Opening Line: ‘Locked in darkness that surrounded me like a
coffin, I had nothing to distract me from my memories.’
Okay, so I went into this expecting only to read Poison Study, the first book, which is
what I do with most of my fantasy reads. However, it hit me like a brick… so I
got hold of the other eight (curse my self control). I read the nine-book
series in about two weeks (including delays as I had to order some of the books
and they took a few days to come in), and I feel slightly like I’ve drowned
myself in the story, but in a good way.
We follow the point of view of Yelena (with other points of
view coming up in later books) who is assigned to be the food-taster for the
leader of the country instead of being executed for murder. From that point,
everything gets progressively more complicated and intense, but in a thoroughly
enjoyable way. I could probably gush for pages about this series, so let’s go
through some of the major points.
The character creation and development work is solid, good,
and interesting; their motivations make sense in unexpected ways, which makes
for an enjoyable story. Snyder is good at common-sense twists, the kind that
you don’t necessarily see coming but make complete sense when they happen – my
favourite kind. The only exception to this is in the romances, sometimes.
They’re great as potential romances, and great once they’re actually a couple,
but the jump from the former to the latter sometimes seems to be jarring – it
doesn’t feel quite natural. You can definitely see her improve through the
books, though. And she has a tendency towards writing found families, which I
The world-building is great, and the magic system is a nice
balance between overly simplistic and overly complex – though I will confess I
was occasionally confused by some of the twists in the system, I suspect that
was largely because of how fast I was reading. Snyder’s plot-work is also
nicely done, and she uses some lovely narrative devices across the whole series
– and I won’t spoil it, but I will say it has a wholly satisfying ending.
One major note: trigger warning for rape. Our main character
is a rape survivor, and the incident itself is described pretty evocatively in
the first book. It’s also a topic that comes up every so often throughout the
rest of the series, though it is always explicitly framed as a terrible thing –
there’s no “was it wasn’t it” debate, which is something.
Finally, despite being a series about assassins, fighting,
and poisoning, it doesn’t ever feel excessively grim. There’s a lot of fun, some
really satisfying scenes and genuinely good relationships between people. Snyder
avoids putting you through genuinely believing someone is dead more times than
necessary (which for me will wear me out and pull me out of the story after a
while) while still keeping the peril level high, which was impressive.
Overall, one of my favourite additions to my collection –
and I’m very glad I bought the whole series! Going to give this a 4.5/5.
You might enjoy this book if you enjoyed: Green
Rider (Kristen Britain), The Black Magician Trilogy (Trudi Canavan), A Dance of
Cloaks (David Dalglish), The Cursed Kingdoms Trilogy ( Emily Gee), Uprooted (Naomi
Novik), the ‘Sweep’ series (Cate Tiernan).