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I went in with high expectations and, suffice it to say, they were sufficiently met. It took a little while to get into but once I reached the 100 page mark, I was off like a shot and finished the rest in a day. I loved the unique concept (why hasn't anyone ever thought about a food taster character before?) and it set up a great world for the rest of the series to further explore.
I would compare it to Throne of Glass because the protagonists are very similar in regards to their situation and the world is full of magic, royalty and intrigue.
Poison Study follows Yelena, a girl convicted of murder who takes up the offer of becoming the Commander's food taster- testing every meal for poison. It was either that or be executed. Yelena is thrust into the politics of royalty, betrayal and hidden agendas, all while risking her life every time she takes a bite.
SPOILERS AHEAD- SPOILERS AHEAD- SPOILERS AHEAD- SPOILERS AHEAD- SPOILERS AHEAD
Yelena is a great protagonist. She reminded me a bit of Celaena Sardothian from the Throne of Glass series (Sarah J. Maas) because she was in a prison for murder, is given a way out of her execution and has ties to magic. Yelena was smart, fierce and had a nice determination to succeed and learn how to fight. There was a generous amount of character development and I liked how we progressively learnt about and dealt with her past with Reyad and Brazell.
I also love Valek. From the very beginning I was aligning my ships and it was a toss-up between Rand and Valek. And, from the get-go, I was team Valek. I was a bit suspicious of Rand (and rightly so) and Valek is the type of guy I'd immediately fall for (maybe a bit of a Chaol type from Throne of Glass). What can I say? I like an underdog.
This book could be predictable at times. Like, it was obvious Yelena would have magic and that she'd get together with Valek. But that didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book and sometimes I can like a predictable plot because it makes it feel satisfying, rewarding and familiar.
I loved the element of poison in this story. Obviously, it plays a massive part because what would Poison Study be without poison? But I loved how unique the idea for this story was and I loved that there was an element of danger and tension with every meal.
I really enjoyed the section where Yelena played the fugitive for an army training exercise. It was fast-paced, fun and gave Yelena the chance to truly show off her intelligence and how cool she is. It also allowed us to meet Irys properly and discover for certain about Yelena's powers. I think the magic dynamic in this world is interesting and I also think the Commander plays an interesting role in it as well.
Normally, with fantasy books like this, the king or person in control (in this case the Commander) is evil and selfish. Just look at the authority figures in Throne of Glass, the Lunar Chronicles, the Shatter Me series, and loads of others. And, yes, while we had the vindictive leader of Brazell, he didn't rank as high as the Commander and I... actually like the Commander. That never happens. I really wanted to delve into his/her past a bit more because the gender fluidity surprised me a lot and I think it was a great addition to this character. The Commander was fair, just and nice- a fresh change from all the evil leaders we have within fiction.
Yelena was attacked a lot during her time as the food taster and I loved it when she finally decided she wanted to defend herself. The addition of characters Ari and Janco made the book ten times more entertaining for me. They collectively kind of reminded me of Kenji from the Shatter Me series but I suppose they work like any side-kick, comedy relief. They both showed a real sense of friendship and loyalty for Yelena which was lovely to watch grow.
We also had a lot of political moves that caused friction but that wasn't the main grip factor for me. I was interested in Captain Star's resistance but it was all sort of vague and only gave Rand the opportunity to betray Yelena. (Plus, it offered nice suspicion around Margg and a loyalty test on Yelena from Valek which was entertaining).
When Yelena was ordered to go visit Brazell's facorty with the Commander but without Valek, I was so worried. We'd seen the bond between Valek and Yelena grow and it was obvious they cared for each other but I couldn't believe Valek would just let her go when she was likely going to be killed there. But, good enough, Valek did come to the rescue and while there was a kinda confusing fight with Mogkan, Valek provided valuable help to saving Yelena.
We had the reveal that Butterfly's Dust wouldn't actually kill her and, I will take pride in saying, I saw that coming from a mile off. I figured that it was a total bluff but thought that Yelena would figure it out when she couldn't get the 'antidote'.
I did love the moment they had in the cell together when Yelena finally told him what had happened to her with Reyad and why she'd killed him. This was then followed by their declarations of love before a final battle commenced. I wasn't a massive fan of this book's final climax- I think it was a bit brushed over and tangled- too many oppositions and things happening at once but it was still enjoyable.
And now, Yelena is off to Sitia. I'm excited to see her explore her magic and ancestry though I don't like the idea of her not being near Valek. And Ari. And Janco. But, this book has opened up a lot of promise for the rest of the series and there's great potential in this story line.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment your thoughts. Stay amazing!