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.
For a book about assassins and PTSD and abuse and murder, Poison Study has a surprising lack of depth in anything but its main character. Yelena is wonderful; Valek has hints of layers to him; everybody else is practically cardboard cut-outs. There’s the villainous lord(s), mean housekeeper, the jolly cook, the talented and friendly guards, and the ice-hearted government leader. It’s like everybody fits into just the right slot, and it’s disappointing.
Part of the problem might be that the book is SO focused on Yelena and her story of her recovery of self that it doesn’t have room for more in-depth looks at the other characters. We get a few hints of personalities beyond the trope-y kind of cast, but I wanted MORE.
I really like it when a book has an exciting plot backed up by interesting characters who feel like real people. Poison Study comes close, but it falters a few times. I’m thinking in particular of the lack of reaction to a character who died not 20 pages from the end of the book. Once he’s dead nobody mentions him again, and up ’til that point he’d been fairly important to the story.
However, despite my complaints about the characters, the plot was super exciting! Yelena is a convicted murderer given a job as a poison taster–a very dangerous job–plus multiple people from two different countries are out to kill her and her new home is full of traitors and bullies. She has to do a lot of dodging and running and fighting, and that keeps the story moving along at a fast pace.
Plus there’s my old favorite: courtly intrigue and conspiracy, though there isn’t actually a “court” per se. Yelena lives in a militaristic country, where every “noble” is a general or something similar, everybody (EVERYBODY) wears uniforms, and you can’t even visit another city without the proper papers. I’m surprised more people aren’t living in fear, but apparently the previous monarchy was so corrupt and terrible that the Commander’s strict rule is a welcome respite. Nobody takes bribes, for one thing, and the laws apply to everybody.
So there’s good things and bad things about Poison Study! On the whole I did enjoy reading it, and I plan to continue the series. I accidentally read Storm Glass (the first in the sequel series) a few years ago and I REALLY liked it, so I’m expecting there to be some sort of leveling up in awesome during the course of the series. That’ll be exciting to see!
Read: January 3, 2015