Fantasy · Middle Grade

The Poison Eaters by Holly Black [P3]

Hey guys! We are now at the halfway point for The Poison Eaters and Other Short Stories! Today’s titles are The Dog King and Virgin. After reading these two stories I actually had to take a break and during this break, I was thinking about what I could say about them. The only thing that really came to mind, though, was to say they were confusing, especially the second story.

poison eaterOut of the two, I have to say that The Dog King was actually my favorite. The Dog King is a short story about wolves and how they’re seen in the city of Dunbardain. Outside of the city wolves are feared creatures that trick humans and kill without reason. Inside the city, wolves are seen as an attraction and the people love to wear wolf skins, make wolf statues, and place bets on wolves in dogfights.

Then we get a closer view of the life of a particular wolf – the King’s wolf. Like the tales, Elienad can shapeshift and blend in with humans. Taking advantage of this trait, the King raises Elienad and makes him his spy.

As children and commoners start dying, the King proclaims that whoever can slay the culprit (which according to evidence is a wolf) will rule after him. With this Toran, one of the favored knights becomes an active hunter and eventually comes across the culprit. Severing its arm, he presents it to the King, however, instead of finding a paw covered in blood, the King finds himself staring at a woman’s hand.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this story was the world that we’re placed into.

Having Elienad as a shape-shifting wolf spy for the King with very little resistance was really interesting to me. Wolves are usually portrayed as being really explosive, passionate, and even killers, but here we have a very calm, calculating, and level headed Elienad. Also worshiping wolves in the way that Dunbardainians do was almost comical. They felt safe doing so because the wolves were locked up. There was no danger when there was a gate protecting them, but then one of them weaseled into their wold, pretended to be one of them, and has caused mischief.

The one thing that I didn’t particularly like (and the part that left me confused) was how Elienad went from being so submissive to usurping the King. I know there were many times where he overheard talk about his origins that made him suspect he was being lied to and then speaking with the murderer of the children gave him a few answers, but still, I can’t help but wonder what I missed.

And I think my answer lies in this quote:

You are not the only wolf he has kept, but the first one was grown when he got her. She died rather than became his pet. You are nothing but an animal to him.

Still, it was an enjoyable read and it would be interesting to see more from this world, especially with Elienad as King! I mean, he just didn’t seem like he wanted to be King.


When I first started reading this book, for some reason, I thought this was intended for a younger audience. And by that, I was thinking early teens so about 7-8th grade. It probably has to do with how simple the writing style is. That’s also probably why I said: ‘ I know this is a teen’s book so something gory or explicit wouldn’t be the best course of action but I think it could have gone better’ in my previous review.

Of course, then I realized this is a young adult book so the age range is actually different. As to why I’m mentioning this now…these two stories just really brought the rating up, especially Virgin.

Virgin is a story about Zachary, a strange boy that tells our protagonist Jen about Unicorns and how they’re real. About a strong attraction between them and how they end up going their separate ways.

Out of all the stories, this is probably my least favorite. The reason being that it’s the more grounded in reality. I mean, unicorns are very real. Real indeed. 😛

The reason I felt it was the most realistic is that we have Jen, who has run away from her foster home and is now living with her friend Tanya and her boyfriend in an abandoned building and she just has a strong feeling of wanting to belong, to be an individual that others care for, to have someone for yourself, and even a sense of monopolizing a loved one. She thinks about things that a real person has thought at least once and just acts very normal.

“What are you reading?” I stumbled over the words, realizing halfway through the sentence I’d already asked that.

Which is nice but not my cup of tea. I will say that this story confused me, especially near the end where the actual fantasy element was added.

So sorry for keeping the last story so vague but there really wasn’t much that happened. Anywho, this is 6 stories down and 6 to go!

Until next time~

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