Poison Study – Maria V. Snyder (Book 1 in the Study series)
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Summary: Yelena is about to be executed for murder, but at the last possible moment, her life is spared. While this should bring Yelena a sense of relief, she has no time to relax, as the only reason she wasn’t killed was because she is now the official food taster for the Commander. Will this arrangement prove to be more than Yelena bargained for?
Review: I read Snyder’s Inside Out a while ago, and while that story wasn’t really my cup of tea, I absolutely loved the way she writes. Because of this, I quickly determined that I would read another of her books that better aligned with my interests. Fortunately, Fire Study was right up my alley, and I’m so glad that I read it.
Fire Study opened with a bang and didn’t let up until the very end. When the book began, we met Yelena shortly before her scheduled execution for murder, and her life is spared because of a technicality in a law, as the next prisoner sentenced to death shall become the commissioner’s food tester, if that person so chooses. It made me put myself in Yelena’s situation and try to figure out what I would do if given this option, which was interesting to think about. Do you die quickly, or do you, perhaps, die an agonizing death by poison? On the whole, it seems like a no-win situation, but Yelena decided to take her chances and live, if only for a little while longer.
Sometimes after an engaging beginning, books begin to lose speed, but that was definitely not the case with Fire Study. The plot continued to move quickly as Yelena adjusted to her new role, and it was so exciting to see what was going to happen next. Just as it seemed like things were finally settling down, a fight would break out that would have Yelena scrambling for her life, and it made perfect sense in the world Snyder created. It was also interesting that the reader couldn’t really tell where everyone’s loyalties were, and just as one thought one had it all figured out, another plot twist was thrown in that completely through everything one thought they knew out the window.
In the same vein, I really liked the way in which the reader was exposed to information about Yelena and other characters. Instead of laying everything out at the beginning of the book in a neat and tidy fashion, information was revealed in bits and pieces. At the story’s onset, I wasn’t very sympathetic to Yelena, as I believed her to be a cold-blooded killer, but as more information was revealed, I began to sympathize with her more and more. As information was revealed, the reader was definitely able to see justification in Yelena's actions.
Yelena was a wonderful narrator, and I really enjoyed reading the story from her perspective. In addition to having a complicated past that the reader had to piece together, she was also a complete badass that knew how to take care of herself. Many people in Yelena’s position would have cowered in fear, but she handled herself really well and was incredibly brave.
Valek, the man in charge of Yelena’s training, was also an outstanding character. Their relationship did not get off to the best start, as I’m sure would be the case in any similar situation, but I loved watching it evolve over time. Valek’s loyalty to the Commander seemed so unwavering, and I would love to have greater access into his mind to see what made him tick.
Fire Study was a completely awesome book with complex characters, ulterior motives, and uncertainty. If you enjoy books featuring amazing females, definitely check it out!
Other Books in This Series: Magic Study, Fire Study
Read-alike: Grave Mercy – Robin LeFevers