|Author||Maria V. Snyder|
|Cover artist||Erin Craig|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, paperback and Trade Paperback|
|Followed by||Magic Study|
Poison Study is a 2005 fantasy novel written by Maria V. Snyder and the first book in the Study series. It tells the story of a nineteen-year-old girl named Yelena, who after spending just less than a year in a dungeon awaiting execution is given the chance to live on the condition that she will become the Commander's Food Taster.
Not everyone is pleased by Yelena's acceptance of the role of food taster, especially not General Brazell, whose son Yelena was in prison for killing, despite it being in self-defense. His want for her death causes Valek, the assassin and right hand man to the Commander, who rules Ixia with an iron fist without ever bending the rules, to take her under his protection, despite having fed her Butterfly Dust to prevent her escape: if she doesn't have the antidote every day, she will die.
But unfortunately for Yelena, she is developing strong magical abilities that she cannot control, which are illegal and a cause for death in Ixia. But she must use her abilities to protect herself not only from other magic users coming into Ixia, but against those who plot against the commander and against Valek, who she is slowly developing feelings for.
In the end, she and Valek discover that General Brazell and a rogue magician from Sitia are behind the plot, as well as the kidnapping of many children from Sitia, including Yelena, for their magical abilities. The magician has stolen the souls and magic of many of the young children, and has opened the Commander's mind to magical influence. Yelena and Valek defeat him and capture Brazell, but the Commander's mind has fled and it is up Yelena and her magic to find it. She discovers that the Commander was born a woman, and promises to keep that secret. But for her use of magic in the inflexible land of Ixia, she must be put to death. Valek delays the death order long enough for her to leave with the other kidnapped children to return to Sitia, where she nervously hopes to be united with her family and to learn to control her magic.
Yelena - An orphan with unexplained origins, Yelena is an intelligent, 19-year-old woman working as a food taster for Commander Ambrose. Often described as a rat in human disguise, she spent a year in a rat-infested dungeon waiting to be hanged as punishment for murdering Reyad who was also the son of a prominent official. However, as Yelena becomes next in line for the noose, she was offered the chance to become Commander Ambrose's food taster, whose job is to train in the art of detecting poisons, eating small amounts of the Commander's food at each meal in case of a food-poisoning related assassination plot. She has an outgoing nature suppressed by years of abusive experiments performed on her by Brazell, the prominent official and her father figure, and his son Reyad, making up for her initial physical weakness by learning to fight, wield various weapons, and pick locks. Throughout the novel as Yelena gets into various difficult situation, a "buzzing" sensation is described that seems to save her from her predicaments. This buzzing is later revealed to be a manifestation of Yelena's uncontrolled magical abilities, of which she had no knowledge before being informed by a fellow magician named Irys. This seemingly impossible magical potential is explained after Yelena discovers that as a child, she was kidnapped from Sitia, the magical counterpart to Ixia, and that she belongs to a powerful magical family. She is decidedly stubborn, but unfailingly loyal to the people she cares about, and is devastated when she learns that one of her first friends in the Commander's employ, Rand, had betrayed her for money (although he later sacrifices his life to save her). Yelena also develops romantic feelings for her friend and mentor, Valek.
Valek - 33 years old. A highly skilled assassin and the chief of a highly secret network of spies throughout Ixia and the Southern Sitia, Valek is in charge of Ixia's security and keeping Commandor Ambrose out of harm's way. He is famous throughout Ixia and Sitia for the feat of killing the old kingdom's magician King, due to his singular advantage of being immune to magic. Valek is highly intelligent, often discovering plots and various conspiracies before they are even realized. Valek serves as Yelena's mentor through her training as a food taster, helping her through her trials and occasionally protecting her from Brazell's soldier thugs that seek revenge on her murder of Reyad. He also invents the false "Butterfly's Dust" poison that Yelena believes will kill her in a day's time if she is not given an antidote. Valek has the same feelings towards Yelena that she has towards him.
Commander Ambrose - Almost 40 years. The Commander is powerful and focused, and never a fool for anybody. He follows his own Code of Behavior strictly, and he forces this living on his people, because it's a straightforward way of life, and everybody can follow it. He's never been the guy to surround himself with riches, it's a foolish way to live. Even if the Commander has the power over all of Ixia, it never corrupts him. He is a fair and logical man, and when it comes to employing people, he never looks at gender or age, but at capability and intelligence. He cares for his people, and ensure that they have everything they need to survive.
Commander Ambrose is, as nobody knows, biologically female. He feels like a man, but a mutant body, as he names it, he can never live the life he was born to. So he dressed up as a boy early, and Yelena is the only one to know the whole truth.
Ari - A carefree spirit, but strong, intelligent and skilled in everything he does. This has helped him raise in rank. He loves Yelena as a little sister, and takes on the role as Yelena's protector early in the book. He's good with a sword and close-up combat sports, and teaches Yelena how to fight and defend herself. Ari is the opposite of his friend Janco, who sometimes drive him crazy, but Ari would never think about replacing him, and he doesn't trust anyone else to have his back. One half of the power twins.
Janco - A witty and light-footed man who loves talk and a good fight. He is known to be a prankster, and many people underestimate him and are taken by surprise by his skills. He is a skilled dueler and sings to distract his opponents. Ari is the one that has to hold Janco by the neck, because Janco sometimes has the habit of picking a quarrel with someone, or he jests of them. He may seem like a carefree guy who have no worries, but if you threaten one of his friends you can be sure to be on his black-list. He, along with Ari loves Yelena as a sister and puts his life in her hands on multiple occasions. One half of the power twins.
Rand - Commander Ambrose's cook. Rand previously worked for the King before the takeover. He befriends Yelena and suspects Valek of killing her predecessor, Oscove.
General Brazell - He kidnapped Yelena with the help of Mogkan and kept her in his orphanage, and is the father of Reyad, person whom Yelena killed. He is furious that Yelena didn't get the noose, and ended up as the Commanders personal food taster. He is determined to seek revenge.
When Yelena turned sixteen, she was selected to help Brazell and Reyad in their experiments. She initially saw this as an honor, but soon realized that the often brutal experiments would eventually mentally and physically cripple her. Brazell tested her for magical ability; he wanted to use her for the circle of magic that Mogkan needed to increase his power.
Reyad - The man that Yelena killed for torturing and raping her when she was eighteen, and General Brazell's only son. He haunts and occasionally talks to Yelena as a ghost.
The "Glass" series—currently composed of Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass—is a spin-off of the Poison Study Series following the life of Opal Cowan.
- http://www.mariavsnyder.com/ Maria V. Snyder - Official homepage of the Author.
- Reviews at Fantasy Literature