Title: Poison Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Series: Study, Book 1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Murder, mayhem and magic...
Locked in a coffin-like darkness, there is nothing to distract me from my memories of killing Reyad. He deserved to die—but according to the law, so do I. Here in Ixia, the punishment for murder is death. And now I wait for the hangman's noose.
But the same law that condemns me may also save me. Ixia's food taster—chosen to ensure that the Commander's food is not poisoned—has died. And by law, the next prisoner who is scheduled to be executed—me—must be offered the position.
How long have I had this book on my to-read shelf? I'm not even sure. I think I bought the paperback when it first came out, whenever that was. At the urging of Sarah and Khanh, who both RAVE about this book, I decided to finally pick it up.
I'm so glad they badgered me into starting it, finally. I enjoyed it quite a lot. Yelena's probably my favorite part, but there's a lot here to love.
Yelena is a fantastic character - she's spent nearly a year in a dungeon awaiting execution, when suddenly she's offered an out. It's not much of an out, because she's going to be the food-tester for the Commander, but it is life for at least one more day. She's damaged because of what she's gone through, not just the time incarcerated, but the history prior to that - which is only hinted at in the beginning. But you get a pretty good idea. And yet, at the same time, she's so incredibly strong. She's determined to live, not just day to day, but really live, safe from the threat of death. There are few characters that are actually smart, but Yelena's one of them. She takes the time to plan, implementing her plan without being (too) devious, or cruel. She trains and figures out what skills she's going to need, and goes about learning them. She doesn't trust (or fall in love - this is a big one for me) quickly or easily. I found it really easy to root for her, to want her to succeed, and I loved that I never felt the next to smack some sense into her.
Valek, well, he's a bit of a different story for me. It took me a LONG time to warm up to him. And then once I did like him, I still wasn't (and am not) shipping this relationship. I think it's got a long ways to go. But I will say that I'm interested in seeing where it goes, how it develops. I appreciate a lot about his character, namely that "love" doesn't change everything. I also really love how things develop organically. There's no insta-love here.
I have to mention Ari and Janco, because I absolutely adore them. I really hope we get a lot more of them in the future.
The world kind of confuses me. There was a king, and his whole kingdom was apparently corrupt. So there was an uprising - and the Commander took over. Now there are unbendable rules. Period. All the rules and punishments for running afoul of those rules are spelled out, and there are absolutely NO exceptions. I find this a little harsh, and - despite wanting to like the Commander, I'm left not being able to. I hope that changes, because I really like the backstory there.
The plot and pacing are kind of ... quiet. That's the best word I can think of to describe it. It's not slow, but it's not edge-of-my-seat. I was interested because I wanted to see Yelena come out on top, but the mystery and plot were mere backgrounds to seeing her triumph, for me.
Poison Study is a nice start to a series. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes from here - especially with the knowledge of Yelena's immediate future at the end of this book. I do hope that the world is more developed in the future books, and that the plot becomes a bit more opaque to me, though.