Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja)'s Reviews > Poison Study

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
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I finished this book on Friday, and I took all weekend to decide what I wanted to say in my review. Let me start by saying that Poison Study is written in a very elemental fashion. If you are a reader who likes flowery, descriptive writing, this might throw you for a loop initially. The story is told inelaborately, and there is no hesitation in describing the ugliness of Yelena's situation. When I met Yelena, she was taken out of her prison cell, where she had languished for the better part of a year, and was prepared to meet the executioner. I can't say I've read too many books that started this way. I was hooked right then and there. Instead of seeing Yelena get executed, she is taken to the office of the man who will cause a profound change in her life, Valek. Yelena was offered the opportunity to escape a quick execution. She could undertake the training as a food taster, which was not without risk, and if she survived, she would spend her life risking death on a regular basis. Typically the life of a food taster is very short. But, it's a lot longer than instant death. Yelena thought things through and decided she'd rather take her chances as a food taster.

From the beginning, I was interested in Yelena's story. She was a young woman who had ended up in a very dire situation (not all of her making), but was willing to own up to the life she'd taken. She never made excuses for her actions, although the reasons were valid. With the murder she committed, she felt as though her soul had been lost. And yet, some part of her refused to give up.

This book brings to mind the aphorism that "Justice is Blind." More and more I wonder if justice really should be blind. Those who enforce the law make their verdicts on cases based on the evidence presented. Yet, they don't always consider the underlying reasons why a person commits a crime. In the eyes of an omniscient diety, this makes perfect sense, because that Supreme Being sees all things. But, humans don't have that all-seeing perception. Is it fair for a woman to be sentenced to death for trying to protect herself and her loved ones, for killing a man who brutally tortured and raped her? According to the strict laws of Ixia, murder outside of war is considered a capital offense. From the moment that Yelena took the life of the son of General Brazell, her life was forfeit.

I believe in second chances. I just do. I know that we all fall and fail, and while I think some crimes are extremely heinous, I cannot let go of my belief that everyone deserves the right to make amends. I was happy that Valek gave Yelena the opportunity to live. Yet, Yelena will face more trials with her second chance. And she is put in a position to save the Commander who she serves as food-taster, and to prevent Ixia from falling prey to a conspiracy that involves key members of the government.

Poison Study was a very readable, fascinating, enjoyable adventure. I loved seeing Yelena come into her own. It was clear that she'd always been a strong person, and her strength of character and will is what allowed herself to emerge from the fires that had potential to destroy her. Instead, she was honed by those fires and made stronger.

I'm not very good at political stuff. I have my own way of looking at things, and it makes my interpretation of political stances, parties, affiliations, and governmental structures very against type. I think it was interesting to see the inner workings of the system that the Commander had set up through Yelena's eyes. In many ways, going from a monarchy to what appeared to be a dictatorship was an improvement. However, there were many restrictions imposed on the people as a result of that same government. Opportunities were open that weren't before. The government was set up to encourage fairness and to discourage waste. The downside was, anytime you have people in a system, it's going to be flawed, because people are flawed. So this system was not perfect. Through Yelena's eyes, I was able to see this all playing out.

I started this review by saying that this book was written with a simple use of language. I found that this narrative style was a bit deceptive. You might think this story is basic on first glance, but that's far from the truth. There is a lot going on here. I liked that Ms. Snyder left it up to the reader to interpret the events through her own eyes. I like how she slowly reveals aspects of the characters until the fullest picture comes to mind. That was the best way to write about a character like Valek. When he comes on the scene, he doesn't seem that grand. He seems like a puppet in the political structure of Ixia. But, if I had continued to see him that way, I would have been missing out on a lot. You see, Valek is not the puppet. He's the puppetmaster. He is an extremely intelligent and cunning spymaster, a swordsman without equal, and a deadly assassin. He's so matter-of-fact and without flare, so you don't see him truly unless you look deeper. He holds his allegiance to Commander Ambrose very sacredly, but that doesn't mean he doesn't always agree with the rules that the Commander has instituted. That he cannot see justice done in his own way. Through Yelena's eyes, we see how the perception of Valek expands to show who and what he really is. I fell in love with him as Yelena did.

I'm a romantic at heart, and I will always be. I loved the burgeoning relationship between Yelena and Valek. How they slowly worked their way into each others' hearts, through proximity and the fact that they saw something in each other that resulted in an irresistible draw to each other. It's clear from the beginning, through the eyes of others around Yelena and Valek, and through Valek's actions, that he cherishes Yelena. It's a subtle but at the same time, pretty obvious thing. In my opinion, it took a lot of writing skill to convey this to the reader, and Ms. Snyder did an excellent job.

Poison Study was a grand adventure in the style of the classic adventure novels. The fight scenes are well-written, and the danger elements are exciting and involving. Being Yelena is a dangerous proposition, because Brazell is determined to see her dead for killing his son, and continually uses underhanded methods to do it. Also because she lives in dangerous times, and in an environment fraught with intrigue. I liked that Valek saved Yelena several times, because it showed the intensity of his regard for her, but I also liked that many other times, Yelena was able to save herself through her intelligence, quick-thinking, and through her developing skills at self-defense. Yelena views herself as a small person in the scheme of things, but she had an important role in preventing a very ugly conspiracy from coming to fruition. She effects change by doing what she feels is right, and because of that, she gains the respect of those who had previously viewed her as a cold-blooded murderess. Her actions don't occur in a vacuum, and they often result in helping/protecting others in various ways.

The fantastic elements are subtle but integral. I liked how Yelena's magic was instrinsic to her, a part of her that was dormant, emerging when she needs it. I loved seeing her become a capable and deadly fighter. She hates the idea of killing, but killing is necessary in the dangerous world she lives in. She had to come to realize this, or she couldn't love Valek, a man who kills for a living, and must do it without letting remorse weigh him down.

Poison Study was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Like many unexpected favorites, it snuck in there on me. But when I finished this book, I had a big smile on my face.
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Reading Progress

09/09 page 42
10.0% 4 comments
09/09 page 84
20.0% "I'm trying to figure out who I can picture as Valek. Hmmm...." 4 comments
01/30 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 73) (73 new)

Lydia Just wondering how you liked the book so far?

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) I like it a lot, so far. I really like Yelena, and Valek is appealing!

message 3: by TJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

TJ I noticed you gave it 5 stars but no review. I rely on your opinions, oh great one! (LOL) It looks really interesting so I added it to my TBR list but would like to hear what you thought about it.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) I am going to write a review, but I like to stew on the books first. Stay tuned!

Danielle Oh, I'm so glad you liked this! I wondered if you would when I saw it on your 'Reading' pile... I found it a great & pleasant surprise, with a strong and interesting relationship between Valek and Yelena. I thought it had one of the best beginnings I'd read for a while, too - it really made me root for Yelena!

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) You said exactly why I liked it so much, Danielle. :)

Fani I loved that book too Danielle. Are you gonna read the next 2? I liked them, but not so much as this one, though they were pretty hard to put down anyway.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) Fani, I already bought the next two. Looking forward to reading them.

Fani Well, they're far from boring and the mystery part is much better -and less obvious- than this one. Good luck with them:)

message 11: by Rane (new)

Rane Great Review Danielle!

message 13: by Kelly (last edited Sep 13, 2010 07:24AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kelly Great review! One of my favorite aspects of this book was the political complexity. The commander had in some ways been repressive but had improved other things. Such as, women had more rights, and you had situations like Yelena's where the laws would be "bent" to help people who'd committed justifiable crimes.

message 14: by Jessica B (last edited Sep 13, 2010 07:30AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jessica B Fantastic review! I will definitely be picking this one up in the near future!!!

Yz the Whyz I just finished this trilogy, and I feel that Poison Study was a great beginning for it.

Great review, Danielle, as always.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) Thanks, Kelly, Jessica, and Yz.

Kelly, I get bored with political stuff a lot of the times, but I wasn't bored with the way MVS presented it in this book. It was an important part of the setting here.

Jessica, I definitely recommend this book.

Yz, do you like the following books as much?

Yz the Whyz Lady Danielle:Yz, do you like the following books as much? ."

Hard to answer that without giving away a few things. :)

I think the next two books were solid reads, but none compared to the sparkle of the first book. I missed Valek in the 2nd book, and even in the third book, I wish there were more interactions between him and Yelena. But them I'm a romance reader at heart, so I'm always looking for the love angle. *grins*

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) I am the same way, Yz. Thanks for the info. :)

UniquelyMoi ~ BlithelyBookish Great review! This is one of my very favorite series. But I agree with Yz, I missed Valek.

I thought Magic Study was much funnier, and Fire Study was incredibly dark. But still, I loved them all.

message 20: by AH (new) - rated it 5 stars

AH Great review! I loved this book. Didn't like the next one as much. I have yet to read Fire Study.

message 21: by Annie (new) - added it

Annie Moreno Great review this was on my TBR pile for awhile I'm definitely going to read it after I finish the series I'm currently on

message 22: by Melissa (new) - added it

Melissa Great review! I have this one in my TBR pile.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) Thanks, girls. I think I would miss Valek very much. I heart him!

Alisha Absolutely fantastic review. Thank you for sharing, Danielle!

message 25: by Heather (new)

Heather Great review! I don't think you will be disappointed with the next two books..

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) Thanks, Alisha and Heather. That's good news, Heather!

message 27: by Heather (new)

Heather Have you tried The Maze Runner? I think that one might be just up your alley..

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) As a matter of fact, it's in my tbr pile. :)

message 29: by Heather (new)

Heather Yeah, as if I had to recommend it. Great minds think alike eh??

message 31: by Heather (new)

Heather Hey, you know a lot huh? What does the GR on the groups mean? I finally got my friend to join and she asked me about it. Many thanks!

Samiha Hussain You took the words right out of my head! I feel the exact same way about the book and I absolutely loved it!

message 33: by Heather (new)

Heather Samiha, will you be reading the second one, The Scorch Trials??

Samiha Hussain Heather wrote: "Samiha, will you be reading the second one, The Scorch Trials??"

I hope to Heather, but after reading some reviews, it seems that it's not as liked as the first one. I probably will read it though.

message 35: by Heather (new)

Heather Really??? Man, that was the same thing after reading Fallen, that Torment wasn't as good and I struggled through Fallen.

Samiha Hussain Heather wrote: "Really??? Man, that was the same thing after reading Fallen, that Torment wasn't as good and I struggled through Fallen."

I did to! The plot was a great idea but the writing didn't flow as well as it could have. Have you read City of Bones?

message 37: by Heather (new)

Heather Hmm, City of Bones by Claire (sp) right? I tried the first one and hated the ending and didn't continue the rest.

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) GR stands for Goodreads? Only thing I can come up with.

message 39: by Heather (new)

Heather OK, yeah that's what I thought right after I posted it. Since no one said anything you all forgot! Oh well..

Wesley This was a great review, I'm in the midst of reading this right now.

message 42: by Kouk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kouk Great review Danielle!
I loved this book and the rest of the series! Have you read her Glass series yet? I hope to read them soon!

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) Thanks, Kouk. I haven't read any of her other books yet. Looking forward to it.

message 44: by Emma (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Whoa, looong review! Great though. :)

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) Thanks, Emma. I can get long-winded sometimes. :)

message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

Great review for a great book:)

message 48: by Tara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tara Manna Awesome Review! Thanks for sharing!!

Jennifer Wondering if you had read the 2nd book?

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