Image and blurb from Amazon:
“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 Dusté 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 enjoyed this book and for the $1.99 ebook version, it is definitely worth the read. Our main character Yelena must become the food taster for the Commander of Ixia and learn to taste any poisons before they get to the Commander. She chooses this path only to escape certain death, but she quickly learns that many other poison tasters previously died on the job. We also briefly learn that Yelena is sentenced to die for killing someone, however as the reader we are not aware of the specific circumstances. This is revealed later on as we learn more about Yelena’s background and character. I appreciated that we learn more about Yelena and her past as the story progresses, rather than getting an info dump at the beginning of the book. It leaves some mystery surrounding her character and kept me reading until I got answers.
What I liked:
- The poison tasting. I have not read another book with this premise and it was interesting to learn about the different types of poisons, their effects and the daily life of a poison taster (and how important their job is!).
- Ari and Janco. Yelena meets these two fairly early on and they become her close friends. I enjoyed their witty dialogue and comic relief. They quickly become Yelena’s protectors and I found their relationship endearing. They added depth to Yelena’s character and enhanced the plot of the story.
- The plot was fast-paced and exciting. I read it quickly and it held my attention. The writing was simple and straightforward. Not amazing, but good.
- Commander Ambrose. He is a powerful, no-nonsense leader. At first Yelena fears him, but throughout the book we learn that while his leadership is strict it is also fair. Snyder leaves it up to the reader to decide if this leadership of Ixia is better or worse than the previous monarchy. There were some interesting revelations about his character and I hope to see him more developed in future books!
What I didn’t love:
- While the poison taster premise was original, it is clouded by other elements as the book progresses. Yelena learns to fight, she discovers she has powerful magic and falls in love. These plot elements are typical of other YA novels and took away from the original poison study premise that I found so interesting.
- Valek. I liked him in the beginning. He is a hardened, ruthless assassin and I enjoyed his scenes with Yelena as he instructed her on various poisons. While I could see that Snyder was setting up the plot for a relationship, it was still too out of the blue for me. Valek honestly didn’t treat Yelena very well at all, and suddenly they are in love? It was too much, too quickly.
- I wish all of the characters were more well-developed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about them but never really felt connected to any character.
Overall, this book is definitely worth the read even if it is lacking in some areas. It did end with a huge cliffhanger and I am eager to find out what happens.