Author: Maria V Snyder
409 pages • £6.99
About to be put to death for brutally murdering the son of a nobleman, Yelena is offered a choice: die by the noose, or become the new food taster for the Commander of Ixia. Decisions, decisions...
Choosing the latter spares her life, but not the contents of her stomach as she endures weeks of poison training under the watchful eye of Valek: assassin, tutor and perpetual wearer of dashing black outfits. Topping this, Yelena also finds out she’s harbouring raw magical abilities, which is somewhat of a problem, since they’re punishable by death in Ixia – usually at the hands of her new black-clad boss.
Although the politics of Ixia seem a little disjointed, the characters of this swashbuckling novel are artfully put together. Yelena and Valek, while not being vastly original in the fantasy world, are very well realised and genuinely likeable, despite all those messy murders and assassinations. Bless ’em! Snyder has a lovely, light touch, but manages to make Yelena’s journey and her backstory (particularly that murder) so engrossing that when the tale turns into a love story it almost takes you by surprise.
The book also contains a short excerpt from Magic Study, the sequel, just in case this doesn’t quite hook you enough. It would be nice to think that this wasn’t just brash commercialism, and instead that Snyder was having so much fun writing Poison Study that she had to be physically removed from her PC before she breezed through a second offering.
Overall, this is an impressive debut and a strong start to what should prove to be a compelling new fantasy series.