Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: Young adult/Fantasy
Pages: +- 409
Part of the Study trilogy
Yelena is a young woman when she kills the son of a General and is scheduled for execution.
After almost a year in the dungeon she is summoned, only to be given an option. Either she could become the Commander’s new food taster or she’ll hang.
The General still wants her dead and while she’s trying to avoid inevitable death, someone is plotting against the Commander. Gaining friends and skill, Yelena’s life is getting more complicated by the hour. Will she survive the nightmares that haunt her?
“This may work out better than I’d planned. Yelena, I’m offering you a choice. You can either be executed, or you can be Commander Ambrose’s new food taster. His last taster died recently, and we need to fill the position.”
After killing the son of her old benefactor, Yelena is awaiting the moment she’ll be executed. However her future is altered when someone close to the Commander, Valek, offers her another path; to be the new food taster of the Commander. Yelena is not foolish enough to let this pass and so she accepts the position, knowing that every day might be her last. Not only is she in danger of dying by tasting the possible poisoned food for the Commander, she’s also poisoned so that she needs an antidote every morning, or else she’ll die.
With escape being out of the question, Yelena sets to learning everything about every possible poison, Valek even lets her taste some particular poisons before she’s appointed official food taster.
However this does not change the feeling of pure hatred of General Brazell, who still wants her death because she murdered his son. He keeps haunting her in every way he can and he even sends a magician after her. And the nasty housekeeper Margg is not being a great help either by acting so hostile towards Yelena. With death on her heels, Yelena needs all the help she can find and so, slowly, she makes friends and gains skill to defend herself. But will that be enough to keep her alive? To prevent her from being murdered even now?
Next to her own troubles, she’s something else to deal with. When it becomes obvious that something is wrong with the Commander, she has to put everything she has to protect him and the future of her country.
But the ghost haunting her doesn’t make her life any easier either. She needs to believe in herself and she has to keep herself together, otherwise it would definitely be the end of her life.
This was how I felt trying to read this book.
I wanted to like it, I really did and I really tried. But after a while, some things start to get old real quick. This book in the nutshell:
1. Everyone wants Yelena dead for one reason or another.
2. When things tend to go towards ok, something comes along to make it horrible again.
3. The last few years were hard and she is a really scarred person. Yes, that’s something that gets very obvious after about… O I don’t know… 500 times.
Let me explain why I was feeling like hitting someone while reading this.
Firstly there is a problem I encounter more often but one that doesn’t always bother me as much as it did now: the first person way of writing. This time it really got to me because all she was thinking of, or at least so it seemed to me, was how hard her life had been and still was and how she wanted to escape but that it wasn’t possible because she would die. Also instead of giving some information about, O I don’t know, the surroundings or the castle or the way things were living in that country/kingdom, the only pieces of information you get are: the castle is not symmetrical and build in something that looks like building blocks, the country is divided into military districts, there is an enemy country on the southern border and there is some sort of hierarchy consisting of the commander, generals, advisers, soldiers, normal people/servants and magicians.
Another thing that bothered me was that Snyder could have done so much more with the history of that country and the border conflict! But all she did was tell a little about the point of the takeover when the Commander came to seize power and killed the old King. Now, I know that while reading this you’ll only know what Yelena knows but at some point she gets to a library and the place where she’s staying has a lot of books as well so why isn’t there a moment of a little history? Or some sort environmental/orientation part in this story? That would make everything so much more alive! Instead all we know in the end is: There are trees/forests , the castle looks like it’s been built by a three year old, the only animals in this country are probably dogs, rats, snow cats and sometimes there is an owl. Oh and there are five seasons instead of four. Nothing to go on really. There’s even some point where Yelena finds a map and copies it into her diary, but information about the layout of the castle? Nope.
Now you may wonder: Was there anything you did like in this book? Anything at all?! Well… yes… there were some things that I could appreciate in this story. Snyder did depict how things are like when one power falls and another takes its place. I appreciate that because not in every Young Adult book this is obvious. Snyder did a good job in mentioning that the inside of the castle changed after the Commander took his residence there, she also mentioned the disappearance of some supplies when the borders closed between the two countries and also she did a good job in depicting the change in how the country was ruled.
So I fear that this is it. I know that some of you won’t agree with me but this is the conclusion of my review about Poison Study. I didn’t like it much. There was too much missing for me to really enjoy this book and there were too many things that annoyed me from the very start. It’s really hard to say but I’ll give this book two starts because I don’t know if I can handle this…