Author: Maria V. Snyder (author website)
Release Date: March 1st 2007 from Luna
Age Group: Older teens, upwards
I love this book like you don't even know. heard about Maria V. Snyder? Still not sure? Read this now. If you liked Graceling by Kristin Cashore, you'll love Poison Study.
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.
Facing a death sentence, Yelena is pulled from the prison cell in which she's been held for a year, and offered a choice: die now, at the executioner's hand, or live as the Commander's poison taster. Yelena doesn't blink. It's live all the way, thank-you-very-much. And so she begins her new life.
Despite being victimised at every turn, Yelena refuses to be a victim. She is faced with a dark future, an even darker past, and nothing much to live for, other than life itself. But she chooses to live, again and again, despite her circumstance, and make the best of her lot. It's not often I'm left so inspired by a fictional character, but Yelena has a backbone, a sharp mind, and gusto in spades.
The land of Ixia, where Yelena lives truly is fascinating. Despite a dictatorship and strict laws with zero leniency--a land where all citizens are required to wear a uniform to tell of their station, have licenses and permission to marry, and permission to travel--there is truly equal opportunity for all. Positions of power and jobs are given based on an individual's merits. It's a seeming contradiction in terms: individuality is stripped in the forced wearing of an uniform, but an individual's talents are recognised, and rewarded. The government, ruled by the Commander doesn't care if you're a man, woman or child. If you're good at what you do, it's recognised. While on one hand certain circumstances of the nation's rule seem distasteful, and its laws cruel; on the other, they work. People don't go hungry--they're fed by the state. Crime is not tolerated. You can earn any job you want, regardless of your station, if you're the right person for it.
I love this book, but Poison Study isn't everyone's cup of tea. To a certain extent I agree with some criticisms leveled against it (modern turns-of-phrase ocassionaly seem strange, one particularly disturbing scene [though I believe it was essential in establishing background and motive:]), but for me this was a truly gripping read.
If you loved Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Fire, Poison Study might just be for you.
- While I pronounce Yelena's name as 'Yell-en-a', Snyder, at a recent tour event in Sydney, pronounced it 'Yell-ay-na'. This sounds SO strange to my Aussie ears.
- 'Valek' is pronounced (by her) as more of a 'Val' (as in 'valley'), where as I always imagined 'Vah-lek'.
- Snyder (at the same appearance mentioned above), says she originally had the idea of Valek fencing, instead of the large sword he uses!
- Maria V. Snyder learnt to lock-pick to write the scenes where Yelena learns the same.
- It took Maria V. Snyder 5 years to complete POISON STUDY (including revisions). Don't ever give up, people! [source]
- Poison Study
- Magic Study
- Fire Study