Sunday, March 24, 2013

March Fantasy Month Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

This review is part of my awesome MARCH FANTASY MONTH project with the lovely Lili of Lili's Reflections. Click here to see Lili's review of Poison Study and follow both of us so you don't miss any of the fantasy madness!

Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Rating: A fabulous and inventive fantasy novel which, while not inspiring total devotional love in me, still engaged me from beginning to end. Also, chocolate is a major plot point. Yes.

Poison Study (Study, #1)

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...

The cover: I TOTALLY love this cover. I like the mysterious, dynamic pose. You can practically see the movement of her sweeping up the staircase and out of sight, with her big sleeves full of seeecrets. I like the slightly academic-looking title treatment and the gorgeous lighting on the castle stone. i find this cover very inviting.

The story: Poison Studyis one of those books that had me from the synopsis. The conflict of the initial set-up is so clear and so interesting and hey, did you see that cover? Yes pleeeeease. The reason I didn't feel punch you in the chest and seize your heart kind of love for this book is because I have read so many amazing high fantasy that it really takes a lot to enthrall me. Poison Study had everything I wanted, greatly entertained me, and made me hungry for the sequels, even if it didn't quite find a permanent place on my shelves.

Yelena narrates in a lofty, mannered, and slightly detached way, which takes a little getting used to, but that I ultimately enjoyed. It suited this high fantasy feel (even if every now and then it would randomly veer into more modern-speak), though I always wish to be plunged into characters’ emotions a bit more deeply. I felt her narration and her character could have used more depth. Let me clarify that: Yelena is a character with a lot of depth. She's incredibly intelligent, resilient, and strong. She's completely brilliant and I loved her. No damsel-in-distress syndrome for Yelena. I just wanted to feel her more. I wanted a little more depth in her emotions. However, she's a murderer, and I just loved that I am not a psycho, honestly.


I love that she's cagy and that everyone else treats her cagily. Because, hello. Murderer. And she didn't just kill anyone-- she murdered the son of her benefactor, the wealthy Lord Brazell (who I constantly kept misreading as Brazil). He ran the orphanage-type thing where Yelena grew up, and he... well, you'll see.

What’s truly aces here is the plot and the world. I've never read a fantasy world quite like Ixia. Most fantasies have kings and queens and whatnot, but Snyder somehow managed to blend fantasy with dystopian. Ixia cast aside its royal rule and now a more militaristic regime is in place. It's not an oppressive dictatorship, or anything, but it's more organized and more workman-like. For example, everybody is required to wear a uniform dictating your job and social level. The leader of Ixia is Commander Ambrose, a pretty fascinating character and the person for whom Yelena is tasting. In other words, she eats all his food before he does to make sure it isn't chock-full of poison.

Don't eat this.
Or this.

I LOVED the poisons. Having just read Poison, I'm clearly in the middle of a toxic substance kick, but the Poison Study poisons are more realistic, more lethal, and of course are accompanied by Valek. Who is, in a word, awesome. He's in charge of protecting Commander Ambrose and teaching Yelena everything there is to know about recognizing potions. He is loyal, dedicated, and exceptionally hot. I loved how slow-building and subtle the romance in this book is. The dynamic between him and Yelena is understated and yet somehow still swoony. I heart them muchly. The very best characters were, obviously, Ari and Janco. They were bursting with personality and just leapt off the page. And they made me go "Awwww" many a time. They're very sweet, loving, protective friends, and I wish I had them in my life.

The plot is full of intriiiigue and nefarious deeds and approximately 3245987 different people all trying to kill Yelena all the time. This is the kind of plot I can fully get behind. I figured out the main gist and perpetrator of the big plotty-twisty things, if not the little details. I wish the final climax had had more emotional impact (I wish this for the whole book, actually. Apart from Valek. Valek is perfection), but it was action-packed. But there should be more Valek. Valek on every page, I say. MORE VALEK preferably with his shirt off or in very tight pants or artistically whittling some butterflies and oh my God

I am not sure how this turned into a Sherlock fan post.


  1. *dances* Great review! I have this one on my shelf, begging to be read. As soon as I have time, I'll read it and then we can squeal over Hottie McHottie together. ;-)

  2. I loved Valek! I'm so surprised he's accomplished for someone so young and I can't wait to read book two because I loved him so much xD <3

    I also liked that the MC was a murderer because she's not your typical murderer. She was young and determined to save others. She gave up her own freedom and life in an attempt to help so many other people, you know?

    1. Exactly! It was a great twist on a typical heroine, but she was always sympathetic. I liked her. She had guts.

  3. I haven't read this series yet, but I can't wait! Poison Study sounds absolutely fantastic, honestly, and I do love a good fantasy novel.

    1. Me too! You should definitely give it a go!


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