Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder Book Review
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Once ruled by a King, Ixia has been overtaken by the Commander. All magic has been outlawed and any found to possess it will be put to death. A new Code of Behavior has been put in place, and while it may seem like a harsh world to outsiders, everyone has their place in the newly built society. And the new Code has saved Yelena’s life, allowing her a slim chance of freedom. Imprisoned for murder, Yelena is sentenced to death. But as she is led to the gallows she is given a choice. As the next slated for execution she can either proceed to her appointed death or become the new poison taster. Grasping at the chance to live, Yelena agrees to become the new taster. But there are those who will never forget the murder she committed. As Yelena must stay on guard against poisoned food, she must also protect herself from those who would exact their revenge.
Poison Study is a unique story, where much of the politics and back door deals are heard in snippets from Yelena’s viewpoint as she taste tests the Commander’s meals. Some of the political drama does involve her directly, and as such she runs into quite a few mishaps. But she is determined to stay alive and is quick to think on her feet. It also helps there is a mystery surrounding her and the circumstances that forced her to commit murder. With each new encounter, she finds ways to strengthen her resolve and build her skill set. Yelena refuses to be easily overtaken.
Readers will also spend time with Valek, one of the Commander’s advisors. Maria V. Snyder does a fantastic job building up a harsh character who follows a strict moral code. His defenses are high, and very few are able to see beneath the rough exterior. Yelena and Valek are well matched and their clashing provides entertaining animosity. While Yelena tries to push the rules, seeing where there might be the tiniest of cracks, Valek is quick to snap back and try to keep her in line. If only to keep the poison tester alive long enough to not have to train another one.
The one downfall of this novel was the way Yelena built a romantic relationship. It seemed to snap in place without much of a lead into the reasons behind it. Yelena’s flustered feelings were quite easy to depict, but the other party needed a few more hints to drop. Body language, or some sort of dialogue scattered throughout the story to leave a bit more of a breadcrumb trail to what was going to happen. Whereas the friendships she formed took time to develop, over the course of missions and shared pursuits. I quite enjoyed Yelena participating in training with her friends and sharing sarcastic jabs with them.
This is a high fantasy story driven by loads of character development and it does not have an overdose of politics. Yelena is a strong female lead to follow and I was pleasantly surprised by the representation in it. I first read Poison Study 12 years ago and I easily enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time.
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