Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Poison Study - Maria V. Snyder

POISON STUDY by MARIA V. SNYDER published Sept 2006 by Luna

This book was just one of those that never quite made it to the top of the TBR pile. Always dropping further and further down whenever something new came along. Plus (I think) when I got the book about twenty of the centre pages were slightly torn, which I didn't notice straight away and I think it always narked me a little bit.

On with the review. Yelena is about to be executed for murder. With her life on the line she's offered a choice - attend her execution or become a food taster for the Commander of Ixia, a man under constant threat of assassination. She accepts the job offer, aware that whilst it may be merely a delay of her death, it also offers her the opportunity to escape. Despite her circumstances she manages to make a life for herself, but when rebels plot to seize Ixia from the Commander and with her own life under threat the choices she makes not only shape her destiny but also the destiny of those around her.

Yay! Another score for the TBR pile. I really enjoyed this one and am kicking myself for not getting to it sooner - darn those torn pages.

Poison Study is set in a society (Ixia) which is Totalitarian. But it's made clear that in some ways this is better than the monarchist system it replaced. Whilst neither situation is a democracy the people as a whole appear to be better off under the rule of the Commander - everyone has a job, there are no homeless, people are expected to contribute to society. But it's also a rigid system with high standards, there is little flexibility. The use of magic isn't tolerated for example. Creating another problem for Yelena when her magical abilities start to develop. Unfortunately even within this controlled system there is still room for unscrupulous people to manipulate things to their advantage.

The story did start out slow for me. I was hooked on page 81 and at that point basically read until I'd finished the book.
"Tell me why you killed Reyad."
"You're not ready to believe me."
And with those words I wanted to know how this story was going to end.

Initially the story seems very simple. Yelena is the hero, we're on her side. The people who've imprisoned her are bad. But it's more complicated than that. And as we progress through the story it becomes more complex and layered. Especially as Yelena doesn't know who it's safe to trust. Every time she confides in someone it's a risk and you feel that as you're reading. This becomes even more dangerous as her magic develops. Who does she trust? Who won't betray her? And in sharing her secrets is she endangering the people she's come to care for?

What made this book for me are the relationships between Yelena and the other characters. Not just Valek her mentor and more, but also Ari, Janko and even the characters that she didn't get on with. They're very well drawn and make you feel like this is a story about a real place and real people, even though some of the circumstances are fantastical.

Valek is one of those men who sees everything. He slightly reminded me of Anafiel Delauney from the Kushiel series. And the author doesn't betray his character. At the end when he has the most difficult choice to make. He makes it, but he makes it his own choice. It's the relationship that develops between Valek and Yelena that kept me turning the pages. How it progresses from jailor and prisoner, to mentor and student to more. The way they circle cautiously around one another both constantly testing the other.

LOL - and I learnt a new word. Mucilaginous - of the nature of or resembling mucilage; moist, soft, and viscid. Lovely. :)

If I had any complaints it would be that some of the resolution was a little convenient and wasn't as involving (for me) as I hoped it would be. Slightly too much running from place to place.

But apart from that this is definitely a book I'd recommend. And I've already got Magic Study on my TBR pile ready to go.


Naomi said...

This is one of those books I keep adding to my Amazon wishlist, thinking about it, then deleting again, then adding again. I think the concept is great, but there are just so many books I want, I feel like I can't spend money on the ones I'm not 100% sure about.

That said, the more I hear about it, the better it sounds, so it's slowly edging it's way up the "must have" list.

Marg said...

I really enjoyed the first two books in this series! I am very impatiently waiting for my order with the third book in the series to arrive!

Christine said...

Great review, Lesley.
I have seen this series around, but really haven't looked into them. I love when character relationships develop slowly and realistically over the course of a story or series. And that the character development is not later betrayed. That drives me nuts. So I might like to read this one...

I think the relation and character development is one component of Ilona Adrews' series that I truly adore. The story would not be nearly as believable if someone like Kate just all of a sudden had friends and comrades, you know?

Thanks for the review!

Nicole said...

Ooh, I really liked this one. I read it initially because it was a book club book, but I'm really glad I did!

Nice review of it, too.

Sarai said...

I really liked this book the second one Magic Study is just so over the top I couldn't finish it. I will simply b/c I bought it in harback and the third is out... so *sigh* I must push forward.
Great review

LesleyW said...

Naomi - I do that with books on my wishlist too!

Marg - Because I spent so long between purchasing the books of this trilogy, each of my copies is going to have a different cover style. :( And I do like my covers to match.

Christine - Glad you liked the review.

Nicole - I think that's the reason I had it in my TBR pile, but I didn't read it for the bookclub.

Sarai - I've read Magic Study (actually got a few pages left but I had to go on a journey and The Host by Stephenie Meyer was a longer book). I don't like MS as much as PS. I'll expand more in my review of MS, but I though Yelena was a little arrogant in MS.