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427 pages, Paperback
First published September 27, 2005
“Poisoned, pursued and living with a psychopath. Not what I would consider the good life. Death has its perks.”
“Trusting is hard. Knowing who to trust, even harder.”
“But you’ve slipped under my skin, invaded my blood and seized my heart.”
“Trusting is hard. Knowing who to trust, even harder.”
“Everyone makes choices in life. Some bad, some good. It's called living, and if you want to bow out, then go right ahead. But don't do it halfway. Don't linger in whiner's limbo.”
I can go on all day. It's been a long while since I loved a book this much, from page one till the end.
Yelena was sentenced to death because she has killed someone. She's been in the dungeon for a year now, waiting for execution. But when she's offered a chance to live, she didn't think twice about it and accepted even though she knew the risks. She has to be the Commander's food taster and thus study all kinds of poison with Valek (my heart).
Yet she didn't just kill someone, but one of the generals son who took her under his wing when she was a little. Sounds harsh? Not when the father and the son hide behind manners -in front of the Commander, at least. Therefore he wants his revenge.
Yelena is the caught in the midst of a subtle mayhem of politics, spies, assassins, conspiracies, secrets, treacheries, and magic where she tries her best to survive.
I didn't start Poison Study expecting to be flabbergasted. I was expecting something good but nothing mindblowing. And now all I can think of, why the heck didn't I read this book sooner. I cherished every word of it. Yet, this way no young-adult. Yelena is 19 yo and Valek around 33, it's illogical for this to be shelved as YA. I read that Maria V Snyder didn't write this book as a young-adult but the publishers chose to. While it didn't have any sex scenes, this book included rape and other sexual assaults and form of sadistic violence that we don't find in this genre. I wish this book was written as an adult fantasy only, we would have more smut scenes.
I craved those.
Let's start with Yelena, she is far from being your usual young-adult heroine, smart, wise and strong, she tried her best to survive all the hardships. She started to train, to learn useful abilities, and so much more so she can be able to be independent. Her character development was obvious, even if I liked her from the beginning and found it easy to relate to her, she fascinated toward the end. One of the best thing about her, that we didn't hear endless praise of her beauty, she was pretty but unlike other heroines nowadays, not everyone she meets in amazed by her appearance. She also isn't white! Snyder did a decent job in mixing color skins -not that people's outside looks really mattered. I don't think I loved any character because of that in this book because honestly, I don't remember what the secondary characters looked like and it's not the author's fault because she did describe them when Yelena first saw them. And it stopped there. Sometimes authors relentlessly remind us of their characters looks to cover the lack of depth in their personality.
Valek. Now Valek is my new book boyfriend. And no, I don't share. Undoubtedly, he was my favorite character in the book.
I just love mysterious men and on top of that he's an assassin! Sexiness overload! I fell in love with him with Yelena, slowly at first then all at once. He was kind in his own way, sweet, caring, brave, loving, loyal, daring, smart, and so much more! At first glance, you may think that he's only a tool who execute the Commander's orders but when you look in the depth of the book, you see that he's the mastermind. While he's loyal to death, he isn't blind. Both, Valek and Yelena know that the law, the Code of Behavior, has its flaws (we'll get to this later). He tries to find loopholes in his own way. He's just wonderful! Even though he prefer to avoid unnecessary deaths, he will do whatever he can to achieve his goal without remorse. Unlike Yelena, who feels terribly guilty after killing someone, even if she had no other choice.
Valek and Yelena are now one of my favorite OTPs. Ever. I ship them so hard! Yes, he is 14 years older than her but I didn't find it wrong. I didn't mind the age difference yet I usually, do. Yelena wasn't childish, she was mature and old beyond her years. They understood each other and fought for their love, even before they admitted their feelings for themselves. They just make the perfect couple together. I loved the slow romance and the tension building.
Many would say the story was slow at first. While nothing major was happening in the beginning, I still couldn't put the book down. That should tell you enough. The writing style was compelling and I couldn't get enough of our characters. And I'm not only speaking about Yelena and Valek but also about secondary characters, especially Janco and Ari. I adored those two. Admired their loyalty and faith in our girl. They did their best to improve her self-defense skills.
While the Commander wasn't my favorite part of the story, we can't deny his leadership skills. The law is binding and even him, the one who promulgated it, isn't above the Code of Behavior. That doesn't mean this law was fair. It's illogical to execute a person who killed another even without meaning to. I really admired Snyder for making a law to her own world, being a law student and all, it's something I don't see often even if it wasn't anywhere near complex enough. However, I think she wanted us to see that even laws can be wrong. Even the Commander who defeated the tyrant king and made a new country, is also a dictator. The fact that he is a good ruler (with a bad Code) doesn't affect that truth, not even known to the people. I always like to have some politics in my fiction books, it's one of the reasons why I love A Song of Ice and fire that much, and even though this book nothing that heavy, it was appreciated. We also didn't have a complex world building but this book is so fun if you're looking for a light fantasy. I mean sure it gets dark sometimes but other than the imagined world and the magic touch, we don't have many fantasy elements, just to clarify this book.
***Minor spoilers ahead***
When you rate a book, the highest you can give is 5 stars on GR. And to express your endless love and admiration for it, you add it to your favorites. Those, at least to me, are as flawless as possible. I debated adding this book to my favorites or not but I didn't because I did have some issues with it. I was soo in love with it when I finished it but when you start analyzing the book and your cynical part terminates the fangirl, you try to be more objective. I don't think anyone can be objective while reviewing a book except for some basic stuff because it's a matter of taste. I did my best, though. I'm not going to dwell much on the negatives but I want to say that it felt rushed toward the end. The book could have done better with 30 or so pages because everything was happening so fast. Especially the romance.. If these two things were handled in a better way, this book would have easily made it to my favorites shelf. I also wanted more smut! Can't believe I'm admitting this but I did. It's NOT something bad just a wish because i loved them together a lot. But nothing major is better than cringy ones (no I don't mean another author and you probably know who).
I recommend this book to everyone, especially Throne of Glass and Uprooted fans. Before I read some reviews of this book, I thought I was the only one who saw similarities with Throne of Glass but I was not. I think Sarah J. Maas was inspired by Poison Study, both girls were in dungeons sentenced to death and had the opportunity to work for the ruler. But while ToG failed to deliver likable characters, especially heroines, Snyder created a lovable one. I also feel like I should mention that this book was written in 2005. 2005, okay? Before all this YA? hype. And for Uprooted fans, one of my all-time favorite books, I just know that like it even though they don't have many similarities aside from the awesome characters.
Now the hard part is continuing this series. This book was so good that it's hard for the sequel to match it but after reading many negative reviews even from the fans of the first book, I can't help but feel hesitant to continue it. I will, of course, read the next two books and soon but I'm expecting something bad so *fingers crossed*.
This book can be read as a stand-alone, as in the story develops and the main issue at the time is resolved, we don't have a cliffhanger but of course, the story didn't end here.
PS: Don't read this book if you have finals or you're so busy. I did. And I read in one sitting. One more page became one more chapter until I was finally done. And I didn't want to finish it. And I didn't study that day although the exam was two days later. Bad Nicole. Bad.