"Choose: A quick death...or a 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 agonising 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..."
Poison Study is the first book in the 'Study' trilogy.
Yelena is given a chance to escape being hung, but it's a stay of execution. After a year in prison she becomes food taster for the Commander, ruler of Ixia, the land Yelena grew up in. She trains and is supervised closely by the Commander's assassin, Valek. Deadly and uncaring, he gives just enough hope for Yelena to take his proposal to be the food taster, but not enough for her to believe she will live all that much longer.
But Yelena can't worry only about whether Valek intends to kill her or not. She has much more obvious enemies to contend with, and threats from unknowns as well. She finds herself wanted dead by the magicians of Sitia, a forbidden land, but Yelena has no idea why anyone there would even know about her, let alone know enough to want her dead. At the risk of their own lives. If the magicians are caught in Ixia, Valek will kill them, without question.
The longer Yelena's inside the castle, home of the Commander, the clearer it becomes that the Commander himself is in danger from an unseen enemy. And Yelena and Valek may be the only ones capable of saving him.
I really liked this book. Yelena is tough, a real survivor, but she has a soft voice and obvious vulnerabilities, making her very real, easy to like and empathise with. The world created here is simple enough to understand and get in to. The author hasn't bogged the book down with information either, but gives enough that you're not left wondering about the way things to work. The story moves along at a good pace, with some great twists along the way. And great likable (and those you love to hate) characters. There is good depth to the story, but it's tame enough for younger teens to read as well.
Overall, great story with a great ending leaving a lot of promise for the next book. Looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. 8/10