Author: Maria V Snyder
Date of Publication: 1st March 2007
Synopsis: Yelena is sentenced to hang for her crimes. But when the King’s food taster dies, she is recruited into a job which, rather than save her from death, might just be postponing her fate.
WOW. I have no idea where this has been for the last ten years but this is incredible. I was trying, as I read Poison Study, to recall the last time I read a book in 24hrs. You know that kind of frenzied reading, where you take every moment as an opportunity to read more and, when you’re not reading said book, you wonder round with a euphoric look on your face, fantasising about it? That’s what this gave me.
First of all, Yelena is a great heroine. She isn’t over powered, she isn’t weak. She’s been through a lot but Maria Snyder doesn’t take every second line as an opportunity to remind us of this. Yelena is shaped by her past but she is very invested in forging ahead with her future as well. Her interactions with other characters felt real and consistent with her own characterisations. She was intensely likeable, without always being “good”. Based on her alone this would have been given a high rating. Add in a romance which absolutely had me on the floor with the steady, subtle building that Valek and Yelena had and, Snyder, you had me at “food taster”.
I also really, really liked the fact that the plot was important. This book had substance, with an over arching story of spying, deception and power grabbing throughout. Much is it is linked to Yelena herself, giving her good reason to be involved in big events which would usually be far outside of a simple food taster’s realm of interest. Similarly I liked that the magical elements were woven skillfully into this. Yelena’s discovery of her powers, as well as her uncovering of the good and bad around her not always being what they seem, created growth in the character as well as richness in the world.
Any supporting characters that Yelena interacted with for any significant length of time were all graduated with their own qualities and backstories. I loved the power pairing and Maren and the bad guys were sufficiently loathsome for me to detest. In fact the loathsomeness of them brings up my only small complaint; Snyder is very quick to be graphic when it comes to blood and gore, but her romance is much more coy, for want of a better word. There’s a kiss here and there, but anything more is floridly described as “souls joining” or something equally ethereal in nature. Compared to the grounded nature of the rest of her writing, it seemed to stick out a little. But it’s a small complaint and didn’t impact on my enjoyment.
This is a must read – especially I feel for fans of Throne of Glass (I feel like this is better). I’m ploughing straight onto the sequel.