Holly here they are! ^_^
I've had a helluva hard time writing a review for this book. In fact, I only recall another time when I had SUCH a hard time writing a review and that was for The Gilded Chain: A Tale of the King's Blade. Just as it happened with that book I loved Poison Study so much I had no idea what else to say about it. If you've been here before then you'll notice this is not my regular review format and that's the reason why.
Some people look for good grammar or spelling mistakes. Me, I love what writing with style, with class. I am turned off when I encounter writing that seems too contemporary or just bland. This is especially true when I read Fantasy since a lot of it is based on other worlds that somewhat remind me of Medieval or 18th century Europe. Even when this is not the case I think Fantasy should have writing that stands out and is more than just a simple telling of events. It requires "fancier" language if you will.
Mrs. Snyder doesn't disappoint one bit. From the moment I started reading Poison Study I was hooked on her world and everything that was happening to our characters. Her writing is engaging and I never found myself bored or wishing a scene had been cut.
As far as characters, Snyder has come up with two of the best I’ve seen in any genre. Without a doubt I think that Yelena is one of THE best heroines I've ever read. This is how you write a strong female lead. There is no need for her to huff and puff and declare she doesn’t need anyone or that she knows what she is doing while running headlong into enemy territory. Yelena knows exactly what her weaknesses and strengths are and she is not above asking for help when she needs it. She tries to learn as much as she can and, as she truly has no choice, she accepts her new life. At the same time, she does dream of getting away but she goes about it the right way. She starts training and learns as many skills as she can which will help her defend herself from those that want to harm her and also to make her escape more plausible. I honestly didn't find any major faults with her character. She is not obnoxious like many Xena wannabe heroines. She carries herself with dignity regardless of all that she has been through.
Then there is Valek. He quickly became one of my favorite heroes as well. Much as I love my cocky, tortured, alpha bastards he was a breath of fresh air. Silent but deadly is how you'd describe him. At first you aren't certain that you like him, especially since he is the one in charge of teaching Yelena about poisons...and that means she has to drink them all in order to recognize the tastes. Soon enough you see that there is more to Valek and you start seeing things from his perspective as well. Just like Yelena he doesn't have much choice in serving his master. He is, in fact, the deadliest assassin they have but, almost like Yelena, he was driven by outside forces to choose this path in life.
As for the relationship between the two all I have to say is that I enjoyed every single minute of it. They start off as uneasy allies who don't trust each other yet are forced to work together. With time you see the way that Valek comes to care about Yelena's health even if he tries not to show it. Yelena also starts having feelings for Valek but she doesn't know what to make of them. On the one hand he is her enemy in a sense and she knows she shouldn't develop any "friendly" feelings towards him. I loved the way they interact with one another and none of it seemed forced or rushed. For me it was perfect.
As far as fantasy this is one of the best books I’ve read in a while, especially by a new author, and I can’t wait to find out what happens to my favorite characters as the series progresses.
I give it a solid 5 out of 5!!!!!
Wow, this book was great. You know, I've been hearing so much about it... I think the first time was on Jennie's blog :) I was hearing so much good stuff about it that it scared me and that's why it took me so much time to decide reading it :D Definitively a keeper :D
You probably know the story by now, but it doesn't matter. Growing up in an orphanage, Yelena was sentenced to death after killing the son of her benefactor, General Brazell - not without good reason. Now the day has arrived and she is given a choice: death by hanging or become the Commander's food taster. Yelena is no fool and the choice is easy. Then, her learning of poison starts. However, poisons are not the only thing Yelena has to worry about: a) Valek (the Commander's right hand man)'s imprevisible tests and b) Brazell's attempts on her life. In addition, Yelena discovers that she has magic power in a country where magic is forbidden and magicians are killed. Who is friend, who is foe and how can she escape?
I really liked this book. The telling was very smooth and although it was a first person point of view, it didn't bother me at all. I liked it when we went through the learning of the poisons, although it was too short to my taste and I liked it that her job wasn't limited as food taster. Yelena is bright and courageous, but she's human too. She has doubts, she fears, but she's calm. She can be in a good mood one moment and be down in the next. You know, she's not the fearless food taster who's like: I want to escape and that's my goal and unique goal. She gets attached to the others... anyway, she felt really real to me :D I liked Valek a lot... see, that's the kind of man who is obviously an alpha male, but he doesn't overshadow the woman. That was quite a nice change. Valek is smart, cunning and moves like an assassin :) Valek and Yelena together are a deadly combination :D I liked the ppl Yelena befriended with too, but for once, it seems that the story will focus only on the main couple.
Okay, I'm running out of thing to praise LOL. Basically: I love it, everything - the characters, the plot, the writing - people love it and if you haven't read it, go find it! I'm going to read Fire Study tonight and tomorrow, while you're looking for it :D I'm actually glad that Fire Study is also getting good comments, because what's worst than having a good first book and the second is a flop? Nothing... that would be major disappointment. I know, I know... if I love it so much, why only 4.75? Why not a perfect grade like Mailyn? One major reason and one minor. The major reason, I thought as a reader, I didn't get enough world-building information. This is fantasy... I know that they live in Ixia which is divided into Military Districts... The commander rules, everyone has a job and wears uniform... okay, I get that... but what about the setting: is it a desert? because I kept imagining somewhere very dry, a bit like in Kingdom of Heaven (with Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson), but then, I was reminded that there was a forest... so you know, was the castle where they live more European or Middle East? My other reason, which is really, really, really minor and I know, you're going to laugh... is that the author, i think only twice (and in the same conversation), used the word 'okay.' So what's the problem with it? Well 'okay' sounds way too modern for Poison Study. It was just out of blues, out of context and it jumped right at me... am I too picky? Perhaps, but still. you don't use 'okay' in regencies right? well same thing here... it shouldn't have been used. Oh, and one more thing... what is the mutation? But nonetheless, this is an AWESOMELY, FANTABULOUSLY GOOD BOOK!
by Dance Chica
This book was a pleasant surprise. It was also one of those books where first person narration worked to the advantage of the story. Yelena was an awesome herione; she was likeable and smart. She has a dark past with a lot of painful memories and so when we're first introduced to Yelena, her past experiences have conditioned her to run and hide when there's danger. But even so, she's hardly weak and as the story develops, Yelena begins to blossom and come into her own. Synder did a wonderful job of portraying her growth.
I liked that the worldbuilding was subtly done and that the focus was on the characters. Synder created a wonderful cast of characters equipped with cleverness and sarcasm. Their interactions as well as the development of their relationships was enthralling. The action keeps moving while at the same time avoids becoming overwhelming.
There's a bit of magic and romance interlaced within the plot, however, the romance was minimal and just developing when the book ends; regardless, its development was interesting and I can’t wait to read more. There's also a bit of political intrigue as Yelena thrawts assassination attempts as well as attempts for power. But while all this is going on, I never felt that the plot became convoluted.
It's rare for me to be captivated so throughoutly by a book but this one grabbed me and wouldn't let go until I'd read the very last page. I honestly can't find anything that really annoyed me and do you know how rare that is?
I can't wait to see what else this series brings. Synder is a wonderful storyteller. I highly recommend this book!
High Fantasy, Elves, Necromancers, Vampires, Magic, Quests, Orcs, Dwarfs
The dark elf vampire who rules Castle Mistmore is searching for a small red harp. Chanzoon Nexus, necromancer, wants to know why. He has the harp—now he needs a bard who can play it well enough to uncover its secrets. But Faydwer’s bards consider harps to be quaint folk instruments, unworthy of their attention.
Elizerain grew up with a harp in her hands. A merry, fun-loving wood elf, she collects ballads like other adventurers collect treasure. If these story-songs are entertaining, she doesn’t care if they’re accurate.
That was before a necromancer’s curse gave her a choice: learn the true stories behind her ballads, or die screaming.
One such ballad features her new red harp. Intent on her search, surrounded by deadly enemies and treacherous alliances, Elizerain doesn’t realize that the real danger may be the harp itself.
If you know me at all then you know there is NO way on Earth I could pass up a book with a description like that. Vampires? Check. Elves? Check. Necromancers? Check. Necromancer who wants to get secrets of a vampire elf? Check! Add to that the very first paragraph in the book:
"The necromancer stalked from the silent chamber, his black and scarlet robes swirling around him. Frustration twisted his face, and his pale blue eyes, though deeply shadowed by the cowl of his cloak, burned like azure flame. Behind him, one of the finest bards in all of Faydwer knelt in a pool of her own blood. Tears of pain and despair coursed down her cheeks as she stared at the twisted, broken things her hands had become."
I was immediately hooked. This story, as the plot suggests is about an evil, and for once very smexy, necromancer who wants to be the one and only Dawnwalker. A Dawnwalker is one who is a vampire by night, with all the super powers that entitles, but is back to his or her old self during the day. So, basically he'd be a powerful necromancer by day and an even more powerful vampire by night.
Now tell me you aren't just dying to read that!
Unfortunately for our friend, the very very evil necromancer by the name of Chanzoon Nexus, the only way to find out how this works is by playing the blood red harp. Problem is that the harp will only yield its secret when the right bard plays it. Our necro friend won't be stopped by such trivial things so he sets out to torture and kill any and all bards he can get his hands on to find the perfect one. To do this, he has "enlisted" [more like forced] the aid of a very unscrupulous rogue by the name of Davin the Dark. As he is under Chanzoon's spell he has to help him find said bard and he does so by suggesting his ex wife the wood elf Elizerain.
Elizerain and Davin were married for about a year and this, along with the fact that she is a bard AND likes to play the harp [seen by elves as beneath them] has gotten her a reputation amongst her elven clan. She doesn't seem to care much since she is off all over the place in quests and adventures and she travels alone. During one of her travels she goes to Kelethin for a song festival and runs into an old friend by the name of Xander Fletcher whom she used to be in love with. Xander however doesn't think too much of Elizerain after she was involved with the bandit Davin and his band of robbers.
Through a series of [shall I say it? lol] unfortunate events Elizerain is cursed by the necromancer and is forced on a quest to save her life. Xander, as well as a highborn elf by the name of Nyson and Trobe the dwarf joins her in this quest but as with anything in these types of quests nothing and no one is as they seem.
Let me start by saying that I absolutely LOVED this book and was hoping against hope there was a sequel or a series to follow. I couldn’t get enough of all the characters, both good and evil. They all fit their parts perfectly and none of them dragged the story down or seemed out of place. Elizerain Greenleaf is a perfect heroine for this quest. She isn't under the illusion that she is better than anyone or that she can do everything herself. She knows exactly what her weaknesses are and she takes them into account when it's time for her to act. I can honestly say that there was only one time where she chose the wrong thing to do and, even the, you can understand where she is coming from as she did it to help someone in need. She is strong yet she is not above following directions or someone else’s' lead when she understands they know better than she does in the particular circumstances. I also liked her spunky attitude because it goes well with the adventures they encountered.
As far as the rest of the characters, well, I have no complaints. Chanzoon Nexus, the necromancer and villain of the book was truly evil. He had no scruples and he did whatever necessary to get what he wants. At the same time he is not portrayed as an all-powerful super villain, who usually look ridiculous, and he knows when to back off and rethink his plan.
Xander Fletcher, the wood elf soldier, and Nyson Impholder, the highborn elf, also fit their roles perfectly. Xander was a true hero yet even he had his darker side and Nyson, although a highborn and with every right to have the snobby attitude you'd expect from any aristocratic elf, didn't fall into the dandy or whiny category.
The quest itself was very entertaining and not once did I skim ahead or did the pace of the story bore me. My only complain is that the ending was a bit too fast paced and didn't keep with the rest of the story. To be sure, the outcome and the way everything was solved was in keeping with the story and very satisfying but it should have been a little more detailed, again, in keeping with the rest of the story.
Other than that I've no cause for complain.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good solid read about adventure with wonderful characters, a truly evil villain and lots of action and adventure. I wish the author would give us more of these wonderful characters and I'd love a series based on this world.
I am giving it a solid 4.5 out of 5!
Ironside is the direct sequel to Tithe so we'll see the return of Roiben and Kaye in this one (which I'm looking forward to because I really enjoyed the two characters).
[Edited to Add Blurb]
In the realm of Faerie, the time has come for Roiben’s coronation. Uneasy in the midst of the malevolent Unseelie Court, pixie Kaye is sure only of one thing--her love for Roiben. But when Kaye, drunk on faerie wine, declares herself to him, he sends her on a seemingly impossible quest. Now Kaye can’t see or speak with Roiben unless she can find the one thing she knows doesn’t exist: a faerie who can tell a lie.
Miserable and convinced she belongs nowhere, Kaye decides to tell her mother the truth—that she is a changeling left in place of the human daughter stolen long ago. Her mother’s shock and horror sends Kaye back to the world of Faerie to find her human counterpart and return her to Ironside. But once back in the faerie courts, Kaye finds herself a pawn in the games of Silarial, queen of the Seelie Court. Silarial wants Roiben’s throne, and she will use Kaye, and any means necessary, to get it. In this game of wits and weapons, can a pixie outplay a queen?
Holly Black spins a seductive tale at once achingly real and chillingly enchanted, set in a dangerous world where pleasure mingles with pain and nothing is exactly as it appears.
Ironside will be availabe May 2007. You can pre-order from Amazon.
For more information, you can visit Holly Black's website or check out her LiveJournal.