Note: This review contains a discussion of violent acts against a woman, which is depicted in the book.
I saw this book, Maria Snyder’s Poison Study, on display at my local library under a section of their librarian’s favorite books. And I can see why someone would find this dear to them. The protagonist is a realistic heroine, Yelena has magical abilities, but in order to fight her way out of the terrible situation she is, she has to train. She isn’t just suddenly amazing at everything. She studies, she learns, and she grows as a person. The world building is gorgeous, the world that Yelena is a prisoner in is richly described even though Yelena’s view of it is limited.
Yelena is an orphan, growing up in a country with a military dictatorship. She is taken in by one of the rulers of the military district, and tortured by his son to bring out her magical abilities. Magic in all forms is banned. She kills the son after he rapes her. The rape is depicted quite graphically and I found that unnecessary. The author also mentions that using magic to influence another person’s mind, which happens to Yelena and others, is rape as well. Yelena is thrown in prison for the murder, and Valek, the Commander’s assassin, offers her a deal to become the Commander’s food taster. He trains her on poisons and of course the two of them fall in love.
I actually didn’t mind the romance, but I did object to the way the author brushes by Yelena’s trauma the first time she and Valek have sex. (Yelena is older than your typical YA heroine so there are sex scenes.) The story is interesting, Yelena grows in realistic ways, and there is a good transition to what would be the next book. But I peeked ahead at the next book and there is more rape of her heroine, this time of the magical variety. So I’m done. This series is not for me.