Published by Maria V. Snyder
Published on 15 April 2023
Source: my home library
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Fierce, determined, dangerous. No wonder her soul called to his.
As Chief of Security of Ixia, Valek has spent the last fifteen years keeping Commander Ambrose and his citizens safe. With his complex network of spies, informers, and soldiers, it’s his job to hunt down and capture criminals, including the intriguing Yelena.
Sensing there is more to the story of why she killed a general’s son, Valek arranges for Yelena to become the Commander’s new food taster, training her in the delicate art of detecting poisons. As mysteries and a devious plot to harm the Commander unravel, Yelena’s presence becomes crucial. Will her intelligence, stubbornness, and survivor instincts be a help to Valek’s investigation, or a hinderance?
A companion novel to Poison Study, The Study of Poisons reveals Valek’s side of the story. Return to the world of Ixia and discover just how the lovely Yelena got Valek’s cold heart pumping!
3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for Goodreads.
“The Study of Poisons” is a modern high fantasy companion novel to “Poison Study,” and it’s narrated from the perspective of the beloved assassin, Valek. The story retells the events of “Poison Study” from Valek’s viewpoint, offering readers a different lens through which to view the narrative.
As someone who cherished Poison Study from Yelena’s perspective, I knew that revisiting the same scenes but from Valek’s point of view would present challenges. I was also aware that this was the whole premise of the book, and I was fully supportive of Snyder writing it, but despite my awareness, I found it difficult to fully immerse myself in the story. I can’t help but recall that when I was super into Animorphs, KA Applegate tested out telling the same scenes from different perspectives in the first Megamorphs book. It was not a very popular choice, and from then on, all of the Megamorphs delivered the narrative without retelling the same scenes from different perspectives. So I think it may be a fundamental flaw with retelling the book from another POV. I do recall that I quite enjoyed Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun, so I thought I would be OK with The Study of Poisons. Noting that Poison Study was nearly perfect in its original form, this ‘retelling’ loses some of the magic. It can’t be helped comparing the two in this review.
Since this book fills in the gaps when Valek wasn’t present in “Poison Study,” it occasionally feels lacking. Valek’s role as head of security, though essential, can be somewhat uneventful since he excels at his job. The pace at which he falls in love with Yelena feels rushed compared to the slow-burning, enemies-to-lovers development we witnessed in Yelena’s perspective. Valek, as expected, is the standout character, representing the best assassin in Ixia. Yet, it’s worth acknowledging that the romantic dynamic between Valek and Yelena raises different considerations now than when Poison Study was initially released. Back in 2009, I think readers were more accepting of the 14 year age gap, whereas now in 2023 I think a fair amount of readers recognise that it is problematic – and that’s not even including the part where Valek is Yelena’s boss, and as far as she knows, he has poisoned her so she can’t escape. Yelena remains an exceptional and admirable character, displaying intelligence, bravery, and an endearing quality that draws readers in. However, I found that Ari and Janco were again scene stealers. Their presence injected energy, intrigue, and a whole lot of nostalgia into the story. Seeing the ‘power twins’ in more of their soldier roles added valuable elements to the narrative, contributing to the series’ overall charm. I also appreciated the interactions between Valek and Commander Ambrose, which add unique layers to their nuanced characters. Due to their close working and personal relationship, we were able to see Commander Ambrose shine, delving into his complicated history and relationship with Valek.
Snyder’s writing style is typically engaging, but I felt that The Study of Poisons fell slightly short in certain areas. At times, the narrative seemed rushed, leaving me wanting further expansion and descriptive prose that would make the text sing. The shift to a third-person point of view might have contributed to this feeling, as it wasn’t my preferred perspective.
Overall, I would recommend The Study of Poisons primarily to readers who have already enjoyed and loved Poison Study and have a craving for more Valek (because who doesn’t?!). I want to make it clear that I believe my struggles with this book were possibly influenced by my current difficulties in rereading books. If you have a deep attachment to the world and characters Maria V. Snyder has crafted, this companion novel can provide a few fresh insights. However, it’s essential to approach it with the understanding that it’s a revisit of Poison Study from a different, albeit less captivating, viewpoint.