The Barnes & Noble Review
Like the deadly toxins sought out by the ill-fated food taster Yelena in Maria V. Snyder's debut novel, Poison Study is a powerfully compelling romantic fantasy that will slip under readers' skin, invade their bloodstreams, and seize their heartstrings.
Yelena, convicted of murdering the son of a powerful gneral, awaits execution. But with only a few hours left, she is offered an incredible reprieve -- and agrees to become the new food taster for Commander Ambrose, the military leader of Ixia. Living in a palace and eating only the best meals is a dramatic change for Yelena, who spent the last year locked up in a rat-infested dungeon, eating gruel. But she soon realizes that she has more to worry about than ingesting potentially lethal poisons in the commander's meals. The general whose son she murdered has vowed bloody vengeance, and everyone in the commander's retinue look at Yelena as an untrustworthy criminal. The longer she stays alive, however, the more she begins to understand her own perplexing abilities -- all of which will be put to the test when cunning rebels plot to take control of Ixia.
While many genre-blending novels seem to unintentionally dilute the literary domains involved, Poison Study is both a riveting romance and a spellbinding fantasy. The richly historied and vividly described realm that Snyder has created is completely convincing and large enough to encompass (hopefully) many more novels featuring Yelena, an enigmatic heroine with so many secrets and so much promise. Paul Goat Allen
Shivers, obsession, sleepless nights-these are the results not of one of the milder poisons that novice food-taster Yelena must learn during her harrowing job training but of newcomer Snyder's riveting fantasy that unites the intelligent political focus of George R.R. Martin with a subtle yet potent romance. Through a stroke of luck, Yelena escapes execution in exchange for tasting the food of the Commander, ruler of Ixia. Though confined to a dank prison cell and doomed to a painful death, Yelena slowly blooms again, caught up in castle politics. But some people are too impatient to wait for poison to finish off Yelena. With the help of Valek, her steely-nerved, cool-eyed boss and the Commander's head of security, she soon discovers that she has a starring role to play in Ixia's future-a role that could lead to her being put to death as a budding magician even if she hits each cue perfectly. The first in a series, this is one of those rare books that will keep readers dreaming long after they've read it. Agent, Sally Wecksler and Joann Amparan-Close. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Convicted of murdering a general's son, Yelena faces death by hanging until she is offered a reprieve by Valek, the commander of Ixia's chief of security. He will spare her life if she will become his poison taster. As Yelena learns to discern the slightest hint of poison in food and drink, she also discovers that some people want her dead. As tensions mount in Ixia, from rebels within and enemies without, Yelena discovers a growing magical talent within her that she cannot control. Snyder's first novel, a series opener, provides a compelling look at a woman caught in an impossible situation, living each day on the edge of dying. The author's talent for storytelling bodes well for her continuing career as a strong contributor to the genre. For most fantasy collections. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"This is one of those rare books that will keep readers dreaming long after they've read it."
-Publishers Weekly on Poison Study, starred review
"Snyder delivers another excellent adventure."
-Publishers Weekly on Fire Study
"Snyder's clear, straightforward, yet beautifully descriptive style is refreshing, while the story itself is completely engrossing."
-RT Book Reviews on Magic Study
"Snyder deftly weaves information about glassblowing into her tale of magic and murder."
-Library Journal on Storm Glass
"A compelling new fantasy series."
-SFX magazine on Sea Glass
"Snyder's storytelling skills continue to build an involving story line with an engaging and resourceful heroine."
-Library Journal on Spy Glass
"Filled with Snyder's trademark sarcastic humor, fast-paced action and creepy villainy, Touch of Power is a spellbinding romantic adventure that will leave readers salivating for the next book in the series."
"The action in this book is non-stop, with many twists and turns to keep the reader guessing about what's in store on the next page."
-Examiner.com on Scent of Magic
"Snyder draws us in with her excellent, efficient storytelling, amusing dialogue and distinctive characters, all set within a well-crafted plot. A delight of a read!"
-RT Book Reviews on Taste of Darkness
Read an Excerpt
By Maria V. Snyder
Luna Copyright © 2005 Maria V. Snyder
All right reserved.
Locked in darkness that surrounded me like a coffin, I had nothing to distract me from my memories. Vivid recollections waited to ambush me whenever my mind wandered.
Encompassed by the blackness, I remembered white-hot flames stabbing at my face. Though my hands had been tied to a post that dug sharply into my back, I had recoiled from the onslaught. The fire had pulled away just before blistering my skin, but my eyebrows and eyelashes had long since been singed off.
"Put the flames out!" a man's rough voice had ordered. I blew at the blaze through cracked lips. Dried by fire and fear, the moisture in my mouth had gone and my teeth radiated heat as if they had been baked in an oven.
"Idiot," he cursed. "Not with your mouth. Use your mind. Put the flames out with your mind."
Closing my eyes, I attempted to focus my thoughts on making the inferno disappear. I was willing to do anything, no matter how irrational, to persuade the man to stop. "Try harder." Once again the heat swung near my face, the bright light blinding me in spite of my closed eyelids.
"Set her hair on fire," a different voice instructed. He sounded younger and more eager than the other man. "That should encourage her. Here, Father, let me."
My body jerked with intense fear as I recognized the voice. I twisted to loosen the bonds that held me as my thoughts scattered into a mindless buzzing. A droning noise had echoed from my throat and grew louder until it had pervaded the room and quenched the flames.
The loud metallic clank of the lock startled me from my nightmarish memory. A wedge of pale yellow light sliced the darkness, then traveled along the stone wall as the heavy cell door opened. Caught in the lantern's glow, my eyes were seared by the brightness. I squeezed them shut as I cowered in the corner.
"Move it, rat, or we'll get the whip!" Two dungeon guards attached a chain to the metal collar on my neck and hauled me to my feet. I stumbled forward, pain blazing around my throat. As I stood on trembling legs, the guards efficiently chained my hands behind me and manacled my feet.
I averted my eyes from the flickering light as they led me down the main corridor of the dungeon. Thick rancid air puffed in my face. My bare feet shuffled through puddles of unidentifiable muck.
Ignoring the calls and moans of the other prisoners, the guards never missed a step, but my heart lurched with every word.
"Ho, ho, ho...someone's gonna swing."
"Snap! Crack! Then your last meal slides down your legs!"
"One less rat to feed."
"Take me! Take me! I wanna die too!"
We stopped. Through squinted eyes I saw a staircase. In an effort to get my foot onto the first step, I tripped over the chains and fell. The guards dragged me up. The rough edges of the stone steps dug into my skin, peeling away exposed flesh on my arms and legs. After being pulled through two sets of thick metal doors, I was dumped onto the floor. Sunlight stabbed between my eyes. I shut them tight as tears spilled down my cheeks. It was the first time that I had seen daylight in seasons.
This is it, I thought, starting to panic. But the knowledge that my execution would end my miserable existence in the dungeon calmed me.
Yanked to my feet again, I followed the guards blindly. My body itched from insect bites and from sleeping on dirty straw. I stunk of rat. Given only a small ration of water, I didn't waste it on baths.
Once my eyes adjusted to the light, I looked around. The walls were bare, without the fabled gold sconces and elaborate tapestries I had been told once decorated the castle's main hallways. The cold stone floor was worn smooth in the middle. We were probably traveling along the hidden corridors used solely by the servants and guards. As we passed two open windows, I glanced out with a hunger that no food could satisfy.
The bright emerald of the grass made my eyes ache. Trees wore cloaks of leaves. Flowers laced the footpaths and overflowed from barrels. The fresh breeze smelled like an expensive perfume, and I breathed deeply. After the acidic smells of excrement and body odor, the taste of the air was like drinking a fine wine. Warmth caressed my skin. A soothing touch compared to the constantly damp and chilly dungeon.
I guessed it was the beginning of the hot season, which meant that I had been locked in the cell for five seasons, one season shy of a full year. It seemed an excessively long time for someone scheduled for execution.
Winded from the effort of marching with my feet chained, I was led into a spacious office. Maps of the Territory of Ixia and the lands beyond covered the walls. Piles of books on the floor made walking a straight line difficult. Candles in various stages of use littered the room, singe marks evident on several papers that had gotten too close to the candle's flame. A large wooden table, strewn with documents and ringed by half a dozen chairs, occupied the center of the room. At the back of the office a man sat at a desk. Behind him a square window gaped open, permitting a breeze to blow through his shoulderlength hair.
I shuddered, causing the chains to clatter. From the whispered conversations between prison cells, I had determined that condemned prisoners were taken to an official to confess their crimes before being hanged.
Wearing black pants and a black shirt with two red diamonds stitched on the collar, the man at the desk wore the uniform of an adviser to the Commander. His pallid face held no expression. As his sapphire-blue eyes scanned me, they widened in surprise.
Suddenly conscious of my appearance, I glanced down at my tattered red prison gown and dirty bare feet roughened with yellow calluses. Dirt-streaked skin showed through the rips in the thin fabric. My long black hair hung in greasy clumps. Sweat-soaked, I swayed under the weight of the chains.
"A woman? The next prisoner to be executed is a woman?" His voice was icy. My body trembled on hearing the word executed aloud. The calm I'd established earlier fled me. I would have sunk sobbing to the floor if the guards weren't with me. The guards tormented anyone who showed any weakness.
The man tugged at the black ringlets of his hair. "I should have taken the time to reread your dossier." He shooed the guards away. "You're dismissed."
When they were gone, he motioned me to the chair in front of his desk. The chains clanged as I perched on the edge.
He opened a folder on his desk and scanned the pages. "Yelena, today may be your lucky day," he said.
I swallowed a sarcastic reply. An important lesson I had mastered during my dungeon stay was never to talk back. I bowed my head instead, avoiding eye contact.
The man was quiet for a while. "Well-behaved and respectful. You're starting to look like a good candidate."
Excerpted from Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder Copyright © 2005 by Maria V. Snyder.
Excerpted by permission.
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