Published: 2005 (Luna Books)
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.
My opinion: Why have I been waiting so long to read this? It's been sitting on my shelf for at least two years and one of my friends has told me to read it since then. I should have listened to her sooner!
Basically, it's a classic High Fantasy Novel with a strong female lead, exactly what I love and want to read more of. But Poison Study soon shows that it's more than just that and definitely has it's surprises. It totally enthralled me right from the start and I didn't want to stop reading.
The reader is directly thrown into the story, which is a wise move, in my opinion. That way the action starts right away and we don't have to follow some average girl discovering she's not average. Still there are many things that are left unclear and Yelena has a lot to learn about herself. Those informations were well spread across the book in small pieces.
The pacing of the novel was pleasant and Maria V. Snyder has a good style of narration. Nothing too special, but it didn't interrupt the reading flow either. At first I was (as always) uncertain about the first person narrator here, but Yelena isn't the selfish kind of person and she was often just observing rather than expressing her thoughts. I hope that it stays that way and that she doesn't become that annoying first person narrator that I dread so much.
Unfortunately there weren't only things that I liked and I would have loved to give this book five buttons. First of all, there weren't many women besides Yelena, but many male main characters. She hardly talked with the other women in the castles and if so, it was threats or gossip. That's a big no-go for me. But there's Irys, who seems so mysterious and complex, and Maren, but she's hardly present and plays only a minor role. I hope to see more of Irys in the other books.
Under the king there was a partriarchy, I get it, but the Commander gives women a chance to rise up. Still there are no female rulers in Ixia, only male Generals. Women are servants or seamstresses, as far as I can tell from this book, nothing more. Of course it takes a little longer than just 15 years to establish equality, but this is something the author chose to do.
As of now, the worldbuilding is very vague, though what we see of it here is quite interesting. There's definitely space for discovering more in the other books.
Then there's this romance. (SPOILERS AHEAD!) Though I loved the dynamics between Yelena and Valek, it all happened to fast in the end. First there was nothing and suddenly they confessed their love for eachother. A slow developement would have been better, because this way it seems that the author just wanted it to be like other novels in this genre. Up until then it was more unique.
(ANOTHER SPOILER) I knew that Butterfly's Dust was a hoax right from the beginning, but I never would have guessed what Brazell was up to or what those beans were.
All the time while reading I couldn't help myself but always compared it to Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. There are many similarities and I wonder if there's something behind it. In both we have a girl that is being left out of imprisonment after a year to be hired for a delicate assignment. They both have a past and at first we don't know anything about their parents or other family. And so on and so on. Or is it just me?
I loved Ari and Janco and hope they still have an important part in the other books. These two are just adorable. I'm not sure about Valek yet, but there's something shady about him that makes him very interesting.
Poison Study is definitely a great start to a big series and I'll definitely continue it very soon!
My rating: 4/5 Buttons