Review | Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (+ book swap footnote)

poison studyPoison Study by Maria V. Snyder (Study #1)
Published October 1, 2005 by MIRA, 431 pp.

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.

Ahh I love Yelena’s world! Even if I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes, I definitely want to explore more of Ixia. I thought Maria V. Snyder’s writing was great and her characters were all written pretty well, even if I couldn’t connect to them in this book. So glad I decided to start this on a whim while I was waiting and managed to finish this overnight!

Poison Study is the first in the Study series, which features our main character Yelena as a convict set for execution until Valek pulls her out of the dungeon and into the role of being the Commander’s new food taster. Trading in one death sentence for another, Yelena is trained by Valek to taste and detect poisons in the Commander’s food. But there are a lot of things working against Yelena: the father of the man she killed is a general clamoring for her death, her untrained magic springing up in the most inopportune moments, and someone, aside from the general, wants her dead. What’s a girl to do tbh?

I’d say this is plot-driven, but it’s honestly pulled along by both the characters and the plot, which is a bit predictable but nonetheless a great read. Poison Study also leaves a lot unexplored, setting up the next book in the series nicely and makes me want to know more, but it also manages to wrap up this installment pretty well!

Maria V. Snyder does a great job of bringing to life Ixia: the forest, the dungeons, the castle, how Yelena felt in the moments she was trapped and suffering were all quite detailed without being so specific, and I think this is why I liked her writing so much. It didn’t ramble or over-share, it just gave you enough and left the rest to your imagination.

“When you warned me that you would test me from time to time, I thought you meant spiking my food. But it seems there is more than one way to poison a person’s heart, and it doesn’t even require a meal.”
“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,” Valek said, his voice gruff.

I think Yelena is a great heroine, just that I don’t feel connected to her quite yet. Her story is revealed throughout the book, and I do admire her resilience and ability to look past her trauma and live, not just survive, but there’s something that keeps me from relating to her and rooting for her. Valek is probably a great character, can’t say much since I don’t really know him yet, but to me, he’s better suited as Yelena’s friend and mentor here, rather than a romantic interest. Which is why I was kind of surprised, but not really, when they confessed their feelings to each other in the latter part of the book. I suppose it didn’t help that it occurred while they were on the run and hiding from men intent on capturing them. The confession felt rushed, and it was such a fleeting moment that I didn’t get to enjoy it much, not that I would’ve enjoyed it in the first place.

The Commander and that Twist is an interesting component of the book, and I wonder how it will play into the following books. Or will it come up again? I hope so. Ari and Janco need to be in more scenes with Yelena, since they’re a lovely ray of sunshine in her otherwise bleak life. I need more on the Commander and more Ari and Janco, please.

The romance, which sadly isn’t my favorite, is a slow burn romance. So, so slow-burning you won’t even feel it until Yelena ponders on her feelings and you think, huh! So there is something there! And you won’t even feel anything from Valek’s corner, so that confession kind of came from the left field. So yes – I am still on the fence about Yelena and Valek. I did enjoy their romantic tension though, and I hope I warm up to them in the following books.

Overall, Poison Study is a great book to start off the series! I’m glad I decided to give this book another chance, after promptly dropping this last year just a few pages in. I think this introduces the main characters and settings thoroughly, with lots of room left for the sequels to explore!



3.5 stars. While I couldn’t put this down, I can only pick out a few things I really loved about this – Yelena and her resilience, the vividly described settings and experiences, and some characters that pique my interest. I will definitely read the next book though!

Story/Plot: ✮✮✮☆☆
Predictability aside I absolutely loved reading the twists and turns Poison Study took me on.

Characters: ✮✮✮✮☆
An interesting set of characters I want to know more about, and hopefully I can connect with better in the next books!

Romance: ✮✮✮☆☆
Errrr not my favorite at the moment; I didn’t feel it, but I have hope.


ALSO YOU GUYS, if any of you want to trade books: I have 2 extra copies of The Rose and The Dagger, in hardbound! I’d prefer to trade one for a copy of The Wrath and the Dawn in hardbound as well, but the other one is free for all. Let me know if you want to swap or trade? I’m open to shipping internationally! 🙂

7 thoughts on “Review | Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (+ book swap footnote)

  1. Great in depth review! I’ve always wanted to read this series, however what holds me back are the reviews. It’s very mixed throughout the whole series. I wonder how you’ll feel about the other books.

  2. Great review! This series is actually one of my favourite “earlier” YA fantasy series – it was popular before fantasy became mainstream (it feels), and I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it! I liked the romance but I can see why it might not be other people’s cup of tea. Are you planning to pick up the rest of the series soon? I’ve read this so long ago that I’ve been wanting to reread it. 🙆

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