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Poison Study (Study, Book 1) Paperback – February 20, 2007
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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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. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dusté and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.
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.
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For Yelena, a soon-to-be-executed murderess, the answer is everything. To prolong her life for an indeterminable time, she is willing to participate in a gamble: she will become the Commander's food taster. The prize? The possibility of living just one more day after each successful tasting. The stake? Her life.
One can't deny this is a superior setup. It draws the reader in right away, as we hold our breaths and quietly cheer for the disillusioned but sturdy Yelena. The novel's beginning, more or less, seemed to promise a more original work than the cliche-ridden fantasy genre often permits.
But, unfortunately, Poison Study ultimately disappoints. Half-way through the book, the originality and excellence of execution found in the beginning fades and disappears all together.
1. The plot: Oh, Poison Study, you could have been so much more poisonous and intriguing. Survival by poison detection is a dangerous experience indeed, and I was hoping Yelena's experience was one of heart-stopping suspense and subtle but potent political intrigue. The first half had a bit of this. Yelena was admirable as she survived by hard work and intelligence.
Sadly though, the plot soon dissolved into the all too familiar, formulaic, heroine centered plot: OH NO, the ENTIRE country is in danger. Why? because a very, very evil villain is using magic to threaten All-That-is-Good-and-Just. Enters the heroine, who is really the Destined One. Her life will be compromised several times, but because she has the Rare Gift of Extraordinary Magic, she saves the day. In the sequel (oh yes, of course), she goes on to discover she has Powers Beyond Her Wildest Imagination.
In other words, by the last half I lost interest because I felt I was reading something I've already read a billion times.
2. Poor Valek: you could have been something, but instead you became just a foil.
I really liked Valek at first. He was interesting. The commander's master strategist. One of the main players who helped the current regime dispose--and kill--the previous king. Obviously smart. Obviously talented. Obviously ruthless and dangerous. How else do you succeed in an intensely uncertain political environment?
I was looking forward to reading about someone who may not, due to his environment and experiences, possess a conventional set of morals, but is immensely driven to utilize his intelligence and talents in service of a safer, more stable country for the people of Ixia. He will commit many sins, but at the same time, many acts of good.
Wrong. This is Valek by the end: a compassionate do-gooder, who's oh-so-traumatized by his childhood, but can spurt ridiculous things like "you've poisoned me, Yelena".
3. Yelena: in the beginning, she was cool. I liked her battered but stubborn survival instinct. But of course, she had to learn masterly fighting skills, discover powerful aptitude for magic, and turn into a Mary Sue. Dear fantasy novelists, please, please stop using your heroines as a medium for wish fulfillment. Character development and growth doesn't necessarily translate into superpowers and a lover. Thank you.
Poison Study, you could have been great. What a waste of promise and premise.
Poison Study by Maria Snyder follows the story of Yelena who has been spending a year in a dungeon waiting to die when she's offered a chance to live: become the Commander's Food Tester. While that intrigues her enough, she soon finds out that she can't escape because she's given a poison where she has to have the antidote every day or she'll die. The only person with the antidote is Valek, who is head of security and current food tester. While there, she finds out she does have magic - something that could get her killed if she stays in Ixia - along with a plot against the Commander.
Overall, it sounds like an attractive story, but looks can be deceiving. There were a few issues I had with this story. So many plot holes.
First off, what category is this? It reads like a young adult book and I'm thinking it is, even though Yelena is nineteen and older than the regular young adult book. I'm thinking it's more of an adult book, but it doesn't read like one. Even my library doesn't know. Some have them in young adult and some in adult. So... what genre is it? All I get is "romance", which I don't even see how that's possible since there wasn't any real romance.
The structure was just horrible. It was stiff, didn't flow right at all, and wasn't smooth. The story was filled with short, choppy sentences that didn't flow right.
What time period is this? Or supposed to be? I know it's a fantasy/sci fi type of story, but for the most part, it's based off of medieval setting, but then it randomly jumps to modern day...? It wasn't consistent and I don't even think Maria knew what she was doing. I mean, how do you go from magic, castles, dungeons and so forth to camouflage and factories?
It takes Yelena a year before they're going to kill her or save her. A YEAR. Why does it take that long? WHY? If she's a murderer, she would die as soon as possible. If this position has been available for her and she was the one they were waiting for, why did it take them a YEAR to do anything about that? What could they possibly do that would take a year to figure out? Okay, according to the law, the first woman who is supposed to die is given the chance. That was her. Why wasn't she given the chance when she first was arrested? Or a month or so afterwards? Why did it take a year for them to ask her?
The first poison Yelena drinks is Butterfly's Dust, where she has to have an antidote every day or she'll die. But when she starts drinking poisons to know what they taste like, the first one, My Love, puts her out for three days. THREE DAYS. That's three days without her antidote. Got that? So... why is she still alive after those three days when she hasn't had her antidote? Why did no one give her the antidote? And why did Yelena not even care if she had the antidote those three days she was out? WHY? Does anyone know? Nope. Clearly not the author because she leaves all these plot holes.
The Commander is drugged with theobroma. Sounds interesting, right? Look it up and see what it says. A type of tree which includes the cacao. Know what that is? Chocolate. (Basically) So, we have chocolate that's drugging the Commander. Chocolate. Got it. Didn't know chocolate could do that...
The characters were so flat and one dimension. They were boring, dull, or Mary Sues. It was annoying to read. Everyone was skilled in everything. Some more so than others. And I don't even know what any of them look like or how old they were. I honestly thought Valek was some old guy in his 50s or something. It wasn't until more than half way through the book that Maria mentioned about the Commander being close to 40 years old and that Valek was seven years younger than that. So, Valek is 32. (Though, according to wikipedia, he's 33...)
Apparently there was some romance between Valek and Yelena. Where, I don't know, but it was there. All I read was how Yelena didn't trust Valek, didn't like him, wanted to kill him, etc. And Valek seemed content on having Yelena dead as well. But then, randomly, it would be where Yelena would look at him and describe how beautiful he looked in one long paragraph. Then it would go back to hating Valek. All of a sudden, towards the end, they kiss and she tells him she loves him (this is right after she tells him she's a magician and she knows he is the one who kills those with magical powers). I'm assuming they also had sex, but it wasn't very clear with the description. It was just how they were together. Nothing about in bed, sleeping or any normal way of saying they had sex. It was awkward and didn't make sense. I had to reread it and wonder if Maria actually meant they slept together. It's not a children's book. She can say they had sex instead of making up random words that don't make any sense.
I didn't get the romance and it was just weird. Maybe it as the age thing too. They're 14 years apart and while that isn't bad, it was just odd. Maybe it was also because I thought Valek was twice her age as well...
Everything and everyone was so predictable it was annoying and clichéd. It's your standard "bad guy has physical flaw", "bad guy acting nice to good guy/leader", "bad guy really trying to kill good guy/leader", "main protagonist has bad history/past but (s)he's learned to move on, making them a better person", "middle ground guy trying to make nice with protagonist but is really going against them", "middle ground guy feels bad for trying to betray protagonist once they get to know them", etc type of story. Name a cliché and you've got it in this book. Really Maria, you can't think of anything better?
And it turns out that the poison Yelena thought she had wasn't a poison at all. But Valek made Yelena think she had a poison so that she wouldn't leave. Yeah, that was predictable.
Commander Ambrose apparently isn't a man, but a woman in a man's body. Say what now? Ambrosia was a woman but she decided she didn't want to be a woman, so she dressed like a man and acted like a man and dressed like a man from an early age and no one (except Mary Sue, I mean Yelena) discovered that. Okay... um... yeah... So, this woman has to dress up like a man and no one knows she's a woman in mans clothes. Isn't there the fact that she would have breasts, a vagina instead of a penis, and a period that would tip someone off a lot sooner? Like, I don't know, her maids?! And why in the world would it matter if she's male or female?
Overall, the story wasn't all that good. There were plot holes, the writing wasn't smooth, and it was just a jumbled mess. Some of it wasn't bad, but not enough to make me want to buy the book or recommend it. Maybe if there were better details, more consistency, more romance since it was a "romance", more depth to the story, it wouldn't be so bad. But as it was, it wasn't very good at all.
Most recent customer reviews
The development between the two love interests were well done. A cast of lovable side characters.Read more