Book name: Poison Study
Author: Maria V Snyder
Format: Print, ebook
Publication Date: 2005
Star Rating: 5/5
Poison Study is the first of seven books in the Chronicles of Ixia series from New York Times bestselling author Maria Snyder.
Yelena is a murderer and has been condemned to death. She killed the son of General Brazell, who funded the orphanage where she grew up.
The rules in Ixia mean that as next in line for the gallows she must be offered the position of foodtaster to the Commander, who rules Ixia.
Valek is the Commander’s chief adviser and he undertakes Yelena’s training. Yelena is glad to have escaped death once, but Valek gives her Butterfly’s Dust (a poison).
She will need the antidote daily or she will die: Valek’s idea of preventing her from running away.
Yelena pays careful attention to her training. Being a foodtaster is a challenging role, and the Commander is subject to many assassination attempts.
Through a series of recollections, we learn more about why Yelena murdered the General’s son and just how badly she was abused before taking matters into her own hands.
Yelena and Valek come to understand each other. Both are deeply committed to their professions and care about preventing the Commander from being killed.
Despite the kindness with which she is treated, Yelena understandably longs to escape. She has untutored but potent magical abilities, though her need for a daily antidote to her poison limits what is possible.
Poison Study is described as a fantasy book, and the occasional references to magic justify this categorisation.
However, the focus in this book is almost entirely on Yelena’s study of poisons. Greater use of, and tutoring in, her magical abilities are saved for later books in the series.
Poison Study was told in the first person, and it very much reflected Yelena’s story line. While she faced many challenges, it did essentially tell her tale.
The book was just over four hundred pages, so the pace felt quite slow at times. However, this gave enough space for flashbacks to the orphanage, the development of a little romance in the here and now and Yelena’s training in how to defend herself from assassination attempts.
I enjoyed every page of Poison Study. Yelena was dignified and resourceful, and the attention paid to her early life made her a sympathetic character who I rooted for right from the start when she narrowly escaped execution.
There are certainly plenty of books out there with more substantial fantasy content. The story could have been set in our world in contemporary times with comparatively little amendment.
However, I really loved it and would definitely recommend it for its strong story line, immense details about poisons and resilient point-of-view character.
Thank you for reading my review.
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If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested reading in my review of The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan.
Or you might like to take a look at some reviews in the classic fantasy category of my blog.
If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of The Chalet School in Exile by Elinor Brent Dyer.