by Maria V. Snyder
Published by Mira
Book 1 in the Poison Study series
Choose: A quick death… or slow poison...
About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.
And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.
As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...
RATED: 16+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Violence New Adult Interesting
Poison Study by Maria V Snyder is the first book in her Poison Study series, and centers around Yelena, a nineteen-year-old woman who is presented a choice by Valek, the Chief of Security to Commander Ambrose, leader of Ixia: be hanged as sentenced for murder, or become the Commander's Food Tester, a job that comes with a high turnover rate. To prevent Yelena from escaping, Valek gives her Butterflies Dust, and the only way to prevent a painful death, is the antidote that only he has, given every day. As time goes by, and more and more strange things happen, Yelena finds herself in a situation where her life is in danger in more ways than one, and the choices she needs to make are not easy.
I was pleasantly surprised reading Poison Study. Incredibly unique, the world building was simple enough to understand, yet different enough to still feel like fantasy, and the story was super interesting. If you have have been reading my reviews, you know I love romance. I love smut. Poison Study has a little bit of romance, and no smut ... and I still loved it. Don't get me wrong - there is sex. It's just implied. Does it bug me? A little. But the story was so good, I got over it.
I really enjoyed Yelena. Yelena's slow progression to finally facing her demons made a great character arc. I also appreciated that Yelena's character is highlighted by her intelligence, her determination, and strength. Valek is also a great character. Respectful, intelligent, strong, yet dangerous. Their quiet chemistry with one another made for a slow-burn romance with a high payoff. It's sweet. They are sweet. Something I loved about this book, is Maria's actual character building. Very little is described of Yelena's and Valek's looks, which is great, because often looks are made important in books. I wish we had a little bit more description though, so I can picture them better in my mind.
Poison Study is a wonderful, fantasy read, full of political intrigue and plots, with just a dash of romance. I feel like anyone, woman, man, teenager, would enjoy this book, and quite honestly, I can't wait to start the next book.
Valek and Yelena's first meeting
Valek saving Yelena from the master magician
Valek catching Yelena snooping, and his approval of her training
Yelena trying to seduce Valek when she was drunk, and him stopping her
Valek giving Yelena the butterfly pendant
Yelena forgiving Rand before he died, and Valek helping her despite the Commander's orders
Yelena telling Valek why she murdered Reyad
Valek admitting his feelings for Yelena, and making love
Valek killing Mogkan and giving Yelena knife while bowing
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Valek: "Yelena, I'm offering you a choice. You can either be executed, or you can be Commander Ambrose's new food taste. His last taste died recently, and we need to fill the position."
Yelena: "A fool would refuse the job."
Valek: "Well, it's a lifetime position. The training can be lethal. After all, how can you identify poisons in the Commander's food if you don't know what they taste like? You'll get a room in the castle to sleep, but most of the day you'll be with the Commander. No days off. No husband or children. Some prisoners have chosen execution instead. At least then they know exactly when they're going to die, rather than guessing if it's going to come with then next bite."
Yelena: "Who tastes the Commanders food now?"
Valek: "I do. So I'm anxious to find a replacement. Also the Code of Behavior states that someone whose life is forfeit must be offered the job. What shall I tell the executioner?"
Yelena: "I am not a fool."
Valek: "It's a dirty way to fight, but I'm late for lunch."
Rand: "Yelena, I'm always going to bet on you. You're like one of the Commander's terriers. A tiny, yappy dog you wouldn't look at twice, but once it grabs your pant leg, it won't let go."
Yelena: "Does the entire castle's staff get paid?"
Yelena: "Including the food taster?"
Yelena: "Why not?"
Valek: "The food tester is paid in advance. How much is your life worth?"
Yelena: "Why is a southern magician trying to kill me?"
Valek: "A good question. The very same one I was going to ask you."
Yelena: "How should I know? Brazell's guards I could understand. But magicians! It's not like I've been going around making southern magicians angry."
Valek: "Ahhh ... that's a shame. Since you have a real talent for angering people."
Magician: "Yelena, I'm here to make you an offer."
Yelena: "What could you possibly offer me? I have a job, color-coordinated uniforms and a boss to die for. What more could a need?"
Ari: "What we do with our free time is none of your business. Now, why don't you shuffle off to Parffet. I saw him heading toward the latrines. He'll need you to wipe his ass soon. It's the one skill you're most suited for."
Yelena: "I heard a noise. I came to ..."
Valek: "Investigate. Searching for an intruder is different from examining statues. You were snooping."
Valek: "Good. Curiosity is a commendable trait. I wondered when you would explore up here."
Valek: "Opportunistic and underhanded, I love it."
I halted in the doorway, looking back over my shoulder.
Valek: "You once said I wasn't ready to believe your reason for killing Reyad. I'll believe you now."
Yelena: "But I'm not ready to tell you."
Yelena: "When you warned me that you would test me from time to time, I thought you meant spiking my food. But it seems there is more than one way to poison a person's heart, and it doesn't even require a meal."
Yelena: "Okay, so there's no chance for escape. How about this? You gave Tentil a new life, why not me?"
Valek: "How do you know I haven't already? Why do you think you were in the dungeon for almost a year? Was it only luck that you happened to be the next in line when Oscove died? Perhaps I was merely acting at our first meeting when I seemed so surprised that you were a woman."
Yelena: "Are you finished?"
Valek: "What? No rebuttal?"
I shook my head
Valek: "Then I'm finished."
Valek: "When I carved this statue, I was thinking about you. Delicate in appearance, but with a strength unnoticed at first glance."
Valek: "Yelena, you've driven me crazy. You've caused me considerable trouble and I've contemplated ending your life twice since I've known you. But you've slipped under my skin, invaded my blood and seized my heart."
Yelena: "That sounds more like a poison than a person."
Valek: "Exactly. You have poisoned me."
Valek: "Is there anything else you haven't told me?"
Yelena: "I love you."
Valek wrapped me in his arms
Valek: "My love has been yours since the fire festival. If those goons had killed you, I knew then that I would never be the same. I didn't want or expect this. But I couldn't resist you."
Sieges weathered, fight together, friends forever.
We kissed with passion and a desperate urgency.
Yelena: "Come with me."
Valek's blue eyes closed with pain
Valek: "I can't."
I turned away, feeling like one of Valek's black statues, but he drew me back.
Valek: "Yelena, you need to learn, you need to find your family, you need to spread your wings and see how far you can fly. You don't need me right now, but the Commander needs me."
I clung to Valek. He was right, I didn't need him, but I wanted him to be with me forever.
Valek: "An execution order hasn't kept us apart before. There are ways to get around it. We will be together."
Yelena: "Is that an order?"
Valek: "No, a promise."
Check out the rest of the Chronicles of Ixia