Review – Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

November 8, 2013 Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Title: Poison Study
Series: Study #1
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Release Date: 2005
Pages: 361, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 4.2 stars
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
My Content Rating: Adult or very mature YA (Sex is not explicit, but includes sexual assault)

Summary from Goodreads: Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…


About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

 

When I read Maria V. Snyder’s Inside Out awhile back, many people mentioned to me how much they loved Poison Study.  Several people said it was one of their favorite series of all time, so I decided I had to check it out.  I’m really glad that I did because I loved it!  

Poison Study is an amazing fantasy novel filled with intrigue and danger and I found myself immersed in Yelena’s journey!  

The negatives:
  • Predictable twist.  There isn’t much that I could think of to say as negatives for this book, except that I had figured out one of the book’s major twists pretty early on.  This didn’t really lower my enjoyment of the book, though, because I wasn’t sure that I was right – even up till the point that the twist was revealed.  Plus, there were plenty of other twists to keep me guessing!
Neutral:
  • Very little romance.  This book does have a romance, but the romance is not at all central to the plot throughout most of the book.  Rather, there are hints of a romance that you’re never sure whether or not they will actually turn into anything real.  I was actually totally fine with this, but people who really like romance will feel a bit cheated in this department.
What I Loved:
  • Yelena and Valek.  Yelena is a strong woman who will do anything to survive.  She has had a very hard life, which influences her thoughts and decisions, but she still hasn’t given up on hope.  Then there is Valek, the man who has put Yelena in the position of poison taster.  He is a complete mystery – sometimes seeming like a dangerous enemy and then at other times showing his softer side.  Throughout the book, I found myself growing more and more attached to Valek, just as Yelena herself was, but this is the type of book where you can never assume that a character is either “bad” or “good” and Valek’s true loyalty always lies with the Commander.
  • Secondary characters.  I loved just about every character in this book and there were so many secondary characters to love!  At the top of the list are Janco and Ari who take Yelena under their wing and help her learn to defend herself.  They were sweet and funny and I loved just about every scene that they were in.  The Commander himself is a very interesting character and there is an interesting twist with his character that I honestly don’t think anyone will see coming in a million years.  I thought that all of the secondary characters in this book were incredibly well-developed – there are lots more of them, but I won’t go on and on – you get the idea.
  • Political questions.  I love that this book questions the political situation of Ixia without giving easy answers.  The Commander is definitely a dictator, but does that automatically make him evil?  His law is completely black and white, with no shades of gray – no chance for explanation and no excuses – so is his rule just or unfair?  Is Valek’s loyalty to the Commander justified?  Lots of questions are presented, but unlike the Commander’s laws, the answers are not nearly black and white!
  • Danger.  Yelena’s world is full of constant danger.  There are so many people who are trying to kill her, that it’s honestly hard to keep track of them all.  And it’s almost impossible to figure out who’s truly on her side and who isn’t.  Yelena can’t let her guard down for a moment!  I found myself constantly intrigued, wondering what dangers would lie around the next corner and how Yelena would make her way out of all of each new perilous situation.
  • The mystery of Yelena’s past.  I love that Yelena’s past is laid out for us in bits and pieces and that we discover it along the way.  Who is she and where does she come from?  Why did she kill Reyad?  Even Yelena herself does not know all of the answers to these questions and those she does know are sometimes too painful for her to reveal.  So, we discover her past slowly, throughout the book.  But, somehow Snyder does this in a way that feels honest and is satisfying – sometimes drawn out histories can feel forced or can just make me antsy for the truth, but that wasn’t the case here.
I highly recommend Poison Study to anyone who enjoys fantasy.   With fun and interesting characters and an exciting plot, this book is sure to keep you entertained and emotionally engaged! 4.5/5 stars.

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