May 16th, 2006

mmm books

Snyder, Maria - Poison Study

I've been wanting to read a Luna book for a while, just because I'm curious, but not enough to actually buy one. I picked this up in the library and added it to my already towering stack because... poison! I originally thought it was going to be about assassins and cool things like that, but it turns out the main character is a poison taster. Close enough.

Yelena has been imprisoned for murder. Thankfully, she's given a choice -- become the Commander's poison taster or hang. She chooses poison and is trained by the Commander's somewhat shadowy right-hand man Valek. To keep her in line, she's fed a poison that must be kept at bay by daily doses of antidote.

Alas and alack, I don't know if this is my assassin kink speaking, but this book was just too fluffy for me. It's not all unicorns and puppies, but my problem was, the book was trying to be dark. Valek is supposed to be a murky figure, but he's revealed as trustworthy far too early on to have his actions have any sort of suspense. I guessed who was and wasn't evil from the get-go as well, operating under the assumption that the author was setting up people as bad or good to suddenly do a switcheroo.

I managed to figure out every single plot twist, and given that I'm usually not good at that, it wasn't the best of signs.

Also, considering that this is a book about a poison taster, everyone's morality is far too clear for me. Sure, Valek and Yelena do somewhat dubious things, but they're never really portrayed as such in the book. Yelena reacts to some of Valek's actions as though they were dubious, but the reader has enough information that it's never really successful in making us doubt. The relationship between Yelena and Valek is also resolved too quickly; she's a convicted murderer and he's the man who poisoned her and feeds her the antidote. You'd think there'd be a little more conflict.

The love story is rather forced; I didn't particularly see the move into love as genuine, despite it being telegraphed from miles away. And Yelena gains support in the castle much too easily, given that she's a convicted murderer. Of course, it comes as no surprise that the murder is a justified one.

The world is a little off-kilter; in some ways, it's your typical fantasy world with cooks in the kitchen and poison tasters and etc. Other times, there are vaguely military/sfnal references to sectors like MD-1 through MD-6, talk of factories and etc. There's not enough information to make them mesh. And while I appreciate the author's attempts to make Ixia under military rule not wholly good or bad (the Code of Behavior is extremely strict, and has its pluses and minuses), there just wasn't enough to make it feel real to me.

It's a step above the average romance worldbuilding, but it really isn't whole enough to catch my interest, and the characters aren't grey enough either.

It's not a bad book; I read it in a night and didn't feel the urge to chuck it against a wall, and I did enjoy it at times. It's just... fluffier than I'd like, in terms of the atmosphere, world-building and character development.