Basic story: There is war and there traitors in war. Owen ,the son of a duke is taken hostage by the king to ensure his fathers loyalty. Forced to live in the Kings palace with a few other unlucky children Owen and the others become the Kings food testers. Soon Owen makes a friend with the queens poisoner and she is doing everything to keep Owen alive while trying to stay hidden herself. Along the way Owen meets a young girl who shares adventures within the palace and on one adventure Owen catches his first glance at Magic.
Magic: It is barely used in this book. If I had to guess the number of times it was mentioned or used I would say no more than 7 times. The magic comes from a power of the fountain. Very few have it and you must find a way to build it up by doing something everyday.
Characters: Decently engaging. At the start of each chapter you get a paragraph of someone's journal which was interesting. I found there really was not one dry character.
Flaws: If you are a thinker while reading books you might notice timelines do not match up in one area. It is quick and only mentioned once so it really was not that big of a deal. I will not say what it was because you might be tempted to look for it. Aside from that the only real flaw was the lack of action... There was none. No fights, no wars, no buildup, no adventures (besides the very first chapter of book where father explains why his family is in trouble). The story is completely told inside the castle.
The ending of this book left the next book open to Owen actually using his power. I will say this though, the way the author is going with this book you can assume little action in the next book and is just a story of him playing with his friend while learning magic. It will be this story again but with no king. If that is the case then I probably won't buy the book. Hope the author skips a few years and jumps to Owen learning the sword, harnessing his magic, going to war, and plotting against the king.