Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

poison-study-snyderPoison Study (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder, first published in 2004 by Mira.

Author. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: purchased (e-book).

Genre: YA fantasy.

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… (Goodreads.)

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My rating: a slightly shaky 4/5.

First of all, thank you, Danya and Becky, for recommending this! :) This is one of the reasons I love blogging – it’s like discovering a whole new land. You know, without leaving the couch.

Now, about this book. I have a confession to make first: I would have enjoyed this much more if I hadn’t read Throne of Glass first. The “sentenced to death but given another chance at freedom” plotline along with a slightly worrying romance (Stockholm syndrome, anyone?): it just felt too similar. But let me be clear: Poison Study was published before Throne of Glass, I just got to them in the wrong order.

But if we put this issue aside, Poison Study has much to recommend. I really liked Yelena (all the names have a vaguely Slavic tone to them; I knew a Jelena in school and Janko is our version of Hansel) and her will to survive despite the shitty hand the fate dealt her. I liked that she made friends even though she knew she was a tragedy in the making, and was open to genuine feelings even if her past left her wary of male “affection”. I could have done with less brutality (especially the rape part – Maggie Stiefvater has a good point on this), but I understand what Snyder was trying to do.

What I liked most about this novel were the secondary characters, I think. The Commander is very interesting, Janco and Ari are a great pair (Or a couple?), and Rand was just three-dimensional enough to be very believable.

Valek, the assassin, sometimes got on my nerves with his wooden demeanor, but that’s just how he is, and I think it’s actually great that the love interest doesn’t have a bunch of starry-eyed women trailing after him because he’s so gorgeous. It makes him much more human.

The magic system wasn’t really detailed, mostly because Yelena doesn’t know anything about it and is just beginning to realize how everything works. I read this as an e-book which was unfortunate because there’s a map of the world at the beginning, which I glanced at when I started reading the book, but didn’t have the patience to click back to once the story really got going. Also, my old Kindle is kind of crappy with graphics, so it wasn’t very easy to read the map in the first place. But this didn’t really bother me too much, it’s just an observation. (This must happen a lot with books with maps… I just never noticed it before because I often buy physical copies of fantasy novels – or my husband does, and he prefers paperbacks to e-books.)

In short, this is a really cool YA fantasy with loveable side characters, but I do hope it goes in a very different direction from Throne of Glass from now on.

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Have you read Poison Study? Did you like it? 

Do you like your heroes swoon-worthy or do you prefer the weird ones?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! :)

  • I have heard good things about this one and it would have never hit my radar without blogging. Put a hold request in at my library.

    • Kaja

      I hope you like it! I’m really curious about the next part.
      Public libraries are one of the things I really envy those who live in the US and Canada. We have good libraries, but they hold mostly Slovenian books (shocking, I know). The other thing I envy you guys are Pop Tarts. We don’t get those here and I’ve been thinking about chocolate ones the whole morning…

  • You read it? Yay, I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. I get what you’re saying about enjoying it more if you hadn’t read Throne of Glass first, I was the same, but luckily for me there was a good six month gap between the reading of the two books that meant I didn’t feel the need to roll my eyes at the whole thing. Janco and Ari are some of my favourite characters from the entirety of the books series.

    I think the series definitely gets better as you go through and learn more about magic and the world-building is pretty intriguing.

    • Kaja

      Oh, that’s great to hear. It’s a strong beginning of a series but I like knowing the story gets better when I’m starting it! :)
      Thanks for the reccomendation, I can always count on you for that :)

  • Glad you enjoyed it, Kaja! Blogging friends for the win. ;)

    I completely agree with you about the brutality. Unfortunately the rape/threat of sexual violence motif comes up in every.single.book in this series. I just recently read the third book so I could read the newest instalment, and I’m sad to say that it plays a role in that story as well. Thankfully a less explicit one, but still. As much as I loved Poison Study, I think the rest of the series is mediocre in comparison. :(

    • Kaja

      Ugh, that’s disappointing… I might continue with the series but I have so many other books to read first that I’m really, really excited about (plus a couple of ARCs), so it’ll be a while before I can get to it.
      Yes, blogging friends are great – but really bad for my budget :D Just joking – I love discovering new books and I adore the fact that people are for once giving me COOL book recs instead of just the dreary old stuff that the people around me think I should read (though why they think I’d enjoy it is a mystery to me).