I’d been meaning to read this for years, ever since Malin reviewed it back in like CBR4 or something, but I just never got around to it until now. And I should have read it sooner, because I really liked it!
Poison Study takes place in some unnamed world where about fifteen years previously, the corrupt monarchy was overthrown by a man named Commander Ambrose, who disliked the abuses they committed on their citizens. The government he instituted is a bit of a dictatorship (citizens have assigned jobs and uniforms, etc.), but the Commander himself as we see him in the book is a bit of a grey figure. He has strict rules that he enforces without mercy, but he is also a fair, reasonable man. The whole book plays with grey areas like that, and that’s rare enough in regular fiction, let alone YA.
Our main character, though, is actually eighteen year old Yelena. She was imprisoned a year before the book starts for murdering the son of the general whose care she was in, one orphan among many in his care. She is next to be executed, when she is pulled out of prison and offered the job of the Commander’s food taster. She takes the offer. Better to have life for now, than certain execution tomorrow. To ensure she doesn’t try to run, the Commander’s second in command, Valek, doses her with Butterfly Dust; if she doesn’t return to him every 24 hours for an antidote, she will die a painful and slow death.
From there, it’s political intrigue, espionage, learning to fight, learning about poisons (and yes, she is actually poisoned, multiple times), uncovering conspiracies, all kinds of good stuff. You’re on Yelena’s side, but you’re also seeing the side of the people who want to execute her, and then again, why she did what she did. There also seems to be room to grow the world, if the end of the book is any indication. I hope the next two are as good as this one, because it has an edge of originality to it that I really appreciated. Sort of a roughness, kind of hard to explain.
Worth checking out for sure!