I was totally expecting this to be a letdown 2 or 3 star sequel, based on all the negative reviews & comparisons it gets to Poison Study, but I'mI was totally expecting this to be a letdown 2 or 3 star sequel, based on all the negative reviews & comparisons it gets to Poison Study, but I'm glad I didn't listen to the haters, because I really liked it!! Totally solid sequel. Lots of character growth for Yelena, plenty of action, I had no problems with how take charge & fearless she was, and I dug that Valek actually only played a small part in the last third of the book. This isn't some plotless YA that is just an excuse for the lovers to gaze at each other all mopey while nothing really happens, this is YELENA'S journey and crap is going down and evil is afoot and sometimes a girl has to rely on herself and her own abilities! ...more
This book was a nice little treat! Was I on the edge of my seat throughout or an emotional mess near the end? No. But I did look forward every day toThis book was a nice little treat! Was I on the edge of my seat throughout or an emotional mess near the end? No. But I did look forward every day to stealing some time away after work at night to read. And I find myself thinking about it at random points in the day & have already purchased the sequel. This book is not pulse-pounding, gut-wrenching fantastical escapism. It is a fairly simple story that does several key things very well, and that can really be all you need in a good, light read.
(fyi: The pacing, plot, etc. feel like YA, but the characters are all older (20s, 30s) which was refreshing, and it also dealt with some really “mature” themes (rape, abuse, etc.). So, I might classify this book more as “New Adult” or just plain adult. Whatever who cares.)
Plot: About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...
Things I liked:
1. The protagonist. Yelena is a smart, intelligent, proactive fighter. She is open to learning & wants to improve. She desires to trust & open herself to relationships despite her tragic history. This is not a shy wallflower who sits around waiting for things to happen to her. She's like, Someone’s trying to kill me? Better train up & learn how to defend myself. I like you, Yelena. She’s not a perfect snowflake from the beginning, she has to work hard to get better at her skills. Her training motivated me to get off my butt IRL, I won’t lie. What an inspiration.
2. Valek. One of the FIRST times in YA that I haven’t seen the love interest coming from a mile away. (In large part because Yelena did NOT go into exhaustive detail about how chiselled his physique was & how piercing his eyes were & how honey blonde caramel frappuccino his hair was the minute she laid eyes on him). In fact, I thought Valek was possibly going to be a mentor figure or something until like a third of the way through the book when Yelena caught herself admiring him, and I was like OOOoooohhhH. Then by the middle of the book I was crushin’. (but OK, I just finished watching Netflix’s Daredevil, and you can’t blame a girl for picturing Charlie Cox/Matt Murdoch as Valek in all his assassin/black-clothes wearing glory. I AM WEAK.) But anyway, BLESS Snyder for creating a romance between equals. People who value one another’s talents & abilities & who challenge each other. AND MY GOSH they can actually function as individuals with their own desires, plans & goals.
3. I’m just going to go ahead and say that the characters in general were great. Some of the villains were a little too hammy & one-dimensional, but overall everyone was pretty layered & real. Janco & Ari are mah boyz.
4. The world was intriguing enough, I want to see more & spend more time in it. It didn’t drown you in exposition & world-building, and I’m glad. There’s a lot of sequels, we have time for that.
5. All dat castle drama & political scheming.
6. Attempts at addressing female equality (yes it’s a sexist world, but the new Commander encourages women to work in all areas of life, including the military), and there is a trans character which I’ve never come across in historical fantasy before.
A drawback of this book though? All of the “foreshadowing” was painfully obvious. No twist truly shocked me. There was a couple, “duh, Yelena, put it together” moments. A pity. I hear the sequel is hit or miss. We’ll see. Even if it’s lame, I think I’ll read the third one anyway. Such is my thirst for Valek. ...more