Author: Maria V. Snyder
Published: June 1, 2004
Publisher: Mira Books
Series: Study #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“To Yelena, our newest food taster. May you last longer than your predecessor.”My Thoughts
― Maria V. Snyder, Poison Study
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.
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...(Goodreads)
This is my second read along with my close friend Amanda from Late Nights with Good Books. We were both super excited to read Poison Study so we decided to read it together! And boy were we happy we did because we loved it!
Poison Study was a fantastic read filled with political intrigue and suspense. Throughout the entire book, I was on the tip of my toes, waiting for someone to keel over or be assassinated. There was just so much tension building in Ixia, as rebels and spies battled out a war of cunning and espionage, and Yelena was caught right in the middle of it.
Yelena was my kind of heroine. She was fierce, passionate, and no matter how bleak her circumstances appeared, she refused to give up. She was also a very compassionate individual, as she worried about the young girls she had left behind at the orphanage she grew up in. Yelena took great pride in being able to survive on her own, and when she realized her weaknesses and vulnerability, she had others train her in self-defense and fighting techniques. With her insatiable curiosity and unexpected fortitude, for a prisoner that is, she caught the eye of Valek, the chief of security and a master spy. Valek was intrigued by her strong will, and after thoroughly testing her capabilities as a poison taster for the Commander, he even grew to like her.
Poison Study intricately details the process of becoming a poison taster, and I enjoyed learning about how Yelena must smell, sip and gargle drinks to determine if they're poisoned. It was very entertaining learning all the different poisons' names and their distinguishing properties. Yelena suffers a great deal as the poison taster, but she always reemerges stronger and more determined. She has enemies hiding around every corner, and that left me feeling constantly anxious for her welfare. Yelena is never entirely sure about who is trustworthy, and her suspicion and doubts really contributed to the suspenseful plot.
And there is magic! Yelena develops magical powers that she cannot control, and these newfound powers put her in even more danger because practicing magic in Ixia is punishable by death. I loved how we learn more about why Yelena has powers and what this means for the plot, but I could have used a little more magic. But I'm sure there will be plenty of magic later in the series, especially since the next book is called Magic Study.
It was nice to see that Yelena could find some happiness in her circumstances. After everything she had been through, and because of her life-threatening job, Yelena thought she couldn't have friends. But Yelena's reluctance to form friendships didn't stop others from becoming closer to her. She discovered friends in the most unexpected ways, and they offered her much-needed support and companionship. And then there was Valek. I was not expecting him to be the romantic interest, as he seemed to be the exact opposite of what Yelena would go for, but I was pleasantly surprised. I really grew to love him as he was unexpectedly loyal and caring. I never guessed in the beginning of Poison Study that he could be such a wonderful, understanding guy, and I was proven wrong.
My main issue with Valek and Yelena's relationship is that while he claims to feel strongly for Yelena, he is willing to jeopardize her safety because of his loyalty to his Commander. I won't go into detail because I want to avoid spoilers, but I think Valek needs to rethink his priorities. And then Yelena's not even upset about his behavior! In fact, she accepts it as a given. I was very disappointed with Valek by the end, and I could not believe the laws that this society enforces. And what is even more unbelievable is that no one rebels! Perhaps, with the memory of their old king's tyranny still fresh in their minds, this society is a wonderful alternative. But I think people should be able to defend themselves in court, and the mass execution of sorcerers is just too horrific to imagine. I hope I get a more in-depth look into this society in the following books, and I really want to learn more about the dead king's reign.
Despite these concerns, I would highly recommend Poison Study to lovers of fantasy and magical kingdoms and suspenseful, thrilling reads. I look forward to reading Magic Study next!
Don't forget to check out Amanda's review of Poison Study!