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.


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



“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)


“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)