Summary (from Goodreads)
CHOOSE: A QUICK DEATH OR SLOW POISON…
On the eve of her execution for murder, Yelena is reprieved, but her relief is short-lived. She is to be the Commander of Ixia’s food taster. Can Yelena learn all she needs to know about poisons before an assassin succeeds?
Her troubles have only just begun, however… Valek, her captor, has a uniquely cruel method to stop her escaping; General Brazell, father of the man she killed, still wants her dead; and someone is plotting against the Commander.
Resourceful and wily, Yelena gains friends, survival skills – and more than a few enemies. In a desperate race against time, the Commander’s life, the future of Ixia and the secrets of her own past will be in her hands…
“Trusting is hard. Knowing who to trust, even harder.”
When I first picked up this book, I found it extremely difficult to get into so put it back down pretty quickly. And there it stayed for months. And yet, the second time I tried to read it, I found it engaging and addictive. I guess I wasn’t in the right mood to read it that first time, which was a shame because there is so much to like about it.
The storyline was engaging and the world building detailed. Ixia is an interesting and sometimes scary place.
I liked Yelena; it’s hard not to empathise with her after all she’s been through and what she must face every day as the Commander’s food taster. And yet she grows and becomes stronger. I also like Varek. There is so much more to his character than you realise when we first meet him as the cold, calculated man offering Yelena the choice of being executed for murder or becoming a student and taster of poisons. The other supporting characters were also good: Rand, Ari, Janco, Dilana, especially.
This is one of the better YA books that I have come across and I can’t wait to read the second book in the trilogy, Magic Study.