Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Posted January 17, 2018 by Kim in books, review / 0 Comments

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Series: Study (#1)
Published: October 1st, 2005
Publisher: Mira
Source: Published
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Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

If you’re wondering why I have an annoyingly satisfied smirk plastered on my face, its the result of expectations well met. I’m beginning to realize just how many gems are hiding in my collection. They have been passed over for another time, ignored, and forgotten about. As a result, it has taken me this long to finally experience the story where magic is forbidden but not lost.

Poison Study takes us into the world of Ixia, where eight military districts are governed by Generals who answer to one Commander. Synder’s set up begins with Yelena having spent almost a year in the dungeons. Society after the successful military takeover adheres to the strict Code of Behaviors: an eye for an eye, a life for a life. Yelena’s sentence for killing the son of a General is death by hanging, but she is given a stay of execution to decide on a offer — continue living as the Commander’s new food taster or proceed with the noose.

“What shall I tell the executioner?” Valeck asked.
“I am not a fool.”

Poison Study is the first book I started annotating from beginning to end, and flipping through my copy is delightful. There are definitely some mistakes I wish my pen never made and some doodles that white-out can’t hide. Yet it also feels like a book well loved; that has not only been read but engaged with.

Do I Have Spider Senses?

Every time we are introduced to new characters, I was suspicious of everyone except Valeck, who’s incredibly loyal to the Commander. It was fun trying to decide who would prove to be a dangerous foe or a decent ally.

If there is one thing I am extremely pleased to be wrong about, it’s that the Commander is genuinely a fair leader and a strong guiding presence. He’s not a perfect man, far more stoic than kind, but I am so glad he wasn’t created to be the evil corrupt figure I expected.

” […] I don’t know what they were expecting when the Commander came to power. Mass killings? All we did was give everyone a uniform and a job.” (137)

Valeck and Yelena

“You’re not suppose to follow the logic. The captain orders us east; we go east.” (150)

Valek, by Yelena’s estimation, is around 30 years old. He’s not a seventeen year old prodigal assassin who took down a monarchy when he was ten. He didn’t topple thrones when he was six and then go out for an ice-cream treat with his parents. There’s a definite age-gap in their relationship, but it always felt like the two were well-matched.

Yelena hits all the right keys for me – independent but still able to acknowledge her emotions. She sets her priorities and then is fairly clever in achieving them. Still, even though we’re shown that Yelena is educated and quick on her feet, she manages to miss some of the biggest and most obvious conclusions. Maybe it’s a case of if-i-pretend-hard-enough-it-can’t-be-true, but if you’re clearly catching suspicious smiles and picking up on strange happenings, it might help if you try to put two and two together. There’s rarely any follow up until the end, and even though Yelena’s still a teenager, I just wanted someone to stop seeing a strange gleam in someone’s eyes and forget it the next second.


“You hover on the edges, ready to take off if something goes wrong. But when you can knock the bow from Janco’s hands, and sweep my feet out from under me, you’ll be empowered.” He paused, and then said “If you feel you need to spend your time on something else, then do it…in addition to your training. Then the next time someone calls you Puker, you’ll have the confidence to tell her to go to hell.” (242)

I find that the one thing I can’t have enough of in novels are good solid friendships. The power twins are a lot of fun to watch on their own, and I like the easy relationship Yelena has with them. The small circle of people Yelena surrounds herself with are great characters to read about. I appreciate Janco and Ari a lot.


I was surprised that I didn’t fly through the pages like I expected. Instead, Poison Study had mostly steady but slow pacing. It’s the kind of book you can return to and enjoy just as much as you were before, but when I put it down, I’m rarely in a rush to pick it back up. Still, the first book in the Study series was a strong introduction, and I’m hoping the rest of the series will be able to surpass it.

Rating Report
4 star rating
3.5 star rating
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3 star rating
Overall 3.5 stars

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