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February 2014: Romance: Maria V. Snyder: Poison Study

Discussion in 'Book of the Month' started by Meadow337, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    On the basis of no further votes and a miraculous majority of 2 the book for February - the month of luuurrvve - we are reading and discussing Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder.
     
  2. Sparhawk

    Sparhawk Active Member

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    Oh cool :) this is probably the only romance book that I have ever read :p
     
  3. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Yay! Now to see what it says. It's new to me. :D

    I hope some romance readers join in.
     
  4. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    so do I.
     
  5. direstraits

    direstraits Well-Known Member

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    I was frightened by this book. I heard an interview by this author once many years ago, and she talked about how she did an indepth study of how poison worked for this book, etc, etc..
     
  6. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    Technically too soon to start the discussion but here is an overview and a few reviews to give some idea / background / interest stirring.

    Murder, mayhem and magic…


    Locked in a coffin-like darkness, there is nothing to distract me from my memories of killing Reyad. He deserved to die—but according to the law, so do I. Here in Ixia, the punishment for murder is death. And now I wait for the hangman's noose.

    But the same law that condemns me may also save me. Ixia's food taster—chosen to ensure that the Commander's food is not poisoned—has died. And by law, the next prisoner who is scheduled to be executed—me—must be offered the position.

    Editorial Reviews

    The Barnes & Noble Review
    Like the deadly toxins sought out by the ill-fated food taster Yelena in Maria V. Snyder's debut novel, Poison Study is a powerfully compelling romantic fantasy that will slip under readers' skin, invade their bloodstreams, and seize their heartstrings.

    Yelena, convicted of murdering the son of a powerful gneral, awaits execution. But with only a few hours left, she is offered an incredible reprieve -- and agrees to become the new food taster for Commander Ambrose, the military leader of Ixia. Living in a palace and eating only the best meals is a dramatic change for Yelena, who spent the last year locked up in a rat-infested dungeon, eating gruel. But she soon realizes that she has more to worry about than ingesting potentially lethal poisons in the commander's meals. The general whose son she murdered has vowed bloody vengeance, and everyone in the commander's retinue look at Yelena as an untrustworthy criminal. The longer she stays alive, however, the more she begins to understand her own perplexing abilities -- all of which will be put to the test when cunning rebels plot to take control of Ixia.

    While many genre-blending novels seem to unintentionally dilute the literary domains involved, Poison Study is both a riveting romance and a spellbinding fantasy. The richly historied and vividly described realm that Snyder has created is completely convincing and large enough to encompass (hopefully) many more novels featuring Yelena, an enigmatic heroine with so many secrets and so much promise. Paul Goat Allen

    Publishers Weekly

    Shivers, obsession, sleepless nights-these are the results not of one of the milder poisons that novice food-taster Yelena must learn during her harrowing job training but of newcomer Snyder's riveting fantasy that unites the intelligent political focus of George R.R. Martin with a subtle yet potent romance. Through a stroke of luck, Yelena escapes execution in exchange for tasting the food of the Commander, ruler of Ixia. Though confined to a dank prison cell and doomed to a painful death, Yelena slowly blooms again, caught up in castle politics. But some people are too impatient to wait for poison to finish off Yelena. With the help of Valek, her steely-nerved, cool-eyed boss and the Commander's head of security, she soon discovers that she has a starring role to play in Ixia's future-a role that could lead to her being put to death as a budding magician even if she hits each cue perfectly. The first in a series, this is one of those rare books that will keep readers dreaming long after they've read it. Agent, Sally Wecksler and Joann Amparan-Close. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

    Library Journal

    Convicted of murdering a general's son, Yelena faces death by hanging until she is offered a reprieve by Valek, the commander of Ixia's chief of security. He will spare her life if she will become his poison taster. As Yelena learns to discern the slightest hint of poison in food and drink, she also discovers that some people want her dead. As tensions mount in Ixia, from rebels within and enemies without, Yelena discovers a growing magical talent within her that she cannot control. Snyder's first novel, a series opener, provides a compelling look at a woman caught in an impossible situation, living each day on the edge of dying. The author's talent for storytelling bodes well for her continuing career as a strong contributor to the genre. For most fantasy collections. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
     
  7. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    This book was quite a revelation to me when I read it. I picked it totally randomly based on the fact it was a fantasy novel. I didn't even read the blurb properly. When I read it and discovered it was somewhat of a love story I went ohhhhhhh because a. the thought occurred to me to wonder why no one had written fantasy themed romance before and b. I don't read romance. I really don't. I find it terribly boring and predictable. She likes him (or he likes her) and the other one doesn't. Something dramatic happens to change their minds and they live happily ever after. If that excites you great, but for me I prefer something a bit more intellectually challenging thanks. (Yeah I know how that sounds but when you know the beginning, middle and end before you start there is no challenge in the reading)

    And to my surprise I really enjoyed it. So much so that I have sought out the rest of the books in the series, as well as the follow on and somewhat related other series Maria V. Snyder has written.

    I'm hoping some others have some comments on the book before I say anything more about some of the themes more specifically, as I thought there were a few themes that are well worth a discussion.
     
  8. Sparhawk

    Sparhawk Active Member

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    Well I thought that how Snyder set up the country was interesting in the fact that there was a place for everyone and that no-one was left jobless. Ok yes the commander was a bit of a tyrant but...

    As far as how she wrote the love story part, I thought that she hid it well. I to was surprised when I heard that it was a romance.
     
  9. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    I'm about 30% done. No comment until 100%. But spoilers don't bother me, so proceed with discussion if you wish. :)
     
  10. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    are you enjoying it so far?
     
  11. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    That's why no comment. I hope it engages my attention better the further it goes along.:oops:
     
  12. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    well great epic fantasy it isn't. it is fundamentally a romance book at heart that got dressed up in fantasy, BUT the fantasy was written well enough for me (who is deeply anti-romance novels as they truly do bore my socks off) to enjoy it. And there were a few ideas in it that were actually refreshingly new which was also a pleasant surprise as there comes a point when you read enough fantasy certain things start feeling very familiar. An elf is an elf is an elf....
     
  13. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    About 2/3 done and I'll agree with you. As the plot intricacy grows, the suspense grows too and the story becomes much more interesting. I should wrap it up in the next day or two. :)
     
  14. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    All done and medium disappointed. Snyder crafted an intricate and largely unpredictable plot line but she seemed very challenged in terms of describing setting and characters, and two scenes where Yelena is "attacked" were so abysmally written, IMO, that they were embarrassing to read. Their attempt at "explicit" could have been omitted entirely without affecting anything, again IMO. Overall, I found it a chore to finish. To me it was a little like trying to read individual pieces of a jig-saw puzzle straight out of the box.
    I hope I don't offend, but it turned out to be just not my cup of tea.
     
  15. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    Well I have given up expecting good 'action' scenes in books or movies. Now I just prefer less to be more.

    "Explicit" as you so nicely put it can always be left out IMO - again less is more.

    I don't disagree with you on the whole, but at the risk of repeating myself, it was sufficiently different to get me to read a romance novel which is truly an achievement.
     
  16. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Oh, I don't mind the occasional romances I have read. And I have been pleasantly surprised, as with Anita Shreve and Wedding in December, or Jane Eyre, or Marguerite Duras' The Lover, and so on. Although they all offer more than plain swooning romance.
     
  17. Sparhawk

    Sparhawk Active Member

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    Well, yes maybe it wasn't of LOTR standard but it was an ok book. The romance was sufficiently hidden to make it readable and there were some interesting ideas hidden in the backround that may be deserving of a moment of thought. For example how she had setup the goverments in the two countries, (I have read the whole series so I may mention stuff others have not read sorry), one all about freedom and the other a dictatorship, but the interesting thing is the way she wrote it to ask the question "is freedom always better?". In country number one we have a dictatorship but no-one is hungry or with out a way to live a happy life. In country number two we have freedom and a ton of suffering and pain with many struggling to survive. Which is better or are neither of them good?
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2014
  18. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Hi Sparhawk. I found the considerations you raise distracting and annoying at times.

    First, the story was told in modern-day, quite literate English, together with some truly elegant vocabulary (a "burgeoning" library for one example I can remember). So I wondered just what the time frame was for this mythical kingdom. Modern day? But it was certainly not urban fantasy. And then, from time to time, it seemed to me that there were set-piece politically-correct comments about the role of women. A liberated role I am all in favor of, I hasten to say, but seeming very out of place and time (to me), and distracting in the flow of narrative in this mythical, seemingly medieval kingdom.

    In the end, the good guys were winning, I think, with Valek showing signs of creative moderation and reasonableness in governance, but with that dolt of a Commander still needing considerable reforming. And a Commander who could enforce that Code of Behavior strictly and mindlessly was, to me, just indicative of the artificially fabricated nature of the story, with stiff and wooden Valek behaving little better through most of the story. At least murderous Mogkan was more believable, even though one of the bad-guys.

    I found the mixture of good and bad just plain off-putting, and sounding like non-coherent story telling. My imagination could not stay in the story and my disbelief just would not suspend.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2014
  19. Sparhawk

    Sparhawk Active Member

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    Peder,

    1. I didn't mean to imply that I liked some of the more noticeable plot flaws or character defects, only that I thought that the way the two societies were set up was interesting.

    2. I didn't think that it was too bad with the political correctness compared with some books that I have read which repeatedly hit you over the head with it every second page.

    3. Yes, both Valek and the Commender need to take a big chill pill and a calming breath but there is hope for them - yes as they get better later on in the series.

    4. This is a fantasy/romance, its not set in any time period. It's OK if it is a jumble of eras IMO. :)
     
  20. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    I was just going to say that fantasy isn't typically written in period style even though the other world may not be particularly modern. It is rather typical for fantasy and sci-fi writers of a certain type to favour a more primitive world. We have rather romantic notions about the joys of a lack of indoor plumbing and motorised transportation.
     

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