Series: Study, #1
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Pages: 361 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Luna Books
Release Date: October 1, 2005
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...
Yelena is an ex-acrobat, convicted of murder, the Commanders new food taster, and possibly a strong magician. How's that for different? I absolutely loved the concept of Poison Study! A food taster, not some supernatural being, just someone meant to check for poisoned meals. Yelena is a strong character, and she's also smart. She thinks about her options and chooses the one that has the best chance of keeping her alive. And staying alive is hard when you're faced with possible poisoning at each meal, have the father of the man you killed seeking revenge, and have a powerful magician (or two) after you. She learns to identify poisons by smell and taste from Valek, and self-defense from the castle guards. The only thing she can't control is her emerging magic.
There's plenty of action with Yelena constantly being pursued or grabbed by someone who's after her, or simply doesn't like her. But there's also some deep emotional scenes mixed in. Yelena did not have a happy past and the events that led up to her committing murderer are sickening. She's fighting with some strong emotional demons throughout the book, and at times is haunted by the man she killed. There's also the blossoming romance between her and the man who poisons her daily and literally holds her life in his hands. I loved seeing their relationship change from hostile to passionate throughout the book.
I had a hard time placing this book on a timeline. It seemed to take place around the 16th century, maybe. This is obviously not set in modern times anyway, but there's random modern objects popping up: switchblades, trampolines, and cinnamon rolls. Whenever one of these "modern inventions" were mentioned I tried to place the story in time, since it's entirely possible that these things were invented long before we think they were, but couldn't do it. I told myself it's simply fantasy, so it's set in a fantasy location at a fantasy time, and there's nothing more to it. That still didn't stop me from getting distracted from time to time.
Poison Study is fun, exciting, unique, and completely attention grabbing. It's full of action, espionage, betrayal, and a bit of romance. It's historical with a modern twist. It's just great, and I definitely recommend it to fantasy fans and anyone looking for something a little bit different.