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Book Review: Poison Study

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Poison Study is an intriguing fantasy tale which fuses elements of epic political fantasy with romantic overtones; while it doesn’t quite reach its potential, it nonetheless represents an engaging, singular fantasy vision.

Yelena lives in Ixia, a nation ruled by a militaristic oligarchy which has “zero tolerance” as the measure of its justice system’s Code of Behavior. There are no mitigating circumstances which can forestall the imposition of a swift, and harsh, sentence. And this matters to Yelena, as she is about to be executed for murdering the son of one of the country’s most powerful generals (and since she acknowledges commission of the crime, the reason “why” is irrelevant under Ixian law). On the eve of her execution, however, she is offered a unique – if still potentially fatal – reprieve from her sentence. If she becomes the official food taster for the Commander of Ixia (i.e, the country’s ruler), her sentence will be commuted.

Of course, anticipating the thought that she might attempt to escape, the commander’s chief of security, Valek, laces her meals with a poison called Butterfly Dust, a rare concoction which only visits a painful death upon its victims if they fail to take a dose of the antidote each day. As only Valek has the antidote, Yelena cannot leave the castle without his knowledge or permission.

As Yelena recovers from her lengthy stay in Ixia’s dungeons, she blossoms under the tutelage of Valek and others around the castle. She ends up targeted for death by General Brazell, who is still furious over the death of his son, even as she becomes embroiled in palace politics. Despite his position as the Commander’s chief spymaster and assassin, Yelena grows to trust Valek, especially after he repeatedly saves her life. He also begins to see considerable potential in her – potential unrelated to her untapped magical powers (an ability which could itself cost her life in Ixia, where magicians have been banished upon pain of death).

As Yelana and Valek strive to unravel a conspiracy which strives to overthrow Ixia’s government, their relationship deepens. At the same time, Yelana begins to learn that while she may have been an orphan, her lineage may not have been as common or as uninteresting as first imagined. Together with her nascent magical ability, she is clearly a threat to some of the entrenched powers in Ixia – but exactly which ones?

Snyder’s narrative is well-paced and evocative. Her description of Yelena’s plight, as well as her overcoming attitude and her steadfast determination, make Yelena a powerful protagonist. The emerging relationship with Valek is artfully established, as is Yelena’s dealings with a number of other people in the Commander’s castle. The novel is a first in a proposed series, and while the story’s world is not as well-established or developed as in many other fantasy visions, readers will undoubtedly be looking forward to the next installment.

Author’s Note: This article was originally posted at Wallo World.

Wallo World

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About Bill Wallo

  • This book review has been selected for Advance.net. You’ll be able to find this and other Blog Critics reviews at such places as Cleveland.com’s Book Reviews column.

  • Rhonda Pinsonat

    Wow! I could not put this book down. I was even trying to read it while driving back and forth to work (I have a long boring commute)! I can’t believe I have to wait another year to read the next installment!!

  • Jenifer Wilson

    I just happened to pick up this book at B&N and I’m so very glad that I did. It was a great read and I could not put it down till I was finished.
    I’m waiting excitedly for the sequel.

  • this is the BEST book ever!!! i love it! lots of adventure. i could not put this book down!! read it or else

  • shawnaLanne

    Just bought it on audiobooks, not only is it a fantastic story — but the reader is great.

  • Ankita

    I absolutely loved this book! The characters were so alive and the author’s style of writing makes readers fall into a trance. I also loved the touch of romance and well-written action scenes. I highly recommend Poison Study for readers who like fantasy with a sprinkle of adventure and romance. Can’t wait to read the sequel!

  • Chatterbee

    Great review!

    I, too, loved Poison Study. In particular I loved the descriptions of food tasting as well as her well written characters. As soon as I finished the book I wanted to read the sequel, which was a suspenseful novel filled with action. Luckily the series isn’t over yet- Fire Study comes out in March!