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Maria V. Snyder – Poison Study

May 25, 2012

52. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (2005)
Study, Book 1

Length: 416 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Started: 04 May 2012
Finished: 07 May 2012

Where did it come from? Bought at Borders.
Why do I have it? Don’t remember, but since I bought it new, I must have heard very good things.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 05 January 2009.

Life is tenuous
when you’re a poison taster…
but at least it’s life.

Summary: Yelena’s been in jail for months, awaiting execution for murder. Yet the day before her scheduled execution, she’s offered an extraordinary choice: rather than being executed, she can become the official food taster of the Commander of Ixia. Although it is not freedom – she’s bound to the palace by the requirement of a daily antidote to a poison she’s forced to ingest – it is life, and Yelena soon sets to work learning how to detect poison from the spymaster, Valek. But the potential for poisoning is not the only danger in her life: the general whose son she killed knows she is still alive, and will stop at nothing to achieve what he wants… including venegance against Yelena.

Review: I wanted to love this book more than I did. I did enjoy it, and I’m interested enough to pick up the sequel(s), but I wanted to love it, and I just didn’t.

In its favor: It moves along quite quickly, given its size, and I thought the idea of using a condemned criminal as an imperial food taster was fascinating. There was also a nice blend of mystery, fantasy, romance, and action, without ever getting too weighted down by the conventions of any one genre. There were also some nice touches of dry humor throughout, which kept the book from being overwhelmed by its frankly-treated but still rather dark subject matter.

However, I didn’t get along particularly well with the prose style, and I think that was what ultimately kept me from really loving the book. The prose wasn’t bad, but it didn’t fall quite right on my ear, frequently veering between choppy, blocky sentences and extended flowy metaphors that didn’t always work for me. Snyder also has a tendency to infodump her worldbuilding in a way that didn’t feel organic to the first-person narration tone of the book. I also had a hard time getting emotionally attached to Yelena, partly because the prose style kept me at a distance, but also because she seemed rather thickheaded about a lot of aspects of the plot (the magic, romance, and scheming angles, in particular) that were pretty transparent to me. So, while this was an enjoyable-enough read without any glaring flaws, I think it did suffer from a lack of fit of prose style to reader, and from some over-high expectations on my part. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It’s an interesting take on YA fantasy, and I’d recommend it to people who like the genre but are tired of supernatural creatures getting top billing. On the “female protagonists and poison” front, though, it didn’t quite match up to Sara Poole’s historical fiction Poison.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Capricious Reader, Em’s Bookshelf, Good Books and Good Wine, Stella Matutina, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
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First Line: Locked in darkness that surrounded me like a coffin, I had nothing to distract me from my memories.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2012 12:06 pm

    I will have to check out Sara Poole!

    • May 25, 2012 1:06 pm

      Kailana – Definitely! The first one was my Pick of the Month for May last year. (The second one is also quite good, and the third one just came out – I need to lay hands on a copy!) I’m debating going back and re-visiting them now that I’ve started watching The Borgias, just to see how they compare.

  2. May 25, 2012 2:17 pm

    That’s disappointing that you didn’t love Poison Study as much as you hoped you would. I loved it but I also like Snyder’s style, info dumps and all.

    Also? I am sooo adding Sara Poole to my TBR!

    • May 25, 2012 2:47 pm

      April – Do you have a Kindle? Poole’s first book, Poison, is still only $2.99….


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