Thursday, August 27, 2009After spending almost a year in prison for the murder of the son of one of Ixia's generals, the day of Yelena's execution is finally upon her. But instead of being sent straight to the noose she is made an offer. Either she can go straight to her execution or she can delay her death by taking up the job as the Commander Ambrose's food taster. Yelena accepts the chance to extend her life, even if it means that she is awaiting death by some horrible poison instead of the noose. She begins training to identify deadly poisons under the guidance of Valek who poisons her with Butterfly Dust, ensuring that she does not attempt escape as she must report to him daily for the antidote. However, poison is not the only threat that Yelena is faced with. General Brazell still wants her dead for the murder of his son, a powerful magician from Sitia is after her, and she and Valek are sure that there is a conspiracy brewing within Ixia's government.
From very early into the book I could tell that I was going to like Poison Study. For Snyder's first publication, she has carefully crafted a world and it's political climate for me to imagine without making it over complicated. I found the novel to be very well paced overall, from the spacing of events, the release of information, to the development of characters relationships. I don't really like it when an author does an "information dump". I remember when I was kid and reading books such as, say, The Baby Sitters Club novels, I would always skip the chapter in every book where we were told that "this is this character and that is that character and we are all here because..." Boring. I much prefer exploring a world alongside the characters and learning about these characters as we go and I thought that Snyder did this well.
Poison Study hosts a diverse range of characters. Yelena, haunted by Reyad's ghost yet determined to survive, often irritating Margg, Rand prone to mood swings but sweet regardless, and of course Ari and Janco - "the power team". I found myself becoming particularly fond of Valek, subtle but powerful, and it was easy to find myself rooting for a romantic relationship between him and Yelena but with Snyder still able to keep me guessing where their relationship would develop.
If I were to nitpick at anything, there were a few instances where I felt that some of her words of choice were a bit too modern day for her setting and seemed out of place. The other thing is that I would have liked a clearer description of the factory. Snyder's world doesn't seem very high tech but the word factory, in my mind at least, again conjures an image of something more modern which is only enhanced by the description of items being "conveyored" over to their next destination in the factory and there are "steel rollers crushing" things. "Conveyored" of course makes me think of conveyor belts although I know it doesn't have to mean that and I suppose that the rollers could be man operated but I would have liked some better word choice for clarity here.
Overall I thouroughly enjoyed Poison Study and have already picked up the sequels, Magic Study and Fire Study, from the library to get stuck into. Go to Snyder's website to check out some of her short stories as well. The short story Powder Study, about Ari and Janco, is already available and Assassin Study, about Valek, is listed as coming soon. You can also sign up for Snyder's free e-mail newsletter for news and updates, deleted scenes, short stories, story previews, author interviews and more.