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The Poison Master [Mass Market Paperback]

Liz Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 2003
Liz Williams is one of science fiction’s boldest new writers and this novel is one of her most profound speculations on freedom, love, and human destiny. On a distant world ruled by an alien race, humanity is enslaved, having forgotten its own past and condemned to have no future--until one woman is offered a choice that could restore humanity’s freedom.

The Poison Master

On the planet of Latent Emanation, humans are the lowest class, at the mercy of their mysterious alien rulers, the Lords of Night. But Alivet Dee, an alchemist, can’t help but question the Lords’ rule ever since her twin sister was taken to serve in their palace. Alivet saves every penny to pay her sister’s unbonding fee, but her plan is destroyed when one of her potions kills a wealthy client--and Alivet finds herself wanted for murder. Her only hope is the darkly attractive man who may have engineered her downfall but who still offers her a last chance of salvation.

A Poison Master from the planet Hathes, Arieth Mahedi Ghairen needs an alchemist of Alivet’s expertise to find the one drug that can take down the Lords--and free the universe from their rule. Sequestered in Ghairen’s fortress laboratory, lied to by both her new ally and his daughter’s enigmatic governess, Alivet doesn’t know whom to trust or where to turn for answers. But driven to undo her sister’s fate, Alivet races to hone her skills in time--even as time runs out.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Gutsy Alivet Dee sets out to save her sister from alien slavery but ends up rescuing much more in this fantastic, whirlwind tale. A descendent of 16th-century mathematician and alchemist John Dee, Alivet resides on a planet known as Latent Emanation, a foggy fen where humans live under the rule of the cruel Lords of Night. When the Lords select Alivet's twin, Inki, to serve as their slave, Alivet, a budding apothecary and alchemist who longs to discover the origin of her people, vows to pay Inki's "unbonding" fee. Before she can save enough money, a bizarre accident puts her life in jeopardy and leads her to form a tenuous alliance with the Poison Master, a secretive man possessing red eyes, an intimate knowledge of deadly toxins and a desire to find the substance that will annihilate the Lords. During her quest, Alivet visits two richly imagined planets: Hathes, a bitterly cold place where assassination is commonplace; and Nethes, a hot planet where Alivet first learns of Earth. The book's various cultures and characters are fascinating, but what makes this story unusual is its historical breadth and its consideration of the spiritual and supernatural. Part alien adventure and part existential exploration, this top-notch tale establishes Williams (Empire of Bones) as an author to watch.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

On the planet Latent Emanation, alchemist Alivet saves every penny she earns for her sister's unbonding fee. Unfortunately, her plan to save her sister from the Night Lords crumbles when a client dies as a result of one of her formulations. Thereafter, on the run from the Night Lords' human minions, the Unpriests, she is offered a chance for survival by the mysterious figure she had noticed following her around the city--Ghairen, a poison master from Hathes. He needs her alchemical skills to find the drug to destroy the Night Lords. She agrees to help, but then, as a virtual prisoner in Ghairen's home, told conflicting stories by everyone she meets, she becomes unsure of whom to trust. She remains certain, however, that destroying the Night Lords will free her sister, and she determines that that is what she will do, whatever the truth of the tales she has been told. The alchemical and kabbalistic underpinnings of Williams' fantasy world give it an edge over similar rescue sagas. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Gothic and The Theatrical Oct. 29 2003
By Sires
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Described in the biographical paragraph in the back of the book as the daughter of a stage musician and gothic novelist, it sounds like Liz Williams could be a character in one of her own books.
I recommend this book particularly for those who enjoy the Baroque and who have a strong ability to visual the scenes described. The alchemical imagery meshes well with the culture that has arisen from the combination of Elizabethan era dessenters and alien culture. There's also a great sense of the theatrical in the descriptions of the Anubes-- enigmatic natives of the planet where the humans find themselves, and the great palaces where certain indentured humans labor to provide their alien masters with subtle pleasures.
Also there is a darkly humorous take on the traditional gothic novel in the relationship between the lead characters and the situation the heroine discovers herself in for the last part of the novel. While serious in intent, the author is quite playful in execution of parts of this novel.
All in all a definite reading pleasure.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Seeps Into Your Veins Aug. 13 2003
By Phome
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Poison Master is the story of an alchemist, Dee. She lives on a faraway planet with weird creatures and strange beliefs. Dee is trying to save money to rescue her sister from the hands of the Lords when one of her clients suddenly dies after taking some of Dee's drug concoctions. Dee does the only thing she can - she runs ... straight into the arms of a stranger from another planet, Ari, who says he can save her. But, there is something a little odd about Ari, the Poison Master.
Despite it all, Dee agrees to help him destroy the Lords and travels to Ari's planet, when his household help tells Dee that Ari is actually planning to poison her after they achieve their goal. The question is, whom should Dee believe, since she really knows neither party very well.
Liz Williams demonstrates sophisticated story telling skills. The dialogue runs smoothly and the story is captivating. In addition, she has some imagination! One of the reasons it took me so long to get into this book was due to all the strange references and situations/creatures that Dee runs into to. There is a small parallel story, running back to Earth's 16th century which adds interest, and though it was probably not really necessary, it completes the story.
Four stars for imagination, writing and characters. I would have liked a smoother storyline transition and more characters to give a fully fledged fantasy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An edgy tale March 3 2003
By lb136
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In "The Poison Master" Liz Williams, author of two "social-science fiction" novels ("The Ghost Sister," "Empire of Bones"), now turns her cynical attention to borderline fantasy. Dedicated to Jane Austen, William Burroughs, and Jack Vance (you hardly need to have the Vance connection spelled out for you), the author cleverly weaves together speculations about a historical figure, Elizabethan alchemist-astrologer John Dee, and the fictional Alivet Dee, a distant ancestor, who works as an alchemist on a planet called "Latent Emanation."
Plot mechanations soon throw her into the arms of the mysterious, witty poison-master Ghairen from yet another planet, Hathes, and soon Alivet is drawn up in a plot to free her world of the mysterious Lords of Night and their collaborators, the "Unpriests"--and more than incidentally to free her twin sister Inki.
She's attracted to Ghairen, but can she trust him? Williams spins out the answers cleverly, gorgeously, giddily. The byplay between Alivet and Ghairen is to treasure. Her descriptive passages are lush. Her prose dances and sparkles and the characters (unsurprisingly considering the debt to Austen) seem believable and all too human.
Williams just keeps getting better and better.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
Centuries ago on the orb Latent Emanation, the alien Lords of the Night made the planet their own with 1,000 humans as their servant slaves. In the present, the Lords rule with an iron grip abetted by the human Unpriests who willingly serve their masters while the rest of humanity swells as second class citizens, knowing that anytime they can be enbonded, forced to directly serve their masters.
Alchemist and apothecary Alivet Dee is saving her money to get her sister Inki unbonded but her goal seems futile when one of her clients dies and she is wanted for murder. On the run she meets Fifth Grade poisoner Ari Mahedi Ghairen of the planet Hathes who needs her help in destroying the Lords of the Night. She travels with him to his own world where they devise a poison that might free her world of her enemies. However, first she must discover if Ari is the friend he appears or the enemy that will kill her as predicted to her by one whom knows him very well.
Liz Williams has created a very innovating, cutting edge science fiction thriller that starts off at supersonic speed and turns into faster than light until the plot attains a satisfying if startling climax. The hero is an enigma who readers never really get to understand but the heroine endears herself to the audience from the start with her plans to reclaim her sister from indentured servitude. THE POISON MASTER is science fiction at its thought provoking very best.
Harriet Klausner
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