Title: Poison Study (Study #1)
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Date Read: 23/05/2017 – 26/03/2017
On the eve of her execution for murder, Yelena is presented with a choice: face the noose or become the Commander’s new food taster. She chooses the latter, but testing food for poison is only one of several challenges she has to face: there’s the father of the man she murdered, burgeoning feelings for her captor and mentor, not to mention the latent magical power she seems to possess in a country where magic is outlawed.
Yelena is a really strong character; she has a horrible past that we learn of bit by bit, but she also learns fast and is a quick thinker. The other characters are all well-constructed. Valek, Yelena’s trainer and eventual ally, is an interesting study in contradictions. Commander Ambrose provides several surprises to both Yelena and the reader in the way he runs the country he overtook. Other side characters such as Ari and Janco, soldiers who agree to train Yelena in self-defence after she unwittingly gets them promoted; Irys, a master-magician from the south, and the various Generals and other members of the Commander’s staff provide a really great ensemble.
The romance felt a bit rushed towards the end. While I knew it was coming, I think the fact that the book is in first person from Yelena’s point of view meant that Valek’s feelings were never really clear until he declared them outright (a couple of characters did say things like “I think he m ight be sweet on you” but Yelena firmly denied it). And an outpouring of feelings didn’t really feel right for Valek’s character, so it felt a bit weird.
I did love the world-building. The history of the Commander’s takeover of Ixia was nicely woven through the narrative, and it was nice to read a fantasy not set in a kingdom. The national traditions were also really fun to read.
While I have heard that the next two books in the series don’t live up to this one, I am keen to hear more about these characters, so I will be checking them out. (also I own them, so I might as well). WIsh me luck!
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