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The Hollow Bettle by Susannah Appelbaum
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The Hollow Bettle (2009)

by Susannah Appelbaum

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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. ( )
  sensitivemuse | Nov 29, 2011 |
After the poisoning of his daughter, King Verdigris of Caux turned his back on his kingdom and hasn't been seen since. This has left Caux at the mercy of King and Queen Nightshade ( the Deadly Nightshades). Caux used to be a country of apotheopaths who used herbs and other plants to heal. Now they are a country of poisoners with the motto: Poison or be poisoned. Everyone has their own taster - a graduate of the Taster's Guild.
11 year old Ivy Manx (aka Poison Ivy) lives with her Uncle Cecil above his pub, The Hollow Bettle. Uncle Cecil is the last apotheopath healer in Caux. Uncle Cecil wants Ivy to become a healer. Ivy likes poisons. She spends her time experimenting with poisons and trying to recreate the perfume of Queen Nightshade.
One day, Cecil takes an elixir to the castle in an attempt to heal the King. He leaves Ivy in the care of a taster, Sorrel Flux. When her uncle has been missing for a year Ivy decides to find him. With the help of Rowan ( a taster on the run from the law), Axelrod (an author and trestleman) and a copy of his book :The Field Guide to the Poisons of Caux; she sets out for the castle.
This is the first book in a planned trilogy. I enjoyed the book and would read the rest of the series. It was fairly well written and the world building, while not great , seems promising. I bought the book because I'm interested in plants and herbs. I'm hoping plants and herbs play a larger role in the next two books than they did in this first book. ( )
  VioletBramble | May 29, 2010 |
The Hollow Beetle is the first book in the new trilogy The Poisons of Caux by Susanna Applebaum. The story follows the adventures of healer in training Ivy Manx as she journeys through the kingdom of Caux, a land which has forgotten the arts of kindness and trust turning instead to the craftiness of poisons, and eleven-year-old Ivy just may be the kingdom’s only hope for salvation. The catch is that, as of yet, young Ivy is oblivious to the whole affair, content to skirt her studies and experiment with poisons. So with the help of an errant taster Ivy begins a slow journey to unlock history’s secrets. She soon ends up learning more than she ever bargained for, and her need to discover the truth just might end in the failure of her destiny.

The Hollow Beetle is a fun book for middle readers filled with dry humor. However, I felt it was over laden with ostentatious vocabulary. Susanna Applebaum has a simple writing style that was not to my personal taste, yet she manages to provide an interesting and engaging tale. Her characters are a bit flat, but the book ends with the expectation of further development in future sequels. It is a good book for young readers; just do not expect anything more than a superficial adventure story. ( )
  Saieeda | Aug 28, 2009 |
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Epigraph
"If you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison,' it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later."  -Alice's Adventure in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
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to my father, the Winds of Caux
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Many things begin with an end, and the story of Caux is no exception.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375851739, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:50 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Eleven-year-old Ivy Manx sets out with her new friend, a young "taster," to find her missing uncle, an outlawed healer, in the dangerous kingdom of Caux where magic, herbs, and poisons rule.

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