Portal to the Pages

A quick glimpse into my thoughts on various fiction

Guest Post: Poison Study – Maria V. Snyder

on November 10, 2012

This week, I am pleased to being another guest post to you. Today’s post is by Megan Reilly, of The Mixing Bowl. Megan and I have been in college together for almost five years now but it is only since I started this blog that we have begun discussing books. Megan is currently studying for a Masters in Marketing in DCU and kindly offered to do a guest blog on the provision that I return the favour. As such, keep an eye on The Mixing Bowl for my upcoming post about gluten-free cookies!

Book cover of Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study

Poison Study has to be one of my all-time favorite books. It is set in Ixia, a land ruled by a military dictator, known as Commander Ambrose, and divided amongst his generals. Within Ixia people born with magical ability must either flee the country to neighboring Sitia, a land ruled by 4 master magicians and divided amongst 13 clans, or be executed.

The story centers on an orphan, Yelena who is awaiting execution after murdering her benefactor, General Brazzel’s, only son Reyad. Just before she is to be hung she is offered the position of food taster for the commander, by his security chief and master assassin Valek, as by law if the old food taster dies, which seems to happen fairly regularly, the next person due to be executed gets offered the job.

Valek tricks Yelena into taking a poison called Butterfly’s Dust which requires a daily antidote to keep her alive and prevents her from fleeing. As she begins her training as food taster Yelena discovers she has some magical ability and thus begins a cat and mouse game where she must evade General Brazzel’s men, find a permanent antidote to Butterfly’s Dust and hide her increasing magical ability from Valek and the Commander.

Things are made even more difficult for Yelena when magicians from neighboring Sitia discover her and she finds that she must either learn to control her powers, which means escaping to Sitia, or they will destroy her. While trying to figure out how to escape her predicament Yelena strikes up a friendship with two soldiers, Ari and Janco, who begin to teach her how to defend herself and to use some weapons.

This is a very easy book to read, with a fast pace and detailed story line. The relationships that form between the characters makes them easy to relate to, with Ari and Janco soon becoming big brothers to Yelena and Rand, the head chef, becoming a valuable source of gossip while hiding some of his own dark secrets.

The contrast and the similarities between the two countries of Sitia and Ixia also add depth to the characters and how they think. Sitia is a cross between a democracy with the clan’s council and a monarchy with its master magicians. Ixia was formerly an ally of Sitia and ruled by a powerful but corrupt monarchy made up of magicians, until they were assassinated by Valek and the Commander, who implemented a strict code of behavior to govern the country. The council of Sitia is terrified of Valek and his potential ability to kill their guardians, the magicians and see his code of behaviors as a form of slavery. Ixias Commander hates magicians and all magic due to years of abuse by the magical monarchy of Ixia and some personal reasons you will have to read the book to find out.

All of this influences how they act with one another and the general culture and thought processes of the characters, depending on which side they are on. It also makes Yelena’s relationship with her friends strained as both Ari and Janco, as Ixians, naturally mistrust those with magic, accepting the law that they be killed. Meanwhile the Sitians mistrust anyone from Ixia, epically someone as close to Valex and the Commander as the food taster.

There is also a lot of background knowledge given on both self-defense and food tasting as Yelena begins to learn these skills and apply them to her day to day life. It adds an element of realism and credibility to the books, as despite the fantastical nature of fantasy stories in general, the characters are still very much limited by their physical capabilities, with the exception of Valek who is just awesome at everything.

Valek has to be my favorite romantic interest of all time. His unquestionable loyalty to the Commander and role as magician killer makes him both a subject of terror and fascination for Yelena. That he remains the only thing standing between her and General Brazell’s men makes her dependent on him for her own survival. There is defiantly a strong element of Stockholm syndrome in Yelena’s relationship with Valek, but to be honest, you can’t really blame her.

Big brothers, Ari and Janco really are just loveable with Ari being a big guard dog while Janco is like a puppy that needs a new toy every two minutes. The pair of them argue incessantly, while clearly being the best of friends.

There is a surprising amount of detail in this book considering how easy it is to read and follow and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a light read or who enjoyed Maria’s other works or anything by Trudie Canavan. I quite enjoyed the whole dark plot behind the story, but can’t really say more than that without spoiling it.

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2 responses to “Guest Post: Poison Study – Maria V. Snyder

  1. I have this book to read and after reading your review I’m hoping to read it sooner than planned! Great review!

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