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The Poisons of Caux: The Hollow Bettle (Book I) [Paperback]

Susannah Appelbaum , Jennifer Taylor
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

July 13 2010 The Poisons of Caux (Book 1)
Introducing a witty and macabre new fantasy trilogy.

There's little joy left in the kingdom of Caux: the evil King Nightshade rules with terrible tyranny and the law of the land is poison or be poisoned. Worse, eleven-year-old Ivy’s uncle, a famous healer, has disappeared, and Ivy sets out to find him, joined by a young taster named Rowan. But these are corrupt times, and the children—enemies of the realm—are not alone. What exactly do Ivy and Rowan’s pursuers want? Is it Ivy’s prized red bettle, which, unlike any other gemstone in Caux, appears—impossibly—to be hollow? Is it the elixir she concocted—the one with the mysterious healing powers? Or could it be Ivy herself?

Told with wry humor, The Hollow Bettle is the first installment in the Poisons of Caux trilogy, an astonishing tale of herbs and magic, tasters and poisoners.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Review

Review, Publishers Weekly, August 17, 2009
“Bewitching. . . . Debut author Appelbaum’s stylish, atmospheric prose is well matched by Taylor’s warm interior illustrations. . . . Caux is an enchanting, unusual setting that echoes the complexity of its heroes and villains alike. ‘High above the tallest trees, you can feel the land’s misfortune,’ Appelbaum writes. ‘You might feel it even pulling you in."

Review, Booklist, June 1, 2009
“A deeply satisfying, humor-laced quest with elements of wizardry and herbology, deeds of a dastardly nature, and ultimately, redemption. Similar in tone but not as darkly Dickensian as Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, this adventure pulses with imaginatively named characters, gratifying close calls, and a landscape that is vividly alive. Readers, individually or as part of a read-aloud experience, will savor young Ivy’s expedition and eagerly await more adventures in the land of Caux.”

Review, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, November 2009
“A true epic quest. . . . The carefully described morbid, darkly elegant setting and a well-developed cast of intriguing and subtle characters add depth and balance to the quick pace and sarcastic tone of the book. The resulting novel is at once rollicking adventure and thoughtful fantasy.”

Review, VOYA,
“Appelbaum’s first novel quickly captures the imagination. [Readers] will not want to wait to see what happens to Ivy and Rowan in the second installment of this trilogy.”

Review, Chicago Tribune, August 15, 2009
“Witty . . . Ivy and Rowan encounter a lively assemblage of eccentrics, bound to return in later volumes of the Poisons of Caux trilogy.”


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Susannah Appelbaum lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and their two young children. This is her first novel.


From the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt
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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting world, take it or leave it Nov. 29 2011
By Karoline TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
What I really liked was the world building. The journey Rowan and Ivy go through was well described and their encounters with different characters was well done. I loved the different settings and their adventure seemed to get even more exciting as the book was nearing to a close. How the setting came about, and the introduction to this story was well done. I liked how the setting was established, with a nice concise history on how King Nightshade came about. It's almost told in a fairy tale narrative - which was well done, and there were plenty of witty phrases to enjoy (all throughout the novel as well). The idea of the bettles are interesting, but what I really liked was that the use of poison was all over the place in this land. It was different and I thought it was rather clever, definitely something you don't see in a lot of fantasy middle grade fiction out there.

The characters in this book were also well done. Ivy and Rowan do make an interesting team. The plot was good, although a little slow moving at first. However once Ivy and Rowan teamed up on their journey, it got more interesting thanks to the different settings described, and the various memorable characters they encounter on their journey (Poppy really stood out! I thought it was cute).

The idea of this book is a creative one. It's told with a nice whimsical flair to it, but it took a while to get used to this style of writing. I'm not sure why, but the pace seemed slower and with the writing style (perhaps it was a little too whimsical) the book just seemed to go at a snail's pace. That being said though, I still thought it was an enjoyable book and it does pick up the pace after a third of the story. I'll probably continue this series, I'd like to know what happens next, yet I'm not really in a rush to read it. I'd say take it or leave it with this book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hollow Bettle - fantasy with a toxic twist Sept. 22 2009
By Trista Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Fans of plucky, precocious heroines like the Golden Compass' Lyra Bellaqua will fall in love with Ivy Manx.

Ivy is the young star of The Hollow Bettle, the first book in Susannah Appelbaum's Poisons of Caux trilogy. She lives in a world that has fallen on dark times, in which the rule is poison or be poisoned. When her uncle disappears, Ivy and a young friend set out to find him, winding their way through a tale of herbs, magic, royalty, dangerous plots and rumors of paradise.

The Hollow Bettle uses a few fantasy cliches - the orphaned child, the prophesy - but everything else about Appelbaum's world is so unique that it gives these tired traditions new life. Between the solid plot, entertaining characters, splashes of humor and Appelbaum's approachable style, young adult fantasy fans will find this one hard to put down.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful fantasy Oct. 20 2009
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Susannah Appelbaum's THE POISONS OF CAUX: THE HOLLOW BETTLE tells of eleven-year-old ivy Manx, who lives in the kingdom of Caux where evil King Nightshade rules and the land is poison or be poisoned. Ivy's beloved uncle and protector has vanished leaving her with a crow and an inept taster who sleeps - it's time for her to find him in a dangerous journey across a deadly land. A powerful fantasy evolves.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an incredible book! Aug. 23 2011
By am - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has such vivid imagery and details such imaginative characters and scenes. You can get lost in this book - it is akin to JRR Tolkien's books or Harry Potter. Ivy is such an inspiring young character, especially for girls but commands respect from boys as well. My 4th grader loved this book and can't wait to read the next one. This book is really well suited for elementary school aged children who can read very well but need appropriate content for their age. As an adult I found this to be a great read and wish there were more thoughtful books like this published.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Addictive!! April 4 2011
By M. Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a mother who screens everything her 11-year-old reads I was truly tickled by "The Hollow Bettle", the first book in "The Poisons of Caux" series by Susannah Appelbaum. Yes, it's a series, and I had been heartily looking for a change from those - but the story is original to the point that we can't wait to get our hands now on Book 2. Anyone who's enjoyed Flavia DeLuce's mysteries by Alan Bradley and Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" will get a giggle out of "The Hollow Bettle." (See below) I can't wait to see if better bettles will battle poisoned batter in the future ... Yes, it's that kind of book! Said daughter enjoyed it so much, she chose to submit her review of it as a class assignment!

"Imagine living in a world where everyone is dedicated to the thought of poisoning his next victim. And in that world, only one small girl with a big passion for poison can save this world from destruction. This new world is introduced in 'The Hollow Bettle' by Susannah Appelbaum which is the first book in the new fiction series, 'Poisons of Caux.' At first, you might think that this book will center around the crow and the book illustrated on the cover. However, you will be surprised when you read the book and realize that you really shouldn't judge a book by its cover.
The world of Caux is ruled a truly evil couple called the Deadly Nightshades and filled with boars who hunt for bettles in snowy mountains and tasters whose job is to make sure that their clients' food is not poisoned. Citizens of Caux live only by one rule of thumb: "poison or be poisoned." We are told it wasn't like that at all a few years ago. It was only when the king's daughter was poisoned and the king went into deep mourning, the land's dark side started to emerge. That's why when eleven-year-old Ivy Manx's uncle disappears a year before her eleventh birthday and leaves Ivy with the worst babysitter ever, Sorrel Flux, Ivy knows all is not right. Flux is also a horrible taster who cannot even taste for poison in his soup to save his own life as well as has a penchant for napping. However, after Flux poisons 20 men in her uncle's tavern, Ivy and a newly-graduated taster from the famed Taster's Guild named Rowan manage to escape to find refuge with Ivy's friend, Axlerod D. Roux, author of the best selling series: A Field Guide to the Poisons of Caux. Axle leads them to his mysterious friend, Clothilde, and a lovely bettle boar called Poppy.

"The author of this new trilogy, Susannah Appelbaum, is a first-time author. She comes from a family of doctors and philosophers which 'instilled in her both an early fascination and a great deal of caution with bottles marked `Poison'', according to her website. The idea for the trilogy blossomed while she was living in an old wood cutters cottage in the French apple country, where 'Out the door were ancient forests, wild boars and new and inviting foods to taste.'

"I personally thought that the book, while still refreshingly original, was a mix of Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce books about eleven-year-old Flavia De Luce who also has a fascination with poisons and Philip Pullman's 'The Golden Compass' in how Clothilde turned out to be more than Axle's mysterious friend with long white hair. The illustrations throughout the book by Jennifer Taylor were perfect for the world of Caux, which seemed to have been drawn out of old nursery rhymes, and Susannah Appelbaum's writing is vividly descriptive of the setting and the characters' emotions and personalities: Queen Nightshade, for example, on p. 347, 'was known for her awful experiments with turtledoves baked in pies. She did terrible things with cute bunnies and vinegar. She raced turtles into the soup pot ...' Since I am a vegetarian, this has to be one of the saddest parts of the book, but I went right along with the macabre humor, laughing out loud at the over-the-top imagery.

"I also thought that the cover of the book depicting Shoo the crow, poison ivy and cinquefoil flowers was wonderful. It was a clever touch to include a little red bug in the picture, but no bettle. What is a bettle, anyway? How does Ivy save the kingdom, find her uncle and discover her hollow bettle is pretty special? Guess you have to read the book to find out!"

REFERENCES & CITATIONS:
Appelbaum, Susannah; The Hollow Bettle
[...]
Bradley, Alan; The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Bradley, Alan; The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag
[...]
Pullman, Philip; The Golden Compass (also published as Northern Lights)
[...]
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magic, poison and danger Oct. 30 2009
By J. Grambo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In the kingdom of Caux, poisoning is the norm, and Ivy Manx is worried. When her beloved uncle Cecil went on a journey a year ago, she took over running his tavern, the Hollow Bettle. But that was a year ago, and Ivy decides it is time to go search for him. Accompanied by her pet crow, the tavern's Taster, and her own inept Taster, Ivy sets out and is almost immediately pursued by King Nightshade's deadly sentries. With magical help from a diminutive trestleman, they evade the sentries and an Outrider, then continue on their dangerous trip.

Girls will love the bold personality of feisty Ivy. Boys will love the incredibly disgusting meal Queen Artilla prepares for Ivy and her traveling companions, beginning with an appetizer of live eels, slick and gooey. "The eels slithered busily around the tabletop, leaving the diners the unpleasant task of spearing them with their forks."

Magic and wicked characters abound, but the bright countenance of Ivy shines through it all. Great fun, and an awesome start for a planned trilogy.
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