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 agonizing 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…
Date I Finished Reading: November 2, 2013
My Rating: 3
I read this book because the name kept coming up when I mentioned my YA novel, MAIDEN. There were a few recommendations because of the books world building.
Yelena is a strong character and has been through hell and back. Instead of facing her fatal sentence for murder, she is chosen as the new food taster for the Commander. As the story begins and takes us around the castle, we are introduced to the other characters that will be involved. I enjoyed Snyder’s simple, to-the-point introduction of the characters and they were intriguing. As can happen sometimes in fantasy, there can be an overabundance of characters, and that doesn’t happen here.
One of the other main characters in the book is Vilek, the chief of security who is in charge of just about everything in the castle, including Yelena. He is a wonderful character. He is strong, but has moments of emotion, we slowly learn that he cares for Yelena, but he plays his cards very close to his chest. The relationship between Vilek and Yelena ebb and flow through the story, leaving the reader to wonder a) if there are romantic sparks and b) if Vilek is really as trustworthy as he seems. Though one of my disagreements with the book is the way it is hinted that there might be a romantic relationship with Vilek and Yelena, one that mutually approved. Vilek, how I read him, is much older than Yelena and I don’t have the first clue how their would actually be mutually beneficial feelings in that department. It was just hard for me to picture.
The vast majority of the first 3/4’s of the book take place in the castle. While Snyder is very adept at world building, there wasn’t much of a world to be involved with…not stuck in the castle. As with my review for Bitterblue, I found having the story in the same location stifling and uninteresting. I wanted more of the world of Ixia. The story eventually get’s there, having Yelena travel on a caravan with the Commander to a neighboring land, but I have already felt constrained to the castle walls by this point.
Speaking of traveling to other lands, there is a magical aspect to the book that hints at powers that Yelena may have that she doesn’t know about. The characters with magical abilities do add to the story and help build for some interesting scenes, back story, and setting up for future books in the series.
I was pleased with the ending of the book (probably a little biased just because it wasn’t in the castle), but there was way too much emphasis on a random twist in the story involving the Commander and his [spoiler alert] sexual orientation. Honestly, it was odd, and seemed to be added just for shock value than anything to do with the story. That was disappointing.
At the end of the day, I do care about Yelena and want to see what happens to her (and I’m 50/50 as to whether I’ll read the 2nd book), but I just couldn’t get into it. The focus on food and culinary is an interesting plot point, but there was a little much focus on it for my opinion. I wanted to really, really like it, but it just didn’t resonate. Though I did end up finishing to see what happened.
Have you read ‘Poison Study’? What did you think