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Poison Study    by Maria V. Snyder order for
Poison Study
by Maria V. Snyder
Order:  USA  Can
Luna, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

As the story opens, its heroine Yelena is in the dungeons of Commander Ambrose of Ixia, who took over from the previous monarchy via assassinations and revolution, and has instituted a very detailed Code of Behavior for daily life. Yelena has been imprisoned - and is about to be executed - for the murder of the son of one of the realm's ruling Generals. And she did the deed too.

However, the killing came after years of abuse from General Brazell (who adopted Yelena along with many other orphaned children) and his son Reyad. Now Yelena is waiting to die, haunted by Reyad's ghost. But suddenly, she's hauled out of prison and offered a choice by Valek, the Commander's head of security - immediate execution or to become the Commander's food taster (if she survives the training, which involves taking potent poisons). To ensure her compliance, Valek forces on Yelena a poison that will quickly kill her in the absence of a daily antidote (of a potion that Valek controls).

So, the reader embarks on a wild romp of an arduous (physically and magically) adventure for Yelena and Valek, who fall in love (rather suddenly and without credible development) as the tale evolves. Yelena wins a friend in southern magician Irys, who offers her asylum in Sitia, and warns her of the dangers of her unschooled power. And she gradually uncovers a plot against the Commander (who keeps close a dangerous secret), involving magic stolen from young orphans like herself. Poison Study is an action-packed debut to a new fantasy series, involving intriguingly different forms of magic.

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