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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Olesen

Re-Reading My Favorite Books: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

I have to admit something: I am FLYING through these books. In only a few weeks, I have read SEVEN of my favorite books. Some have been on ebook, like this week's: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. Others are on audiobook, and others as physical books. I listen to the audiobooks while I clean the kitchen or go on walks. I read the ebooks while I'm lying in bed and don't want a light on. I read the physical books on my lunch break. All at the same time.

And it so much fun!

There is something invigorating in reading stories you love. You read more quickly, get more engrossed, and feel happy thinking about what you just read or when you're going to pick up the book again. Reading delightful books back-to-back multiplies that sensation, as even when I finish one book, there is no "book hangover." I am already on to the next one, excited all over again.

Now, here's the interesting part: getting excited about reading my favorite books again has also lead to me reading more NEW books as well! Rather than becoming exhausted or bored of reading, I feel inspired to expand my horizons further. I feel free to try out books I've been meaning to read for a long time. I feel empowered to try a new book, knowing that if it falls short of my expectations, I have one of my favorites to fall back into again.

This discovery is fascinating because it suggests A) Reading more causes you to crave reading even more, and B) Reading books you KNOW you'll enjoy is a perfect gateway to reading books you're unsure of, scared of, or just less interested in. What does this mean for how we read? How we expect chileren to read? How we expect ourselves and others to read?

It indicates, to me, that the path to greater and broader reading in the populous is to encourage reading in any kind. Graphic novels, comic books, erotica, romance, mass market sci-fi, fan fiction, random biographies--whatever excites a person to read is good to read. Perhaps, when we can feel excited and safe in our reading, we can expand our reading list, our interests, and our minds far better than if we constrain ourselves to only "good" and "proper" literature as determined by someone else.

Perhaps in that frame of mind, it doesn't make sense to recommend another book to you. However, I hope that my words may encourage you to read what you love and my recommendation will provide an opportunity for you to expand that which you read.

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Publication Year: 2005

Minimum Reading Age: 15

Average Goodreads Rating: 4.10 stars out of 5

Recommend Way to Read: Ebook

Spoiler-Free Synopsis:

Yelena is convicted of killing a general's son, yet she is spared the noose only to be offered the deadly position of food taster for the ruler of the realm. Her education in detecting poisons starts immediately under the instruction of the Commander's chief spymaster: Valek--a man whose reputation as a ruthless assasssin far proceeds him. Yelena must survive not only her new job, but also the vengeful general who wants her dead.

With no one on her side and everyone seemingly out to use her for something, Yelena unexpectedly finds herself gravitating to the one person she ought to fear the most: the deadly spymaster who made her into a food taster. Whatever his reasons, Valek seems willing to help her survive, even if it means working with her to uncover rising threats against the Commander--and by extension, Yelena.

Best Quote:

"Killing isn’t the only solution to a problem. Or has that been your formula?"

"My formula! Excuse me, Mr. Assassin, while I laugh as I remember my history lessons on how to deal with a tyrannical monarch by killing him and his family."

Valek flashed me a dangerous look.

What I Love Most:

I love how simple the setup for this novel is: faced with certain execution, our heroine chooses an uncertain fate as a food taster. What makes the story especially endearing is the character we uncover as we watch Yelena make choice after choice to survive. Something terrible has happened in Yelena's past, and it takes most of the novel for her to heal enough to be able to think about it, let alone connect with others and talk about it. The novel is therefore one part espionage and one part healing journey. The combination is just right, and we root for Yelena not only to survive but to thrive.

Why You Should Read It:

You should read this book if you love spy thrillers, alternative fantasy worlds, and/or heroines overcoming trauma.

In regards to the world, this novel has an interesting take on government. We enter the world in a time several years after the "traditional" medieval-Europe-style fantasy world has been destroyed and replaced with essentially a dictatorship, but led by a good and righteous Commander. It is an interesting world especially because the reader can immediately see the inherent problems in it, but the characters see all the ways it improved upon the oppressive feudal system that came before. I think being in this world creates several interesting questions about what makes "good" versus "bad" government and the importance of trying to do the right thing despite an imperfect system.

What Writers Should Take Away:

I think writers can take something away from the slow buildup of the relationship between Yelena and Valek. It is difficult to describe this relationship in a few words without it coming across as "traumatized young woman falls in love with a man who is in control of her." Yet in reading the novel, that is not what you come away with at all. There is a very slow process at work wherein Yelena is first and foremost coming back into herself. During this time, Valek is hardly even described, and Yelena thinks only of the need to be wary of him. It is only as she takes steps down the healing process and recognizes the ways in which Valek has helped her to no gain of his own that she begins to feel herself safe around him. Only then does she begin to learn more about him and slowly become more interested in him. All of these steps are incredibly necessary and must happen in that exact order to feel authentic and safe. The relationship that grows between Yelena and Valek is truly a beautiful storyline within the novel, and I think this is the main reason any writer should check out this book.

Write on!

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