Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Okay. I have to admit, I added Maria V. Snyder on my list after reading a fantastic steampunk short story she wrote for the Corsets & Clockwork anthology. So I knew picking this book up wouldn't leave me disappointed.
Poison Study exceeded my expectations to the point where I read the book in two large gulps. It was like swallowing an entire sweetcake in two bites, included with guilty pleasure and joyasmic sighs.
The story revolves around Yelena, a young woman on her way to a death sentence. In comes Valek, the head of security for the Ixian Commander, who gives her another choice: to become the Commander's food taster, to risk her life every day in order to ensure the Commander's survival. A slow, poisonous death or a quick one? Yelena doesn't have much choice in the matter, and rather than succumb to her quick death sentence, she chooses to prolong her doom for as long as she can come up with an idea of escape. The only problem is if she does escape, there's still the problem with Valek's Butterfly Dust, which requires a daily antidote to be administered to Yelena, else she dies as well.
The book gets more in-depth regarding the poisons and the process of stepping into the world of political intrigue, poisons, and food-tasting.
There was a lot of food involved. Anyone knowing me by now would understand that describing and talking about cakes and cinnamon buns and whatnot would only make me salivate and want to read more.
And, of course, there were the poisons and assassins and a dark, traumatic past. Yes, sure, I knew what Butterfly's Dust really was, but it didn't take away from my fist-pumping screams of "I KNEW IT. YOU SCOUNDREL!" delight. There were also some discrepancies that Yelena didn't pick up (which I think was thrown in there as truly subtle hints of suspect), which I appreciated from Ms. Snyder.
That said, I loved Yelena. I'm always pleased when I find myself enjoying the perspective and narrative of the female heroine (which seems to be a rarity for me these days). Yelena seriously grew out of her gloomy stupor and literally kicked her way out of Death's doorstep. Sure, sure, she had two amazing sidekicks and the most hunkydory male lead to help her from time to time, but I have no doubt she can hold her own anyway!
Finally, I have also found my new husband. His name's Valek. Yes, thank you.
Sweets and poison and poisonous sweets. A most dangerously delicious treat, let me tell you.