staying up with fevers and sickness as his body built up barriers and resistances to the poisons and the antidotes that he was given because it was written with so much emotion.

The same goes for the book’s main villain, the terrible and corrupt Pallis Tench, a ‘shutter’ (or a poisoner) who was so, so, greedy that he would murder a group of innocent children in cold blood, without batting an eyelid. He was so vividly depicted that he seemed so real, and was a “super-villain" … He was a character to fear and dislike, a character to despise until the end.

I liked all the characters, save for a special few, as they were so splendidly represented by Moss that I admired their strength and courage. Although none of the children were older than seventeen, they showed more willpower than most adults do. It was their good will that quelled my dislike for the suffering and misery that followed them like a huge grey cloud - their painful struggles were evident. 

To conclude, I would say that I enjoyed the book as a whole, and despite the pain the characters endured and the somewhat confusing sentence structure, I enjoyed The Poison Boy and it was an adventurous read.

Nicole, from Wren Academy Barnet

The loss of memory of a poison: Dalton lashes a new adventure for him and makes the reader surprised throughout the whole book. Each scene seems to be surprising. The ending of Dalton was a very interesting twist for who he is and his past. 

The plot of this book is very unique but the cover of the book may be telling too much to the reader even though “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” meaning in this case that the appearance of the book doesn’t tell the whole story; as it does not.

Everyone seemed to be very believable. Scarlet is very funny especially the last scene of the book where she enters in the room where Dalton was bathing and scared him.

Trench was a very big delusion especially that he was an actor and used a fake mask throughout the whole book until Dalton masked him out. Also, when he shot Dalton strikes the reader to have a certain dislike for him straight away. Fletcher Moss’ description of Trench’s death was very well imagined and the reader could really imagine:

“…close his one good eye for the last time. His fingers were great haggard talons. His spine was frozen in an arch. His face was a slick of blood.”

The knowledge you will learn about poisons from this book is very interesting. In fact, it tells you if a fruit or wine is poisoned with a naked eye. Not exactly the common job for everyone but it might turn out to be handy to learn this information or just interesting to know.

The writing, except the quotation above, was not very well written. If it wasn’t for the plot and a few humorous jokes, this book wouldn’t have been entertaining to read.

…this is a book I will only read once.

Ryoma, from University College School London

The Poison Boy has been very intriguing and exciting for me. This fast-moving adventure story made it irresistible to stop reading. 

The story is all about a poison boy (a person who tastes food and wine for poison) called Dalton Fly, and his two friends who go on a little adventure which turns out into a life changing experience. Dalton’s friend Benjy has been poisoned and choked to death when he was food-tasting for a “sentaway" called Scarlet Dropmore. The children then realise that someone is trying to kill all of the “sentaways”. Along with a special map they stole, Dalton, Sal and Scarlet venture out to find out who the murderer is and what makes him want to do so.

The image of the action taking part is easy to picture and imagine, since the great detail of the places and atmosphere makes you feel like you really are with the companions. This is supported by the detailed description of the characters and their feelings as well.

My favourite part of the story is when Dalton is trying to hide from cops, in and out of Scarlet’s house (this is when Dalton and Scarlet still don’t know each other) when he suddenly breaks into Scarlet’s bathroom when she is still having a bath. Scarlet has her pistol out and Dalton is, well-covered in blood. Furthermore, the repeated phrase ‘Well if there was anyone was in danger, it’s probably you’ is very intriguing too.

This book is recommendable to any interested reader, and should be known to a bigger audience. A story so exciting is quite hard to find these days. If you’re looking for a great book, this is it.

Thomas, from University College School London

The Poison Boy is about an orphan called Dalton Fly who is a food taster to the rich. During the novel, Dalton gets poisoned and his friend Jinks is killed and he meets a girl called Scarlet, a high born girl whose life he saves. He sets out to find the murderers.

Other than Dalton and Scarlet the main characters are; Sal Sleepwell Dalton’s friend, Pallis Tench and Doone de Bello who are his enemies. There are also Edward Honeycut, Isis Holt, a girl called Luke and Eyesdown who are his companions in the book.

The main settings in this book are Dalton’s house, Scarlet’s house and Midwater and the de Bello house. The one that is easiest to imagine is Midwater because it is extremely well described as the writer depicts the dark features and it sounds like a prison. 

The main themes of the book are hatred, as shown in the relationship between Dalton and Tench and companionship as seen between Dalton and his friends.

Fletcher Moss writes in a very unusual style, this is because a lot of the dialogue is ‘the speak of the city’ which consists of some words we don’t use so the reader has to keep referring to the list of words at the back of the book. I found that device both good and bad. It was good because it kept me interested but it was bad as I was constantly flicking to the back and I sometimes lost my place once having to re-read a whole chapter!

The things I liked about this novel were the plot which kept me engaged and the small jokes which were often included. Things I didn’t really like included the language as mentioned above, the elongated dialogue which I found a bit longwinded and occasionally I didn’t understand the author’s use of language.

To conclude, I would recommend this book to both boys and girls who are between 11 and 13-years-old as I think the plot would appeal to this age group. I also think the language would be too hard for younger children to understand.