Thursday, August 11, 2011

Poison Study by Maria V Snyder

Genre: fantasy
Pages: 409 (paperback)
Published: 2005 by Mira
Recommended for: not just fantasy fans-- pretty much any reader will find something to enjoy in this one

My Take:

Poison Study has a lot in common with those USA spy shows which they run marathons of every week or so.  Even the people who consider themselves immune to the mind-numbing powers of drama TV for the most part *waves hand*, will doubtless fall prey to the absorbing formulaic plot and constant action, and end up watching the entire episode no matter how they try to get away during commercial breaks.  There were a lot of elements in this novel I'd definitely seen before in fantasy: lots of court politics (minus the king, who'd been murdered long ago), gossipy kitchen workers, Smelly Dungeons, and a Seemingly Ordinary Girl who in fact is an Innately Potent Magician and perhaps also a Lost Heir.  (If you're ever up for a laugh, read Diana Wynne Jones's Tough Guide to Fantasyland).

Yelena has spent the past year rotting away in a dungeon, awaiting her execution for the murder of a General's son.  A murder she does not even deny committing.  When Yelena is roughly wrenched from her prison at last, she expects to encounter the noose, but instead she is brought before Valek, the Commander's most expert and trusted ally.  Valek informs her that the Commander's previous food-taster has died, and by law, the next prisoner to be executed-- her-- must be offered the position.  Desperate to escape the noose, Yelena agrees.  She begins to train under Valek, for it seems there is more to being the Commander's official food-taster than taking a bite of his meals and waiting to see if she keels over.  Yelena learns the precise and deadly art of poisons and of physical combat, from a couple of friendly soldiers, even as the circumstances surrounding her crime are brought violently into the light by enemies of the Commandeer, including the father of the man she killed.  Meanwhile, Yelena cannot help but be drawn in by Valek.  Dangerous and unknowable as he is, she dares to believe that she has discovered a hidden kindness in this apparently cold and business-like assassin...

Yelena was an intelligent protagonist, and I really grew to like her despite the fact she tended to get in a hell of a lot of trouble every few minutes.  (Really, the woman broke a record for Most Injuries Received Over the Course of 400 Pages!)  Valek was my favorite character by far.  He was ninja, in a word.  I also loved how he showed that he cared for Yelena in very small ways at first-- so much that we were never quite sure he returned her equally subtle affections, but strongly suspected it.  I can't wait to read more about these two... must get Fire Study, the sequel.  There were a few plot twists I saw coming, and one I never would have guessed in a billion years.  Poison Study is a great read-- not the most unique fantasy ever, but a fascinating and very well-written one nevertheless. 

Cover: 4/5 (there are a ton of different covers-- I don't like this one the best, but it was the cheapest editon ;)
Premise: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Story: 4/5
Overall Rating:


Ninja Girl said...

I nearly picked this up this week but had to choose which books to buy (b/c of, you know, funds ;)). It's great to see it get such a great review. I love the idea of a food taster/poison study, so I think I'll have to get it this weekend funds or not!
Great review, very informative and fun,
Ninja Girl
P.S. Of course, I expect to love Valek now, since you said he was "ninja" :D
Have a great one!

Amber said...

I fell in love with this novel. As you mentioned, there are some normal fantasy elements but for me it was more about the characters. Yelena was clever and suffered a great deal but managed to figure things out on her own. Plus, her relationship with Valek...swoon! The next to are just as good in my opinion. Great review!

Brodie said...

I'm ashamed that I still haven't read this series! I recently read Maria's Insiders series and absolutely loved them, so no doubt Maria will blow me away with these. It sounds great! And I love that you described Valek as ninja :D I'm super intrigued to meet him.

Karis Jacobstein said...

I have literally had this on my TBR for a couple of years now, and for some reason have just not gotten to it... I know it's fabulous. Everyone says. I need to get on it! Great review.

Kat said...

@Ninja Girl-- Ha ha, this one will be right up your alley, I think. :) Know what you mean about the weekend funds-- I'm always on a tight book-buying budget, too. I don't know what I'd do without paperbacks and the library!

@Brodie-- I haven't read the Insiders series, though I'm always reading great praise for it. Another one for the tbr. Hope you enjoy the Study series as well!

@Amber-- I also loved Yelena's relationship with Valek. The characters totally made this book; they were amazing. :)

Aylee said...

I must read this sometime because I've heard nothing but good things. Also, I loved reading your description of the plot so that's a good sign!

Rachel Brooks said...

Great review and happy Saturday! I hope you’re having an awesome weekend!

Also, I’m a new follower—wonderful blog! Stop by my blog and follow me too? :)

Lu said...

Great review!

I'll have to pick it up :)

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