publisher: Mira Books
published 2007 (first published 2004)
A QUICK DEATH OR SLOW POISON…
Yelena has a choice-be executed for murder or become food taster to the Commander of Ixia. She leaps at the chance for survival, but her relief may be short-lived.
Life in the palace is full of hazards and secrets. Wily and smart, Yelena must learn to identify poisons before they kill her, recognise whom she can trust and how to spy on those she can’t. And who is the mysterious Southern sorceress who can reach into her head?
When Yelena realises she has extraordinary magical powers of her own, she faces a whole new problem, for using magic in Ixia is punishable by death…
In (Very) Short:
+ fast paced story full of mystery, intrigue, politics, and a little magic
+ a protagonist who acquires skills and then becomes heroic
+ wonderful sidekicks
+ a protagonist that is fine with being saved
+ loving relationships between characters that are not necessarily romantic
Yelena can choose between being hanged or becoming the food taster for the Commander. One way her life will surely end, the other it might just take a little longer. So, she becomes the next food taster.
The reader is thrown into the life at court, a life of politics, spies, assassination attempts, and an opportunity to run from the past.
Yelena is not instantly heroic. She is attacked and has to be saved several times. Something she accepts and does not resent. As she learns to distinguish all the poisons, she also learns how to defend herself and how to fight. Her ability as an acrobat is an advantage, but Yelena still has a hard time to acquire skills.
Although the supernatural aspect of her life furthers her skills and helps her development as a fighter, it is not the dominant factor that drives the narration. Magic is important when the story unfolds yet it is not the only aspect that makes Yelena special.
The story itself is a mixture of mystery, political thriller, and fantasy and lives from its characters. The novels sidekicks (Mag, Janco, Ari, etc.) create a divers range of relationships that are heart warming and also offer comic relief.
It is a fast paced story that lives from its action as well as from the characters relationships. Yelena resembles more of a “normal” girl (despite her magic) who has to learn to survive and trust. A mixture of Rae Carson’s Elisa and Sarah J Mass’ Celaena. I am looking forward to Magic Study.