[Yelena] "Does the entire castle's staff get paid?"
"Including the food taster?"
"Why not?" I hand't even thought about receiving wages until Valek mentioned it.
"The food taster is paid in advance. How much is you life worth?"
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder was a surprisingly delightful read. Here's the Goodreads synopsis:
Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison...
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...
I think this is one of the best books I've read in a very long time. I mentioned earlier that I was surprised to have enjoyed it so much because the first 150 pages really dragged along. I actually think it took me 3 or so weeks to finish those initial pages! I credit this slow intro to the fact that the book is over 400 pages. I haven't read many books that should be that long and even though I like this book (and the series) it could be about 100 pages shorter. What really spurred me along were the character descriptions (even though Snyder doesn't keep the image of Valek in our minds well). Snyder wrote very rich, authentic feeling characters and the dialogue was superb.
Yelena is definitely an admirable female protagonist. It's not often that I run into a female lead character that doesn't grind my gears. She starts the book off timid and scared but has an amazing arc where she's actually skilled with a weapon and can win a fight from pure talent and ferociousness instead of dumb luck (yes, this is shade to Stephanie Plum). And related to this notion I love that she never really needs Valek to save her. She always has a plan whether it's a good one or not.
This book is full of excellent twists and turns, and I highly recommend you read it!