Title: Poison Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Published: March 1st, 2007 by Mira
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…
“What shall I tell the executioner?” Valek asked.
“I am not a fool”
This is the second time I read Poison Study, and I think I love it more than when I read it the first time, which was a few years ago. I understand the story and the characters more, and I caught more details that I missed the first time I read the book. The story caught my attention from the very beginning and kept me reading –and enjoying it, until the very end.
Poison Study starts with Yelena awaiting execution in a dungeon, thinking about what she did to put her there. When offered the chance to be the new food taster for the Commander of Ixia, she took the offer. To make sure she couldn’t escape, she was given a poison which would kill her unless she took a dose of the antidote every day. As the Commander’s food taster, Yelena was caught in a web of intrigue and danger that threatened not only the well-being of Ixia but also her life.
First of all, I love the concept of the story. It’s not often that I get to read about a food taster, and I really like it. Poison Study has all the elements I love about fantasy books. Magic? Good. Mysterious schemes and life-threatening danger? Good. Internal conflict for the main character? Good. Great characters? Good. Yes, I watched that episode of FRIENDS. The main plot of the story is clear, and it’s not distracted by the romance like so many other YA books; “does he like me?”, “I released the breath I didn’t know I was holding” (I still don’t get this btw), etc. Also, extra points for the absence of a love triangle. I actually wasn’t expecting the romance to happen in this book. I did see some hints that there would be a love story in Poison Study, but it was very subtle throughout the book so I thought the author would push it to the next book. I’m happy about it, though. I ship it 😀
I think that the characters are great, and I either love or love to hate all of them. Except Margg. I don’t like Margg, but who likes Margg? Margg’s a jerk. Yelena is an awesome character. She’s strong, independent and she’s more than capable of taking care of herself. She owns up to her mistakes, and she accepts the consequences of her actions even though she has good reasons for doing what she did. Valek is a great character, as well. Smart, deadly, and cold-hearted, Valek is the perfect assassin. Despite his loyalty to the Commander, he doesn’t follow orders/rules blindly without thinking it through and considering every option. Ari and Janco are also great additions to the story and their friendship with Yelena is awesome.
The writing in this book is very simple. It’s not poetic and flowery like Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me, but I think that it worked very well in Poison Study. The story is told through a first person narrative and because of that, I think that the writing reflects Yelena’s character. She’s not someone who would think poetic thoughts. She’s goal oriented; she analyzes situations, and she gets to the point without small talk. I did find some parts like the explanation of the territories and uniforms read more like an informative essay rather than a story, but it didn’t bother me much.
I think that Poison Study is a great read. It’s a wonderful first book to the series, introducing the world and the characters without making it boring at all. The story is fascinating and electrifying (yes, I’m using the word ‘electrifying’) and it has a fantastic set of characters. Overall, I really enjoyed reading Poison Study and if you haven’t read it, you definitely should.
“Everyone makes choices in life. Some bad, some good. It’s called living, and if you want to bow out, then go right ahead. But don’t do it halfway. Don’t linger in whiner’s limbo.”
― Maria V. Snyder,