Poison Study

Title: Poison Study
Author: Maria V Snyder
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Poison Study (1)
Copyright: 2005
Ranking: Good
Binding: paperback
LibraryThing: Title:Poison Study WorkId 99036
Type: Owned
Read: 2007-09-15 2006-11-03

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. As a food taster, she'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace -- and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

I bought this one on spec, and unlike "A Princess of Roumania", I didn't regret it. I stayed up far too late reading it -- unputdownable, yes.


Yelena is intelligent, desperate, determined, justifiably paranoid, and yet still wanting human friendship. But the character that has the fannish appeal is Valek, the palace spymaster, and Yelena's new boss. Cold, pragmatic, difficult to read, a brilliant assassin and spy, and completely loyal to the Commander of Ixia. Or perhaps not so cold. Yes, you got it, he's one of those Avon-like characters.


I didn't step back and analyse the plot, I was too caught up in the immediacy of Yelena's continual fight for survival, where one misstep could mean her death. Death from the spymaster, while he trains her to detect poisons, death from the powerful man whose son she murdered, death from the enemies of Ixia, death from her own magical talent which is waking up and could kill her. That's enough excitement...


We have a first, here: a fantasy kingdom in a universe of magic, where the king was deposed -- and replaced by a military dictator. But not an evil military dictator, this one is benevolent; and obsessed by the rule of law. This has advantages and disadvantages: in this country, the poor are a lot better off than they were before; advancement is based on merit and not wealth; corruption has been stamped out. Yet the laws are harsh, and have no exceptions or mercy in them. (And no lawyers either) I think this was built well, with realistically positive and negative effects.

There is a sequel, "Magic Study", which is already out in hardback. Hmmm.

(Originally on my livejournal)


I re-read this to get up to speed for "Magic Study" (which I've just got) and to see if it's as good the second time around.

Well, I was caught up again, it was still pretty unputdownable. Unfortunately, I was noticing a bit more how Mary-Sue-ish Yelana is. If it hadn't been told in first-person, she would have been irritating. But being in a continually life-threatening position does tend to make one a more sympathetic character. The other thing I noticed this time around is that the romance between Yelana and Valek seemed a bit less convincing to me. Well, some parts of it, anyway. I can see how he could fall in love with her, but not so much how she fell for him. I didn't notice that the first time around, because he's just the kind of anti-hero I like.