Everyone makes choices in life. Some bad, some good.
It’s called living, and if you want to bow out, then go right ahead.
But don’t do it halfway.
— Maria V. Snyder, Poison Study
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book.
I went into it not knowing anything other than that the main character was a prisoner and was given a second chance at life (sort of) by becoming the king’s (Commander, actually) food taster. In case it’s poisoned.
But really, it’s not much of a life because she might drop dead any moment someone attempted at the Commander’s life. Still, it was better than the dungeons or the gallows.
[TRIGGER WARNING: If talk or rape or other sexual assaults bother you, please know that this books has some discussions of it.]
I have been hearing great things about this book since 2015 when I first discovered that there’s an entire book community out there in the world. But recently, with all the new books coming out, not many people talk about it anymore. And the fact that it was first published in 2005 is probably one of the reasons why people aren’t so hyped about it anymore.
Regan of PeruseProject, however, started mentioning this book and series in her channel again. And that got me curious. Again. So I finally picked it up and read it.
Like I said, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed reading it.
- Writing Style. I have never read anything by Maria V. Snyder aside from this. That’s why I was surprised at how concise and clear her world building is, the character developments, even the humor of the characters. I like how even if it’s a fantasy book, it felt like a contemporary read because of how fast you read through it and how much character driven the story is.
- Characters. Yelena is a wonderful and strong female main character to read from. This is high praise from someone like me who is so quick to judge and get annoyed by female characters. She is smart and she does the right choices. She includes others and actually talk to people around her so she’s not alone. I feel like the main problem with other female characters is they try so darn hard to prove that they are independent and strong that it comes out to me as pompous and prideful. And then in the end they get in trouble and become damsels in distress. I hate that. Therefore, I love Yelena. She knows she’s not an island and she thinks of the consequences of her actions.
- Plot. This first book in a series definitely was a foundational book. But despite the heavy focus on characters and mere foreshadowing of what are to come, there was still a pretty decent plot line. Firstly, I loved the premise of a second chance to the prisoners and becoming a servant of the ruler. Second, the magic that we don’t fully understand yet but know is present in this is exciting. Third, the problems introduced in this book were actually resolved before it ended. It doesn’t matter that there’s a sequel, the problems were solved.
- Fast and easy read. This will always be a plus to me, especially in fantasy books. Density doesn’t always result in a better, diverse, and more adventurous fantastical world.
- Political Intrigues. Usually this kind of thing bores me but I force myself to read through because what fantasy book doesn’t deal with politics? But for this one, it’s so well written you actually take the time to learn more about it instead of skimming through the details.
- It lacked umpf. You don’t know umpf??? It’s that certain wow factor in books that’s make you want to pick up the next book immediately. I’m not talking about cliff-hanger endings where the author basically lures you in a trap into reading the sequel. Just the kind of something or someone that you really want to know more about so you pick up the next book as soon as the first one ends. Even if I loved reading this, I’m in no hurry to read the next one.
Book Rating: 4 stars
I forgot to mention how much I love Valek’s character. He reminded me of Chaol Westfall (Throne of Glass) with a mix of Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows). He is absolutely smart, cunning, and by the way people describe him, handsome. I’ve no clue what he looks like because I think Yelena failed to describe him other than he had a serious face. But based on how he acted under certain circumstances, I can already tell that he’s hot.
Maybe I will pick up the next book asap. Just because of him.
Oh and, the love story in this book? Yeah, not the center of the story. Which was refreshing.