Monday, January 28, 2013

Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder

Study #1
Release date: March 1st 2007
Published by: Mira Books
Genre: Young Adult
Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon

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...

I immediately added this book on Goodreads when I finished reading Touch of Power. I was curious to see how Maria V. Snyder would handle yet another fantasy series, and if they'd be similar. Fortunately, I was wrong. The only thing these two series have in common is a likeable heroine, a good plot, excellent world-building... and a good (almost decent) writing. 

Yelena is yet another main character that I adored. She, in order to survive, had to become the Commander's food taster - which is exactly what it sounds like. Yelena had to taste the Commander's food to see if it had any poison. She also had to be trained by Valek, the chief of security, to be able to identify different kinds of poison. That premise alone was enough to keep me interested in the story. However, the secondary characters - especially Valek and Rand - and all the tension surrounding Yelena's life brought me to the edge of my seat. I was unable to stop reading Poison Study. 

Something that caught my eye was that the Commander of Ixia wasn't the bad guy. When you read a fantasy novel in which the lands had been taken over by a new Commander, and the King, murdered, you immediately expect an oppressive government. Thankfully, Commander Ambrose was kind to his people and always tried to avoid bloodshed when he could. That was a welcomed change. It also made me realize that the author didn't need to take the story down that route to create the political problems. 

What really bothered me when I was reading Poison Study was the author's writing. I'm tired of having to say this again, but Snyder just can't write very well when it comes to fantasy novels. The dialogues are too modern, and some of the characters' actions were absurd, when you think about it. For example, a woman that was attracted to someone would never just lean forward and undo the guy's pants. It's ridiculous to even think about it... it just doesn't fit the setting of the story, you know? I was unable to give it 5 stars, which is a shame, since the characters are well developed, the plot is good, and the eventual romance is slow and delicious to read. 

Overall, Poison Study was an excellent novel. The only thing that was truly "bad" was the writing. If it had been better, I wouldn't hesitate in giving this book 5 stars. I'll probably read the sequel, Magic Study, pretty soon. Hopefully Maria V. Snyder will not disappoint me! 


  1. For example, a woman that was attracted to someone would never just lean forward and undo the guy's pants. It's ridiculous to even think about it... it just doesn't fit the setting of the story, you know?

    Oh my! Lol, I have yet to read Maria V Snyder, but I have two of her books on my kindle, both bought when they were on offer. I'm looking forward to giving them a whirl if the world building is so good, and the modern and perhaps cringe-worthy behaviour described in your review is something I'm really curious about now :) Great review, Beatriz.

  2. I think I gave this 4 stars (or maybe 4.5 stars) at the time too. It definitely impressed me as my first Snyder book. I didn't really have the same problem with the writing, but I'm glad you still thought it was an excellent read overall. :) Brilliant review!