Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. ★★★
Trigger warning for rape and abuse.
Maybe I was expecting to much? I’d heard a lot of good things about Poison Study, but it wasn’t anything more than okay. It was certainly very readable. I stuck with and got through it pretty fast, and the pacing stayed fairly consistent. In general, it was very easy to read.
From the back blurb: “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.”
I liked Yelena okay. While I didn’t adore her or anything, she was interesting to read about and I emphasized with her well. I liked her drive to survive.
The idea behind the world building was really interesting. The country used to be a monarchy until about fifteen years ago when the Commander led a revolution that killed the king. Now, the Commander is the supreme authority and the country is divided into districts, each headed by a military general. Strict laws called the Code of Behavior govern the citizens, and no exception is ever made.
Unfortunately, the world’s development was never more than cursory. There was no sense of place, and the world came off as rather bland, despite the interesting set up. Yelena herself never thinks much about the Code of Behavior, the government system, or anything. Basically, this felt like a fantasy version of a mediocre YA dystopian.
The focus of the book was on Yelena’s character. There was a plot outside that, but it was never enthralling. In fact, it was rather ludicrous.
This being a YA novel there is of course, romance. I didn’t like this one. Yelena’s nineteen, but she ends up with a man significantly older than her… like, he has to be over thirty. I just find this creepy, especially given their initial relationship. Besides, the relationship didn’t seem to fit with the rest of his character and just ended up feeling forced.
Lastly, the trigger warning. While this stuff is not described graphically, it’s there as flashbacks. The rest of this paragraph could be considered spoilers, so you may want to skip it. The plot involves the villains torturing teenage girls (and some boys too, but more girls) to break their minds. Yelena was one of these girls. One of the men doing this was a psychopath/possible serial killer who eventually rapes her. It’s pretty dark, especially for a young adult book.
I would recommend this one to fans of young adult dystopians looking to try out a fantasy book. I won’t be hanging onto my copy, and I am unlikely to read the sequel either.