28 June 2014

Review: Poison Study - Maria V. Snyder

After having this book and its sequels sat on my shelf for quite a while, I finally got around to reading them. I've been wanting to read something by Maria V. Snyder for a long time because I love the sound of her books. Reminiscent of Trudi Canavan, or perhaps Kristin Cashore both of whom I have read numerous times, her books centre on fantastical lands with magic at their core.

Poison Study is the first installment of the story of Yelena. We find her cowering in a dungeon with only the rats for company. She is taken away and offered a choice - she can be executed for murder, or she can be the Commander of Ixia's new food taster. She wants to survive, but how long will it last? Yelena must study poisons and people to learn what could kill her and who to trust. She soon realises that she has magical powers, which could also lead to her death, as using magic in Ixia is forbidden.

I loved the story. It was mostly set in the 'palace', where the King once lived and the Commander now lives. In that way I'd liken it to Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. It's about a woman seeking information and survival, but it's also about slow-building love, friendship and betrayal.

Yelena herself was perfect. She has an excellent character arc and reasons for her flaws which stem from past experiences. She has a deep power underneath it all that I think most people would empathise with. Underneath her flaws and insecurities there's a strong woman.

Valek is the man who gave her the option of being a food taster. He is complex and thoughtful, yet strong and immensely skilled. As a head of security and master assassin he has had to be pretty ruthless, but he has his reasons. I always liked him even when Yelena didn't. He's a very interesting character and his loyalty to the commander knows no bounds.

Then there's the baddie. Well, one of them. Brazell is a powerful man whose son Yelena killed. He is out for revenge and won't stop until he gets what he wants. He's a nasty piece of work, and that's all I shall say on the subject. The less said about him the better.

Snyder's writing is beautiful. It flows well and had me enraptured from the first page. She has structured it very nicely with well-paced action and interesting slower parts. The only thing I would say is that the ending felt a little rushed, with a bit too much information all at once. I would have liked to see a scene play out with Brazell.

Other than that the ending went much the way I thought it would have, which left me satisfied however I would have preferred more of a twist.

In all I think it's a very well rounded first novel for Snyder and I can only see her getting better with every book she writes. I very much look forward to grabbing the next in this series from my shelf to find out what happens next in Yelena's life.