Poison Study – Maria V. Snyder

poison-studyOn the Cover: Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

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 Dust—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…

Published: 2007

Other Books by this Author:

Inside Out
Corsets & Clockwork (Contributor)
Brave New Love (Contributor)


The Review:

I loved this book because it is highly unique. I love the concept of a food taster as the main character and that every time Yelena tasted food it added tension to the story. But my favourite part of the food tasting world is Yelena and Valek discussing different poisons and the techniques used to identify them. Not only is it interesting to read, but it’s totally distinct from other YA novels that I’ve read and I greatly appreciate that. Plus I love that Yelena throws herself into the task and reads books on poison and conducts further research to extend her knowledge. She can never count herself as safe, and I like that not only was her life continuously challenged, but that she learned to thrive within the realm of her new existence.

Snyder also doesn’t back away from the big subjects. There’s a lot of dark material in this book, such as rape and slavery, but I think it is handled well and that Snyder strove to give them the respect that they deserve. I also greatly appreciated that Snyder tied these elements into overarching themes such as loyalty, protection, and love, and the values she brought forward throughout the story were really well done.

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Finally, while I was not expecting it, this book does contain elements of transgender characters and hints at lgbt relationships, and I loved the way they were incorporated into the story. The characters that Snyder created to represent these roles were truly great. Most of all, I liked that the lgbt elements were part of the story, but they were not the main focus or truly part of the plot twist, it was just a natural part of this world.

Snyder’s writing is elegant and I felt totally immersed in her world. I am so impressed by the quality of lessons and values that she brings forward in this story. Plus I loved this novel because it showed me a world that was totally new and ultimately very thrilling. I am so excited that this book is part of a series, because I look forward to continuing in this wonderful world that Snyder had created.

Rating: 5 / 5

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Quotations:

“I was either going to screw up and be replaced as the food taster, or I was going to foil an assassination attempt with my own death. I might not technically die from a broken neck, but the haunting image of an empty noose would always plague me.” (p 94)

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“Where’s your test?’

Amusement touched Valek’s face. He rose from behind his desk. Sweeping his arm with a dramatic flourish, he indicated two rows of food and drinks on the conference table. ‘Only one item isn’t poisoned. Find it. Then eat or drink your selection.’

I tasted each item. I sniffed. I gargled. I held my nose. I took small bites. I spat. Some of the food had grown cold. Most of the meals were bland, making the poison easy to spot, while the fruit drinks masked the poison.

Finishing the last item, I turned to Valek. ‘You bastard. They’re all poisoned.”(p 76)

The Fate of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

fate-of-the-tearlingOn The Cover: In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…

Published: November 2016

Other Books in this Series:

The Queen of the Tearling
The Invasion of the Tearling

 


The Review:

I was so excited to pick up The Fate of the Tearling and find out what happens to Kelsea and her Kingdom, and I’ll admit this book totally sucked me into its pages from the first lines. This book has amazingness all over it. It finally has all of the action that I was waiting for, there were some great reveals about characters, and the mystery established throughout the first two books finally starts to come together. The further I got into the book, the more I thought, okay Johansen, you know what you’re doing.

Things definitely come to a climax in this novel. Johansen does so well at winding together so many different parts of her story and I was utterly unable to see where the storyline would go. This is perhaps one of my most favourite parts of this novel: That the ending was entirely unpredictable. All I could do was hold on and enjoy the ride.

And then there was the ending. This book is extremely polarizing because of the ending. My own reaction to it was not great: once I finished the book, I set it down and burst into tears. I was so angry at the story, angry at Johansen for taking us there and writing it this way.

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But I couldn’t stop thinking about the ending. The more I thought about it, the more I fell in love with it. It is a heartbreaking conclusion, yes, but so many things are good about it, so many things that are good about this world, good about Kelsea’s character. And no matter how I tried to change it in my mind, I kept coming back to this ending, because of how good it was.

While there are minor things with this story that could have been tweaked, characters that could have been deepened and plot points expanded on, I love this story. It is so unique, so strong, and I think Johansen did exactly what she wanted with it. I admire her story simply for her creativity. I think this is definitely one of those series that I want to go back and read again to really unpack everything that Johansen gave us.

If you are a reader who needs a happy ending, don’t read this series. Don’t. But I absolutely love the bittersweet ending and the level to which this story resounded with me and affected me on a deeply emotional level. This is why I read books.

Rating: 5 / 5

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Quotations:

“They turned the corner onto the High Road, passing the library, where the Librarian, Ms. Ziv, was just shooing the last people out of the door. The library was a huge building, the only two-story structure the Town could boast. Unlike most of the Town’s buildings, which were made of oakwood, this one had been built of brick. The library was Katie’s favourite place, always dark and quiet, with books everywhere.” (p 48)

“‘Row!’ she screamed, but the wind grabbed her voice and seemed to shred it to tatters. No one lived down at this end of town. All of the buildings were closed up and empty at night, but that very emptiness seemed suddenly terrible to Katie, a void waiting to be filled.” (p 170)

“At the thought of the Tearling, longing seemed to wrench her heart. She generally avoided thinking of her kingdom in concrete terms; in this dark cell, it seemed like a good way to go mad. But now she closed her eyes and saw the Almont stretching before her, miles of farms and river, and then New London, her city on a hill. Very different from Tear’s, this city, and sinking just as surely, but there was still good there.” (p 192)