The first thing that I'm going to say about "The Poison Throne" is that I'm not entirely sure which genre it's meant to be in. I assumed it was fantasy from the style of the cover. I continued to believe it was fantasy until It had an Italian character. In the interview with the author at the back of the book it says that it is set in Europe, although in mediaeval times. So I'm going to label it as "Historic Fantasy". It reads like a fantasy, and I believe it is at heart, but there are a few areas that overlap with the real world (The settings, and the christian followors of Jesu Christi).
Speaking of settings, the book only really has one. The royal palace/keep. Other than a brief period on the road to and from this palace at the beginning and end of the story, all of the action takes place within the grounds of the building. To me, this limited the book somewhat, as the unchanging setting made the book seem slow paced, and not in the traditional fantasy style, which is what I was expecteing. (Although as I said, I found some confusion with the Genre).
The strongest point of the novel is the characterisation of all the major characters. The characters are so well described, the relationships between them are well defined, if not explained initially, and the characteristics are believably realistic. The most moving scene, and the one with the most impact, is the first "departure" scene, where one of the main characters leaves the rest. The emotion in that scene is exquisitely written, and draws emotion from the reader. AUTHOR should be extremely proud of her characters. In some ways they are more realistic than any other characters that I remember reading, as their motives and emotions change and twist from scene to scene, particularly the King's, whilst all the time remaining true to the personality of the character. AUTHOR seems to find a way to let us see all sides of a character.
Except for Wynter and Lorcan, the main character and her father, who are undeniably good, each character has a changing and undefined place on the scale of right and wrong. None of the supporting characters are clearly defined as either, but reside in the grey area between good and evil. This again supports the realism of the novel, and while commendable, leads to confusion as to who the real antagonist is. As it is, I'm not sure.
This lack of antagonist is one of the things that contribute to the poor quality of the books plot. Essentially, the novel chronicles Wynter's time in the palace, where things have changed since she was last there. As the novel takes it's course, we don't find really find out why things have changed, although there are hints, while all the time, the palace is still changing. But there are few action scenes, or major events, and so the overall storyline is slow-paced, and towards the beginning easier to put down than I normally find fantasy books.
Having said that, The book is easy to read, and although it is easy to put down, it is also easy to pick up again. While the plot and pace of this book wasn't brillant, it is the first in The Moorehawke Trilogy, and the evidence suggest to a stronger plot and a faster pace in the next book. Despite the shortcomings of this first one, I look forwards to reading the second book, especially if it is as well written with as strong characterisation.