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Birth of a Warrior (Spartan Quest) Hardcover – November 25, 2008


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Series: Spartan Quest
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Childrens (November 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802797946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802797940
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #637,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—Despite his victory at the annual Festival Games, Lysander struggles as the responsibilities of his Spartan heritage come into conflict with his old life as a Helot villager. Forced to prove his loyalty to Sparta by inflicting a deadly beating on his best friend, he is determined to keep his strong connection to his mother's people a secret. As he fights with the challenges of being a child of parents with different backgrounds, he isn't quite sure of how to prove his worthiness to his father's family while holding on to his old friends from his mother's village. In this sequel to The Fire of Ares (Walker, 2008), Ford continues the story of a son's brave attempt to embrace his father's warrior culture. From the brutal beatings to the life-threatening training at the hands of the cruel leaders of their Spartan academy, Lysander must use a combination of cunning and wit to overcome the many enemies who surround him. When he joins the battle with his father's people in a war against a mighty Persian army, readers are taken on an exciting journey through this young man's coming-of-age. Packed with action and adventure from start to finish, this story is designed to appeal to a wide range of middle-graders, who will surely look forward to another installment of this exciting tale set in ancient Greece.—Caryl Soriano, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

'A fast paced, gripping novel ... Historical detail is here in plenty and feels very authentic, but the telling also abounds with the lyrical quality of myth and legend' The School Librarian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Michael Ford was born in the north of England in 1980. He read English and Classics at Worcester College, Oxford, and now works as an adult and children's fiction editor in London.

Q&A with Michael Ford
Author of The Poisoned House

Where/how did you come up with the idea for The Poisoned House?
The Poisoned House started with a character, Abigail, who is the lowest of the low in a Victorian house: an orphaned girl servant and practically a slave. Originally, I saw the book as a straightforward adventure and triumph-over-adversity story, and I wrote the first chapter quickly-- a foiled escape attempt. I had an idea of most of the book's characters as the archetypal servants who would be found in a well-off Victorian household--scullery maid, butler, footman, cook, parlour maid, housekeeper, etc. It was only later, after I saw Susan Hill's famous ghost story The Woman in Black on stage in London, that I introduced the next character--the ghostly presence. The ghost is an ally to Abigail, but a frightening one sometimes.

I've always loved ghost stories too, like Henry James' classic The Turn of the Screw, and short Victorian spine-tinglers by writers like MR James and JS Le Fanu. There's something about Victorian London, shrouded in smog, that just screams spookiness. The Victorian era played host to great advances in science and medicine, and where that met the Victorian obsession with death and spirituality, chilling stories emerged--like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. More recently, Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger and Michelle Paver's Dead Matter have shown there's a real vogue for historical ghostly tales.

How did you research your book?
Thankfully, at the time I was writing The Poisoned House, I lived in London, where the book is set. Reminders and resources about Victorian culture are everywhere in London. Above our heads, Victorian buildings tower, and below our feet, the system of sewers is one built by the Victorian engineer Joseph Bazalgette. I don't know anywhere else in the world where history is as messily layered as London. I did much of the writing of TPH in the Guildhall Library, which has a large reference section relating to the development of London since pre-Roman times. The Guildhall itself has been on its current site since Anglo-Saxon times, and parts of the current building date from the 15th century. It's built on the site of an old Roman amphitheatre.

I consulted numerous books on Victorian life. The journalist Henry Mayhew wrote an important series of studies called London Labour and the London Poor, in which he describes all of the different lowly characters one might come across in London, from mudlark (people who sifted through the filthy banks of the River Thames for any detritus of value), to chimney-sweeps and chestnut-sellers. There are also very helpful materials online, such as the Dictionary of Victorian London, which is full of primary sources about everyday life, from the make-up of household cleaning products to the cost of Hackney carriages. I visited Victorian buildings such as Carlyle House in the Chelsea district of London, where the eminent Victorian historian Thomas Carlyle lived. The National Trust has maintained the house in its original condition, with furniture and wallpaper as it was in the nineteenth century. I also read several fantastic books on life as a Victorian servant, including the famous Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management.

Who's your favorite character in The Poisoned House?
It has to be Mrs. Cotton, the sadistic housekeeper who hates the main character Abigail. It's always the baddies in books whom I like the most! They're the most fun to write, too--I wanted to create a character in the classic Dickensian mould of being genuinely wicked. Mrs. Cotton rules over the house with an iron fist--she's the sister to Lord Greave's dead wife and gradually she's trying to assume the role of lady of the house. While Lord Greave languishes upstairs, she hosts dinner parties and even wears her sister's old clothes and jewelry. In Victorian households, the staff structure was very rigid and hierarchical, but Mrs. Cotton abuses that. She's greedy and grasping, and while trying to improve her own position, she keeps the rest of the servants in place, terrorizing them into doing her will. Abi particularly, with no power or wealth of her own, is treated almost like a slave.

How long did it take you to write The Poisoned House?
I wrote the book mainly on Wednesdays and Saturdays over a period of about six months. I tend to work best in the morning, and follow the maxim, "get it written, then get it right," i.e. don't try and polish the writing on the first draft. I try to plot my stories quite carefully in advance (that's especially important when writing mysteries, otherwise one can get in a terrible tangle), so I'd have a fairly good idea what happens in each chapter--what Abigail has to discover, and what clues to lay for the reader.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Since I was about 16 years old. Before that I wanted to be an archaeologist (well, I wanted to be Indiana Jones!). I had one particularly great English teacher at school (thanks, Mr. Andrew!), who really encouraged me to read widely. I first realized I had a love of literature when we read John Milton's Paradise Lost and Shakespeare's Macbeth. Most of the books I enjoyed then were poetry: Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Simon Armitage. I wrote some poems at the time and showed them to Mr. Andrew. He was undeservedly kind.

Who are your favorite children's authors?
I didn't read so many children's books when I was a boy, but I read all of Roald Dahl's books at a young age. He's still, for me, one of the greatest and most imaginative writers who ever lived. I also loved Willard Price's adventure stories about two brothers, Hal and Roger, who travel around the world collecting animals. They haven't really stood the test of time, though, because there wasn't much of a conservation message--I seem to remember they occasionally snatched animals from their natural habitats for circuses!

Now that I write for young readers I read a lot more books for that age group. I think anything by Neil Gaiman is brilliant, and I thought Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy was fantastic. I read quite a lot of books that are aimed at girls, too--as a boy I secretly loved Enid Blyton's Mallory Towers, about a girls' boarding school!

Do you believe in ghosts?
The rational part of me says no, of course not! But I think I've seen one. I was on holiday with friends, staying in a cliff-top villa in Sicily. We were eating dinner and suddenly a little girl of about seven or eight years old appeared behind my friends on the other side of the table. She skipped along behind them, then vanished! It wasn't exactly scary, but it certainly made an impression - my friends all saw the blood drain out of my face. We were eating a lot of seafood though, so perhaps it wasn't all that fresh!

As the variety of ghost stories shows, ghosts mean different things to different people. If a person or moment from the past "haunts" us or stays with us, that can have just as much effect psychologically as seeing a "real" ghost.

What are you writing next?
I've always got several ideas on the burner. As well as writing books in the Beast Quest series by Adam Blade with other writers. I'm working on a sci-fi series for younger readers and a sci-fi spy thriller for adults. I left Abigail's story slightly open-ended, but I doubt there'll be a sequel. One day I might revisit Victorian London from the perspective of another character--probably a girl from the other end of society's spectrum.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write as often and as much as you can, read the writers you love, and try to get feedback not just from people who love you. All three things will help you improve. Writing is like playing a musical instrument--it takes a lot of practice.

The Poisoned House by Michael Ford
978-0-8075-6589-6 $16.99
Ages 13-up
September 2011
Jacketed Hardcover

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Nice Trilogy of ancient Sparta.
Paul Stammer
There is some wonderful conflict as Lysander starts to find friendship in unexpected places.
Sir Furboy
We waited patiently for this book to come out, and pre-ordered it.
NM Mom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By NM Mom on June 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My 10.5-year-old son loved this book! He is a VERY reluctant reader. He finished the 1st book in this series, Fire of Ares, in two days! We waited patiently for this book to come out, and pre-ordered it. He read it in even less time! Now the 3rd book is out, and I just ordered it for him. I am always looking for books that my son will be interested in. He has always been interested in ancient warriors, such as Vikings, Knights, Pirates ... and now Gladiators! He told me that in this book, the main character, a young Spartan slave, probably between the ages of 11 and 15, loses his grandfather and mother. Now he is all alone. My son is very sensitive, and is pretty upset about the deaths. We will see what happens to him in the next book. I highly recommend this book/series for boys.
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By Wendy Sengupta on February 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love Greek information, this gives book gives me even more information about the Greeks. It deserves a five-star rating.
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By Chenuse Aitchedji on October 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Just like the first I love it I now know about the journey lysander went through to become a Spartan
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By Paul Stammer on October 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nice Trilogy of ancient Sparta. Well done. Easy. To read. Read all three Good story line Interesting. Would like to see a follow up series
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By Michael Huseman on June 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This book was amazing! The very night I finished it I bought the third book to the series. It has a little blood but it is not all that bad. The most amazing historical-fiction book I ever read!
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By Carter on February 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
WOW this was so great. I didn't have a favorite part. They were all great parts. 4 words for you, This book was AWESOME
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