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."And with those words I wanted to know how this story was going to end.
"You're not ready to believe me."
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.