Series: Study #1
Published by Mira on November 18, 2008
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Source: Birthday present
Amazon • Add to Goodreads
Choose: A quick death… Or slow poison…
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 Dust—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...
Much like Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, I was really worried about this book. I don’t usually like books where the main character(s) are violently mistreated. In both instances, I read the back of each book and skeptically thought, “Who on Earth could enjoy such a violent and tragic storyline?” However, I’d heard AMAZING things from friends and fellow book-a-holics that I trusted. I loved The Hunger Games, so I dove right into this book with the same expectations. I loved this one too!
Yelena lives in the land of Ixia. She has been convicted of murder, and is therefore sentenced to death by hanging. While lying in her dark, grimy, rat-infested dungeon cell she awaits the noose made especially for her. After living in that cell for just under a year, a guard comes and scrapes her emaciated body off the floor and takes her away. She can only assume it’s her turn to die. However, she is presented with a way to live—a new life. There’s a catch, though. If she’s going to live, she has to do it as a servant in the Commander’s home as his food taster. The previous food taster has died, and since the favorable method of assassination is by poison, the commander needs a new food taster immediately. The code states that the next person in line for the noose has to be offered the position. She accepts, thinking that surely there will be opportunity for escape in the future. Valek, her new handler, takes her through an extensive training curriculum, even poisoning her in the process. She comes through with a complete knowledge of all the poisons and begins her job.
Brazell, the father of the man Yelena murdered wants her dead. Her life becomes an obsession of his and she has to fight him and his guards off along the way. Not only is he after her, but so are some of the other servants she lives with. On top of that, someone has noticed some special powers she possesses and insists on either killing her or training her. If she does not learn to control these powers, she could cause major trouble for not only herself, but the world she lives in. This makes life difficult, obviously, and Valek, takes her into his suite so he can protect her. Along with Valek, she finds a few friends in the castle who help her and teach her new things.
When a conspiracy arises against the Commander, Yelena is forced into the middle of all of it. She has to face the man who drove her to kill, the demons of her past, and the man who just might ruin her future. She also has to quickly discover her true potential in order to help protect those she is bound to by vow and bound to by love. Throw in a ton of suspenseful scenes, some menacing characters, and a love interest or two, Yelena is in for a bumpy ride on the road to self-discovery, love, loyalty, and friendship.
I really enjoyed the unique storyline and cast of characters. Yelena is so spunky. You’d think that with the crappy past she had and the dismal life she ends up surrendering to, she’d be all whiny and woe-is-me all the time. She’s a fighter! She takes no crap and she kicks butt a few times! It’s really entertaining and refreshing to see such a strong female character. Here’s this skinny, weak little thing fighting off some of the strongest and most evil people ever. There’s a few lessons I think I need to learn from her. I loved Valek from the beginning. He’s got that hardened, cold, stand-offish persona but you just know there’s a teddy bear in there somewhere. That kind of man is very appealing and you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read about a man like him. The other characters were also likable. Really, the only ones I did not like were the villains (go figure). The storyline was so unique to me that it really pulled me in. I was constantly turning pages wondering how the author would treat the subject matter. It took me way too long to read, since I was on vacation, but it kept calling to me from my carry-on bag or my suitcase.
I could not give the book 5 stars, just because I really hated how horrible some of the people in this book were treated. I had a hard time hearing about the sad life of Yelena, as well as the people from her past. I loved the suspense, the little bit of romance, and the unique storyline.