Title: Poison Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Page Count: 416 pages
Genre: fantasy, romance, young adult, first in a series
Copy for review was from my personal library
50 words or less: Yelena escapes the hangman's noose on a charge of murder, only to end up the food taster for the most powerful man in all of Ixia. Yelena has to use all of her senses (not just taste) to find a place for herself, reclaim her identity, and maybe just live happily ever after, if she can live long enough to enjoy it.
Poison Study is one of those books that I found out about from reading rave reviews by other bloggers but didn't get around to reading until relatively recently. I'm super glad I decided to dive in, because this book is Fun with a capital F- there are so many great elements! A fun, twisty, magical, mysterious plot, characters that were well drawn and vivid, the element of poison tasting which was very unique, and a sweet, subtle, yet powerful romance that was infused throughout the story but never overpowering. This book could be a case study in what is, for me, a great fantasy novel.
Sometimes it seems like there are only a few archetypes for female characters in novels- you can either be a ball-busting bitch, a delicate, wilting flower, a bubble head, or a doormat. My favorite characters, though, are ones who are most similar to real people in that they have a little bit of all of these elements in turns- nobody behaves the same way all the time. Yelena is a perfect example of this kind of character. While she can certainly take care of herself (and does for most of the book) she still feels love, hope despair, anger, fear, makes mistakes, learns from them, and ultimately regains her sense of self and purpose. Her journey towards independence and triumph over her past is central to the book.
Then there's Valek, the head of security for the Commander of Ixia, who's simultaneously a real dreamboat for Yelena and a constant thorn in her side. I really admired the way the author worked their romantic relationship into something healthy for both of them; Valek is careful to never abuse the power he has over Yelena (and let's face it, the guy who saved you from the gallows and is now the sole decider of whether you live another day or die a horrible death has a hell of a lot of power over you) and his sense of honor and duty is authentic without being annoying. I look forward to seeing more of these two together in future books.
There are a ton of other interesting themes woven throughout the story- power, the role of history in determining the future, gender and power roles, prejudice, you name it. The worldbuilding surrounding the magic and the poisons was top notch as well. This is the kind of book I can see myself reading again and again and getting something different out of the experience every time. With colder weather approaching and the chance for being snowed in going up, I recommend this book as a good way to while away the frozen hours.
Overall Grade: A
If you're of the Kindle persuasion, check out the series bundle! All three full length novels (Poison Study, Magic Study, & Fire Study) plus the online short story Assassin Study for $18.43!
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