Thursday, May 20, 2010

Poison Study by Maria V Snyder

September 2007, Mira Books
Paperback, Personal Copy
Fantasy, Young Adult (sort of! Apparently this cover is a YA version...)

(As a reviewer from England...I might have slightly different spelling for some words. Watch out for the extra u! )

Possibly minor spoilers in this review

Summary from Mira 

Choose: A quick death or slow poison…

On the eve of her execution for murder, Yelena is reprieved, but her relief is short-lived. She is to be the Commander of Ixia’s food taster. Can Yelena learn all she needs to know about poisons before an assassin succeeds?

Her troubles have only just begun, however… Valek, her captor, has a uniquely cruel method to stop her escaping; General Brazell, father of the man she killed, still wants her dead; and someone is plotting against the Commander.

Resourceful and wily, Yelena gains friends, survival skills - and more than a few enemies. In a desperate race against time, the Commander’s life, the future of Ixia and the secrets of her own past will be in her hands

When KimberAn told me the good news about becoming a reviewer here, I instantly knew that I'd be reviewing Maria's books. I absolutely love them. I loved them the moment I read them. I haven't ever come across a food taster before, not one with magical powers. (Psst: for the foodie book lovers this one has food in!)

The thing is, Yelena doesn't know she has magic. She lives in a realm where magic is forbidden, and anyone with magic is in big trouble. So it's not really fun that on top of all the trouble she's in, she has to hide her new power. A power which she only discovers from an enemy of the land. She has to master the power or she will die. Yes, another do or die scenario for Yelena.

Yelena is a cool character. She knows enough to keep her alive initially. She knows she needs more tricks up her sleeve to survive, and works hard to learn them. It takes effort, but slowly she builds up a portfolio of moves and knowledge. This will go to helping her survive in the harsh environment. Her confident personality helps her fight for survival. An enjoyable part of Yelena was her vulnerability. She has been hurt badly by evil men. The things they do are inhumane, and not dwelt on too much by Maria. There is enough detail to be horrified by her past, but not too much to put me off reading further. There's a fine balance when discussing such issues, and Maria handles the balance delicately.

Her life isn't fun at all. But it's very exciting as a reader to watch her story unfold. I like books where the outlook starts off grim, and gets grimmer (please ignore the poor grammar). But amidst the darkness there is always hope. Okay, so it's a really thin hope that somehow Yelena will figure things out and manage to save herself, but the hope is there all the same.

And with that hope, she develops a few strong friendships. Friendships which had me choking up in places. Yelena doesn't expect anyone to care for her, to be nice to her. A lot of people hate her and treat her cruelly. But not her friends. Especially not Valek.

Yes, this has a romance element. It is sweetly done, one with pretty much a closed curtains policy. Valek in himself is an interesting character. He isn't all he seems (and he's pretty sneaky too!) He scares Yelena on more than one occasion (in different ways). He makes her life difficult. Yet at the same time he makes   life very easy for her, not that she realises it at the time.

I was fortunate enough to have Magic Study, book 2, in my TBR pile when I first read this series. I still have it waiting for me to re-read. (This is a series where the books get better with re-reading. Even though I know exactly what happens, my stomach still gets tied in knots and I clutch the metaphorical cushion tightly). It will naturally be reviewed here :)

Ok, and the best part, not only is this a trilogy, but the next series written by Maria focuses on a secondary character from this series!!! So Yelena features (briefly) in it! Yay!

Content: mildly sensual to sensual, mildly violent to violent (possibly a few scenes not very nice to read).


Rebecca Lynn said...

Ooooh, this looks like a good one!

Kimber An said...

Great review!

Nayuleska said...

Thank you! I'm excited about rereading the others.