18 August 2005

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Below is the latest in a continuing series of guest reviews. Our reviewer this time is Teresa Tunaley, who spends most of her waking hours working as a freelance Art/Editorial Director for LBF Books.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
a guest review by Teresa Tunaley

The story of Poison Study centres around Yelena, a young woman who is about to be executed for murder. On the day of her execution, she is brought before Valek, the Commander of Ixia's Chief of Security and more recently, his stand-in food taster. Valek offers Yelena the position of replacement food taster in exchange for her life...but is this a total reprieve or just a delay to her inevitable demise?

The Commander is under a daily risk of assassination from his many enemies and therefore requires a full-time food taster. Yelena quickly accepts the opportunity to taste his food, in exchange for her reprieve...not knowing from one day to the next, if she will die from being poisoned.

To ensure Yelena doesn't escape from her new-found freedom, Valek feeds Yelena Butterfly's Dust. He explains that she must appear before him each morning to administer the antidote, thereby ensuring the poison doesn't take effect and Yelena doesn't try to escape.

Yelena wants to desperately find her niche, but is constantly reminded of her state of affairs with ever-increasing dangers confronting her. Over time, she develops a few friendships, and she grows stronger. Valek allows Yelena to take lessons in how to defend herself, but in Yelena's mind it is with only one purpose, one day she intends to find a solution to taking the antidote and to be able to have the strength to escape...

During Yelena's improvement, she becomes aware that she has magical powers. This is outlawed in Ixia and must be kept a secret from all around her. Why she has these powers and what use they will be becomes apparent over time, but not without encountering additional problems.

Snyder has created an interesting mix of people, some who are as ordinary as you and I, and others who have differing elements of magical power. The twist and turns take you by surprise, and the all-important elements of a well-written story -- original plot and believable presentation of the uncanny -- were never lost throughout the entire book.

I enjoyed the experience of this novel and became aware of myself being transported to another land, another time, on a magical fantasy adventure with detailed imagery and unusual concepts. I was there to feel Yelena's pain, her refusal to give in, a witness to her new strength and her anguish to find freedom.

Maria Snyder has managed to create a fantasy world to delight and excite us. Her characters have a spirit that we can believe in. Having read books by J K Rowling, Piers Anthony, Steven Shrewsbury and others, it is my opinion that her writing style and content compare equally! Of all the fantasy books I have read, this is without a doubt one of the best. I am hooked and will definitely be looking out for the author's second novel in this series, Magic Study, where I hope to continue my adventure with Yelena and her life among her new friends.