Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder ★★★★★

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Book one in the Study Trilogy
Publication Date: October 1, 2005
ISBN: 0778327116
Page Count: 409
My Rating: ★★★★★

Summary
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.
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 . . .

REVIEW

This was a joy to read. The unusual premise got me hooked right from the word go: Do you want to be executed, or become a poison taster? Quick death, or slow? Already, with just this one question I was burning to read the book.

Yelena, the protagonist, is around 19 years old and in jail for murder. After her... promotion to Poison Taster, she's allowed a certain amount of freedom for the first time in a long time. She's physically in a very sorry state after living in such filth and squalor, but shows a quiet, dignified strength in the face of prejudice and cruelty at the hands of other castle employees who see her only as a criminal and not worthy of their respect. Her back-story was horrible yet fascinating, and is something that is gradually explored in the narrative. As Yelena slowly but surely regains her strength (and pride) we start to see her true character emerge; that of a fighter, a survivor. I absolutely loved Yelena. She's one of the most endearing heroines I've met in quite some time.

The secondary characters were great and well-constructed as well. There was no obvious ah-this-guy-must-be-the-token-love-interest moment that you usually get. That aspect came right out of left field and was something that grew slowly and naturally and therefore felt very real. It was also one of my favourite things about the book. I also enjoyed seeing the fierce respect and loyalty Yelena gained from those few who could see past her former prisoner status.

The setting was a fictional world/city/land/whatever in a historical style. The cities of Ixia and Sitia which border each other. In Ixia, all magic is banned with threat of death upon discovery; not so in Sitia. This conflict is, I imagine, going to be the focus of the rest of the trilogy, but for this first book, it was all about Yelena, which was fine by me.

I'm really looking forward to completing the rest of this trilogy.

5 stars! ★★★★★

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