After falling in love with Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life series, I sought out other fantasy series to fill the void I was left with after completing her trilogy. For my 2017 Reading Challenge, I decided to include The Lord of the Rings as my “series pick,” but wanted to read an additional series I was not familiar with. So after reading countless blogs and scanning multiple BookRiot lists, I decided on Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study series.
Before I talk about Poison Study (#1), here is some information about the series. It consists of nine books as well as some extras: three short stories and a novella, which can be found here (on Maria V. Snyder’s website, she lists the books in an order “that will give you the best reading experience”). While reading Poison Study, and after looking at the list on the author’s website, I thought about The Chronicles of Narnia (especially since I had just listened to The Magician’s Nephew) and how it can be read in any order. I’m curious to find out if the Study series (also known as the Chronicles of Ixia) will have similar serial magic. I’m assuming it will, because within the Chronicles of Ixia there is also the Soulfinder series, which includes three books that are a continuation of the Study books. How fun!
Anyway, onto Poison Study. The opening is quite dire:
Locked in darkness that surrounded me like a coffin, I had nothing to distract me from my memories. Vivid recollections waited to ambush me whenever my mind wandered. Encompassed by the blackness, I remembered white-hot flames stabbing at my face.
Yelena is the name of our narrator, and she has been locked in a dungeon and awaits execution for murdering her General’s son and only heir. In this world, the Territory of Ixia, there are eight districts that are each governed by a General. Commander Ambrose holds the highest title and is the leader of all the Generals, and it is by agreeing to be his food tester that Yelena gets to live. Under one condition: the Commander’s personal security chief, Valek, slips her a poison called Butterfly’s Dust. She must report to him daily for the antidote, or else she will die.
Details of Yelena’s crime and [avoided] death sentence unfold as you read the book, and it is not a secret that General Brazell (the man whose son she killed) wants her dead – he’s even willing to have his guards hang about Commander Ambrose’s castle to attempt to carry out the act. Part of the unfolding includes Yelena’s realization that she has magical capabilities. When Commander Ambrose overthrew the King and assumed power, he hunted and executed magicians, except those who escaped to Sitia, a land just south of Ixia. So while she tests the Commander’s food for poison, she also has to worry about General Brazell and his men, as well as keeping her magical secret under wraps so she is not found out. Which of course, is not plain and simple.
All of these hardships are what keep the story moving. Traitors are exposed, secret deals are brought to light, and even romance has its turn. Oddly enough, I found that the references to time sort of halted the action too much. Pages and sometimes chapters go by before Maria V. Snyder mentions the time – whether it be days, weeks, or months – and these scattered mentions didn’t seem to be included in order to offer a grounded timeline for the reader, but instead were thrown in as an afterthought, which was a little distracting.
Most of the novel is dialogue or Yelena’s inner monologue. I wish, like for the identification of uniforms that are worn in Ixia, there was a little more description. For the uniforms, I had to double back and reread that part because I blinked and missed it. But regardless, the action and conversations are fast-moving and succinct which tones down the complicated nature of everything going on in the story.
I am excited to continue on in this series. Not The Book of Life excited, but still ready to dive into Magic Study (#2) wholeheartedly.
Have you read the Poison Study series? Let me know what you thought in the comments and check out what else is on my 2017 Reading Challenge list here. Thanks for stopping by!