Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

24 Sep

Series: Study, book #1

Published: March 1st 2004 by Luna

Details: Paperback, 416 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

About Yelena, awaiting execution for a murder she comitted in miltary state Ixia. Instead of execution though, she is offered a place as the Commander’s food taster, thus her new life begins. This novel was so good on so many levels, it blew me away!!!A must read!!!! Sequel called Magic Study.

A few chapters in:

This is the highly acclaimed first book in the Study Trilogy. I have been wanting to read it for quite some time. I’m glad to finally have started, as it seems just as good as I thought it would be.

At the start of the book we find Yelena, the heroine, imprisoned and chained to a wall in a dungeon, awaiting the execution for a murder she committed a year previously. She is taken up for what she thinks is the execution, then learns that she is given the choice to instead become the new food taster of the commander. Naturally she accepts and her food taster career begins, meaning she has to learn to recognize and differentiate various poisons. Her trainer Valek is an expert, and he seems to be taking her under his wings, all though I am not yet sure of his intentions. He doesn’t seem like the most empathetic person out there. It remains to be seen.

I’m only a few chapters in, and let me tell you, I am really invested into the story already. It’s well written, it’s intriguing, it’s original. Let’s hope it continues that way!

After finishing the book:

Wow, I have one word for this book..AMAZING. I was addicted right from the start, yet managed to read the first 100 pages or so in a somewhat normal pace. After that, there was no stopping me and I read the rest in one sitting. Went to bed that night at around 4 am. Yes, this is addicting stuff.

It’s been a few days now since I finished the book, and I’m still thinking about it, so much in fact that I have a hard time getting into a new book. Did I say it was addicting?

Right, so no more rambling and let’s get on with the review.

As stated above, this is about Yelena who at the start of the book finds herself being the new food taster for the commander. The commander is the head general of Ixia, a land used to be ruled by royalty, but who’s king was overthrown by the military regimen. The new Ixia has been divided into several military districts and is controlled in a way similar to a communist military dictatorship. Everyone has equal rights (including men and women), and only your skills and achievements count, rather than you heritage or wealth. It is also very controlled. Any changes, such as location, profession etc need approval from higher authorities.

This whole world-building was an interesting back-drop to the story. It is acknowledged that the military system is not perfect, but neither was the King’s rulership. Snyder does not push you to think that way or the other – it’s just described as the way it is.

Yelena was charged for murdering her benefactor Reyad, at the child orphanage where she grew up. Little by little we get glimpses to the events that led her to murdering Reyad, and those events are truly horrible. I loved though that Yelena stands up for what she has done. She takes the consequences without excuses, and does not want pity. She did what she had to do, end of story. She wonders if she lost her soul though and she is faced with guilt – she’s only human – but I admire her strength on accepting her faith.

For most part of the story Yelena faces many dangers, the food taster’s profession being only one of them. General Brazell, whose son she murdered is bent on revenge, and consistently tries to inflict her harm. A strange woman from the neighbouring country Sitia is also after her. And there is Margg, the unfriendly house-keeper and Nix, a guard who seems to hate her.

Then there is Valek, her trainer in food poising and a Rand in the kitchen. Who can she trust? For most part of the book, I’m wondering along with Yelena who she should and should  not trust. Because if she trusts the wrong person, that may mean the end.

After several near fatal attacks, Yelena herself realizes that one way to keep herself safe is to start training and learning self-defense. She finds two friends in the guards – the wonderfully drawn secondary characters Ari and Janco – and together they teach each other tactics on the art of self-defense.

In short, the mixture of what I just described is what I loved. That is; the world-building, the developement of Yelena as she grows stronger, the constant dangers she’s under, the glimpses we get of her life before the murder, and the new friends (or enemies) she gains at the castle. There is not one boring moment in this story, hence the page-turner effect.

Of all this, what I loved the most though was Valek and his growing affection for Yelena. It is so subtle at the beginning I was wondering if I felt it right. Valek is supposed to be Yelena’s enemy. He is the one poisoning her with Butterfly’s Dust to prevent her from escaping. Yet, early on, he seems preoccupied with her welfare. After Yelena is attacked by one of general Brazell’s guards, he lets her move into his suite. He saves her life during another attack at the fire festival, and he has great faith in her abilities.

Yet, I am never sure of his intentions, whether she is a brick in the grander scheme of his plans or if there may be feelings involved. After all, Valek is a cold-blooded dangerous man. He is the commander’s right hand, the head of the regimens intelligence network and not to forget also a professional assassin. In short, not the normal romantic love interest you may find in young adult fiction.

Without saying too much, their relationship however does grow into something eventually and it is one of the most believable, genuine and sweetest things I have read in some time. Absolutely wonderful!!!

The Bottom Line:

There are two more books in the series. Magic Study is the sequel. I have heard that the series decline after Poison Study, whether that is true or not remains to be seen. I will have to read the rest, as I need to revisit this world again. Need as in addicted need!

In short, what a wonderful book. If you haven’t read it yet, do it now! You won’t regret it!!!

13 Responses to “Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder”

  1. Chris June 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Ok now I feel quite disappointed!! When I read your review (which is amazing!!), I feel that it’s my kind of book. But actually I read something like 60 pages and I don’t know why I’m not enjoying it that much 😦
    Maybe it’s a little too dark for me… maybe I need more romance… maybe after the 100 first pages it’ll be better ??
    If you give it a 5/5, I’m sure it deserve it!!!!!

    • tess June 27, 2011 at 8:14 am #

      Hmm, I’m sorry to hear that! And I don’t know what to advise you, because I remember I was entranced by that book from chapter one. Maybe we have different tastes regarding this one?
      The book is really about all the dangers Yelena faces, and how she grows stronger, psycially and mentally. The romance is so subtle at first that you hardly notice it, but eventually grows into something wonderful. After reading the book I went back and reread all their moments together again, that’s how hooked I was! But up until you notice the romance, it sure is a bit dark. I’m sorry if that may not have come across in my review. If you do continue, I hope you’ll like the romance at least!

  2. Chris June 28, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Thanks Tess, I’m insisting because I want to love it, ahaha, I’ll let you know 😉

    • tess June 28, 2011 at 8:35 am #

      Okay! Well please do keep me updated, would love to hear how it goes 🙂

  3. Chris August 11, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Just to let you know that I didn’t finish it 😦 I may try again after few months, when I’ll be able to enjoy the dark and magic side of this book 😉

    • tess August 11, 2011 at 9:34 am #

      No worries Chris, if you didn’t like it, don’t read it. Like I said, I was captured from the beginning, and so if you weren’t, then you probably won’t like the rest either. It’s interesting to hear what you think though, I never thought of Poison Study as dark, but of course, thinking about it, it probably is, what with her troubled past and all that black magic. So yeah, thanks for pointing that out! Cheers, Tess

  4. Chris August 11, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    I’m probably desperate to read an excellent addictive book… but I can’t find one… I’m quite disappointed by every book I read actually… anyway, maybe it’s like Love, when you don’t search it, you find it, in the more unexpected way 😉 😉

    • tess August 11, 2011 at 10:26 am #

      Oh it’s every bit like love.. when you least expect it, you find it 🙂 And when you are desperately searching for it, it’s nowhere to be found. 🙂 I find with books that it has a lot to do with my mood at the time, and my expectations. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about that, and so, some books suffer because my expectations were rocket-high, or because I wasn’t in the mood for romantic fluff, dark dystopian or whatever the theme. Since you’re looking for something addictive, I have to check though, did you read Anna and the French Kiss? Please don’t judge it by its cover and dorky title, this one really is a little gem that warmed my heart. I couldn’t stop smiling for days afterwards. And there is no darkness there, just romance done really well! 🙂

  5. Chris August 11, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    Glad to see that we have the same opinion about Love and Books 😀 I started to think that I’m not about to find THE wonderful book of the year, so maybe something will surprised me 😉

    I have my eyes on “Anna and the french kiss” (thanks for the tip!!) because… well… i’m looking for a true and beautiful romance right now… 🙂 I just wait for the price to lower a little bit on amazon (because I don’t read books, I EAT books 😀 😀 )… Also on “Perfect chemistry”…

    Anyway, I just order “City of bones”, because of all the great reviews I read (and yours!!), it might be something very different of what I read the past few weeks… wait and see…
    Many thanks Tess 🙂

    • tess August 11, 2011 at 11:24 am #

      Well yeah, if you start to think you won’t find the book of the year, chances are you’ll find it very soon, at least I hope so! Glad to hear you ordered City of Bones, I hope you find Jace as intriguing as I did! And I’m also glad to hear you do have your eyes on Anna and the French kiss, it’s the perfect thing if you’re looking for a beautiful romance 🙂 I know what you mean though, buying books at the rate we’re reading them, it does get a bit expensive. Ah well, what can you do? 🙂 Would love to hear later what you thought of City of Bones! Cheers, Tess

  6. Chris August 11, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    I’ll let you know 😉 😉 Enjoy your reading, I’m waiting for your next review 😀


  1. Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder « After Twilight… - November 1, 2010

    […] loved watching the romance unfold between Yelena and Valek in Poison Study – the first book of the series. Such a wonderful read!! Now I’ve finally got my hands […]

  2. Review: Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien « After Twilight… - October 6, 2011

    […] tough guards, who may or may not have an interest in Gaia. He reminded me of the fierce Valek in Poison Study, which is a great compliment right […]

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