Author: Maria V SnyderEdition: UK PaperbackRating: 4 Stars
I remember seeing Poison Study on the shelf of Borders and wanting to read it then, but picking up a different book instead. That's how long this book has been haunting me. As any good book snob knows, though, the COVERS NEED TO MATCH and finding matching covers for these in America has been a headache so I settled on the UK covers, which I didn't like at first but are fast growing on me. It's sad it took me so long to read this book, though, because it's the first book in a while to catch my interest and suck me completely in.
Poison Study is about Yelena, who is in prison for murdering the son of a general, and given another chance to live when she is chosen to be the Commander's poison tester. That means she tries all the food he eats and drinks in order to make sure he doesn't get killed off. Besides working in a job that pretty much assures her untimely death, Yelena must deal with her own ghosts, which include literal ones, many people that want to kill her, and something else- something dangerous stirring inside her that may connect to her family she never knew.
While this was definitely a perfect book for the moment- right up my alley and attention grabbing fantasy- there were some weak spots. Moments here and there that I wish had been done differently, or lasted longer, or just existed in a different way. Some of the decisions that characters made, too, seemed immature, and occasionally their motives, particularly Valek's, would feel a little blurry to me. I'm guessing this is a combination of my editor instinct (which is in hyper mode at the moment) and the fact that a lot of the things done in this book I've already seen done, better, in other books. In the end, though, everything worked itself out and I was rather happy with where it all went- any qualms I had about motive or immaturity flew out the door when the really important stuff started happening.
By far the strongest part of the read, for me, was the relationship between Yelena and Valek. I liked that it strayed away from insta-love and actually took time to develop. I also liked that the characters didn't spend a bunch of chapters messing around and denying the clear affection, which is a trope that's been getting on my nerves a bit lately. When they realized they were developing feelings for each other they were wary, but when the feelings came to a peak they let them happen and enjoyed the pleasure their relationship brought them. Beyond just their relationship, the characters themselves were pretty stellar, and even the side characters were rather interesting. Not everyone had to save the world- some characters were just there because it was their job to be there- but they still got characterization and I enjoyed reading about them all.
The plot was pretty standard for fantasy, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it immensely. Sometimes going back to the basics is the best thing you can do. However, I am looking forward to the next two books, which I'm hoping will explore much more of the world and get a deeper look into who the villains of this series really are.
A rather good, if traditional, fantasy, featuring a great romance and characters to hold dear.