Series: Poison Study #1
Published by Mira on August 15, 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Murder, mayhem and magic…
Locked in a coffin-like darkness, there is nothing to distract me from my memories of killing Reyad. He deserved to die—but according to the law, so do I. Here in Ixia, the punishment for murder is death. And now I wait for the hangman's noose.
But the same law that condemns me may also save me. Ixia's food taster—chosen to ensure that the Commander's food is not poisoned—has died. And by law, the next prisoner who is scheduled to be executed—me—must be offered the position.
This time of year calls out for comfort food. What better way to enjoy the season, than to pull out my comfort reads and enjoy them all over again. Poison Study is one of my go-to rereads and it never fails to disappoint. This is a beautifully written gem that stuns you with its originality and adds a twist on the common tropes of multiple genres. Poison Study, the first book in The Chronicles of Ixia, has a cross-genre appeal that make it difficult to categorize. The political landscape and the general cold desolation of Ixia leads one to feel as if one is reading a dystopian novel. However, included is a magical element that unfolds over the course of the story that lands it in the realm of fantasy.
In the land of Ixia, when the Commander’s food taster dies, the next convict in line for execution is granted a stay in exchange for stepping into the role. Yelena, a convicted murderess, trades the noose for the chance to live, even if it means living under a sword of Damocles. She begins a crash course in poisons and toxicology under the tutelage of Valek, master of Ixia’s intelligence network, in order to perform her duties for the Commander. However, there are greater dangers afoot, and together with newfound allies, Yelena must confront the unspeakable darkness of her past and the looming threats of the present in order to safeguard Ixia.
The country of Ixia itself fascinates me. Ixia is divided into districts and led by the Commander (read: Supreme Dictator). Slight infractions are punished harshly and magic is punishable by death. However no one goes hungry, people are prosperous and they love the Commander. The Laws of Conduct are followed by everyone, high and low. Order and justice prevail, but freedoms, art and expression are limited. I appreciate the juxtaposition of the militarized state, quite communist in its nature, against the previous monarchy. Ms. Snyder creates a society where things are not so black and white, and it is up to the reader to draw their own conclusions.
The cast of characters is richly drawn, with layers of complexity making them interesting to read. Yelena, generally despised by the Ixians for killing the son of a national hero, appears to be a sulky, disgruntled citizen, bitter, but resigned to her fate. However, her work ethic and her determination to succeed as the poison taster, thereby keeping the Commander safe, win her friends and unexpected allies. I appreciated the comic relief provided by Yelena’s guard friends. I was thankful she found allies in Ari and Janco, and wish I had two veterans to train me in the art of combat. While I sometimes find flawless, uber-capable heroes annoying, that was certainly not the case here. It was impossible not to fall in love with the intelligent and enigmatic Valek.
This story is subtle, but not slow. Maria V. Snyder deftly moves the plot forward with ample foreshadowing, action, and a looming sense of danger. She manages to paint a vivid image of the characters and setting without bogging the story down with ponderous descriptions. Poison Study unfolds gradually and builds to an exciting conclusion.
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