Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The Darkest Minds - Book Review


The Darkest Minds - Book Review
Alexandra Bracken
YA Dystopian
Book #1 of the Darkest Minds 
UK Publisher: Hyperion Books

Synopsis:

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something  about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Somethings that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease thats killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her - East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened with her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

Review:

I discovered this book while browsing through a small little book store during my holiday to Canada. All I can say is why did I never hear about this book sooner because I absolutely loved it! Even if the end did leave me heartbroken and itching for more.

The story begins with a ten year old Ruby watching the harsh treatment of the Thurmond camps children. All gifted with a unique ability, they are colour coded based on their powers, but when she witness the cruel conditions those in her class must face, she someone how convinces the scientist assigned to her that she is nothing more than a harmless green with a photographic memory.

But six years later, the government begin new tests, ones designed to catch those kids who slipped through the cracks. Now with her secret out Ruby must put her trust in others if she is too escape. But with everyone wanting to use her for her rare abilities, Ruby is torn over who to trust. Only when she teams up with others like her does she begin to feel safe, but the question is, are they safe from her? Unable to control her powers, she fears she is destined to spend the rest of her life ostracised from her friends but when news spreads that another with her abilities still lives, Ruby will risk all to seek them out. What she finds is more danger, more heartache and a betrayal that just might put an end to her and those like her completely.

I really enjoyed this book. With the exception of a couple of chapters that I felt dragged a little, the story pretty much kept me immersed all the way through with every other scene ending on a cliffhanger. I just couldn't stop turning the pages.

Ruby makes an interesting heroine as despite being one of the most powerful people in the whole story, she fears her abilities and is unable to control them. Also with so many years spent locked behind the walls of camp Thurmond she has the limited education of a ten year old and having been segregated from boys, I thought it was adorable how she had no idea how to interact with them. Watching her grow from the naive, weak willed girl into a decisive and powerful women was thrilling.

Other characters such as Liam, Zu and chubs all had their own unique, individual appeal and I loved them all. Particularly Liam as he plays a kind and devote love interest and I don’t know any girl who could resist falling for his shy flirting. Zu and Chubs also added intrigue to the story with their unknown pasts and distinct personalities. 

Plot wise the book is action based and generally moves at a pretty fast pace with back story unfolding as and when needed. The storyline often keeps you guessing and my only niggle with the book is the lack of adults in it. I know they exist within the world of the book but as the kids drive around from place to place, I couldn't help but wonder why there wasn't more of them. I was also curious to know what everyone else was doing during this out break of disease and why the kids became so feared.

Despite those passing thoughts, these problems did not take away my enjoyment of the story. Although I am hoping some of these issues will be addressed in the next book which honestly, I cannot wait to start. Especially as the ending of the book was so emotional and dramatic.

I give The Darkest Minds 4 Stars! Great Read for all those who enjoy dystopians! 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

A Little in Love - Book Review


A Little in Love - Book Review
Susan Fletcher
YA Historical 
UK Publisher: Chicken House

Synopsis:

As a young child Eponie never knew kindness, except once from her family’s kitchen slave, Cosette. When at sixteen the girl’s paths cross again and their circumstances are reversed, Eponine must decide what that friendship is worth, even though they’ve both fallen for the same boy. In the end, Eponine will sacrifice everything to keep true love alive.

Review:

I love the stage show Les Miserables and was excited to learn that a book had been written from Eponine’s point of view. And while there is no singing and dancing around in the book - which I’m kind of grateful for as I think that would be weird - I have to say that Susan Fletcher has done a fantastic job of capturing Eponine’s character.

The story begins with a young Eponine. Through her eyes we watch how her family teaches her to steal, cheat and lie - yet despite their attempts to blacken her heart and soul, Eponine tries her best to live an honest life where she can. While this makes her appear weak in the eyes of her family it warms others opinion of her.

But when sixteen years later she runs into a young girl who once lived as their slave - Eponine feels a shocked bitterness at the reversal in their fortunes. Even more so when she discovers the man she loves has already had his heart stolen by the lovely Cosette. And as Paris calls out for a revolution, war breaks out across the streets of Paris, breaking the two lovers apart. Will Eponine revert back to the fiendish ways of her childhood, or will she strive to salvage her soul by doing all she can to unite the man she loves with the woman she was brought up to hate…

While somewhat slow in action, I did enjoy this book. Reading much like a memoir it takes the reader on a journey that brings the world of Les Miserables (the book - not the movie) to life through the eyes of Eponine. Exploring her rich childhood years through the decline of her families fortunes to the streets of Paris. It was an intriguing read.

Depicting Eponines dreams and secret wishes, it is a sad but beautiful tale that will open your eyes to the poverty, hardships and sacrifices faced by those who lived through the french revolution. A truly woeful and poignant story, 3.5 stars!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Shadow Study Blog Tour - Interview with Maria. V. Snyder


To celebrate the release of her new book, Shadow Study, I'm lucky to welcome Maria. V. Snyder to the blog today. You can find my interview with her below.

You can also follow a link to my review of the book HERE.


Interview:


Hey there, I just want to say a huge huge thank you for appearing on my blog! I love the study series and am so glad you decided to continue it! I asked some of my blog followers if they had any questions for you and this is what they came up with!

MVS: Thanks for being a part of my blog tour!

1) What made you decide to continue the Study series, apart from the obvious fan induced pressure?
MVS: My readers were a major part of the decision, but I also wanted to explore Valek’s past and return to the world and characters.  I missed them and it was a blast to be with them again.

2) In the book which character is the most difficult to write? Or is there one person you just don't like in general?
MVS: I had the most trouble with Valek’s POV.  The male perspective is difficult for a woman to write and I also wanted to show his emotions without going over-board. My readers love that he’s so confident about his abilities, but a character who has no weaknesses or self-doubts is unrealistic. I hope I struck the right balance. 

3) If you could meet and spend a whole day with any Character from the book, which one would it be and what would you do? 
MVS: I’d spend the day with Janco!  He’s such fun.  I think I’d like to explore/go sightseeing with him.  We’d get into so much trouble and discover all kinds of cool stuff. 

4) What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing Shadow Study?
MVS: How much background to include in the story.  I wanted a brand new reader to be able to pick it up and not be lost or confused – so the story had to stand on its own.  However, I also didn’t want to bore my loyal readers with a ton of details they already know.  And some of my readers are hard core fans, they know more than I do!  While others will forget what happened.  So finding that balance was the biggest challenge to me.  I hope it worked out – I had a friend read the book who hadn’t read any of the other Study books and she pointed out all the problem spots for me.

5) What was the best piece of writing advice you were given, back when you were still an aspiring author?
MVS: Persistence was the best advice I’d received.  To keep sending my book out to agents and publishers until there was no place left to send it to.  Also persistence in writing.  Finishing a novel is difficult—that middle section is a cold hard slog and just getting the words out and finishing the book is a milestone!  I have a bunch of free writing advice articles and tips on my website.  Here’s a link if anyone is interested: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice.php

6) Who is your favourite childhood villain?
MVS: Catwoman!  My sister and I used to watch Batman on TV, with Adam West and I always loved the episodes with Catwoman.

7) If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
MVS: Donuts!  Love those and try not to eat too many!

Thanks very much :)
MVS: It was my pleasure!  If your readers would like more info about me and my books, I have the first chapter of all my books on my website as well as a number of free short stories (including ones with Yelena and Valek) they can read.  Here’s the link: http://www.mariavsnyder.com.  My Facebook page is where I’m the most active with updates and news.  Here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/mvsfans 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Shadow Study - Book Review


Shadow Study - Book Review
Maria. V. Snyder
YA Fantasy
Book #1 in the Soulfinders Trilogy
UK Publisher: Mira Ink

Synopsis:

Once, only her own life hung in the balance…

When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival counties Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep peace in both lands - and protect her relationship with Valek.

Suddenly, though, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job - and his life - are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive.

Review:

I absolutely loved the Study series and can’t express how thrilled I was to learn that after all these years, Maria V Snyder finally decided to continue it. I’m also happy to say that this long awaited book was amazing!

When Yelena is attacked by an assassin, she awakes several days later to discover that her magical powers are gone. Now helpless against magical attack, word is fast spreading through the territories about her newfound vulnerability, and the only potential culprit is escaped prisoner, Ben Moon. 

But this time, Valek can’t help her investigate. When an assassin reaches his beloved Commander, Valek is forced into reassessing his security and is dumbfounded upon finding it lacking. Not only are smugglers moving freely between the kingdoms, but members of his trusted circle are also unaccounted for. 

Finding his loyalties torn between helping Yelena and following the Commanders orders, Valek realises he must choose between them. Does he protect his country, or protect his heart mate? And can he choose before he loses them both?

My favourite thing about this book was discovering Valek’s past. Reading about the events that led up to him becoming Ixia’s number one assassin was both interesting and insightful. Also as the story is split mostly into Yelena and Valeks Povs - with a little bit of Ari and Janco thrown in - I liked how Valek’s Pov provided the backstory while Yelena’s and other others were more focused on the present.

I also enjoyed the plot line of Yelena’s missing magic. The Study series was all about her learning to harness her powers and now several years later, magic has become second nature to her. With her magic gone, she must now re-learn how to connect with the world and survive without her magical abilities and I feel it makes her more relatable as a character.

This book also introduces several new characters. Their agendas are questionable and I can’t wait to see whether they turn out to be friend or foe. However I loved getting reacquainted with the old characters, and I particularly enjoyed discovering how their lives had changed over the past several years. But I was a little sad that some characters, such as the Master Magicians never managed to make an appearance in the book, although they were often referenced. 

My only criticism is that if you haven't read the Study or Glass series in long time, you may not remember all the characters well. While I very recently re-read the study series, its been a few years since I picked up the Glass books and I struggled to recall some of the characters who play a fairly vital role in this story. I would recommend refreshing your memories before picking up this book. However if your new to the story, I don't think you'll have any problem in understanding.

Other wise I loved, loved, loved this story. And with its huge cliffhanger of an ending I can’t help but want the next book, Night Study, immediately! I'll be counting down the days until its release! 4 stars!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Fire Study - Book Review


Fire Study - Book Review
Maria. V. Snyder
YA Fantasy
Book #3 in the Study Series
UK Publisher: Mira Ink

Synopsis:

When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder - someone able to capture and release souls - spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena’s unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before…

Honour sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself  - and save the land she holds dear.

Review:

A great conclusion to a fantastic trilogy. This final book in the Study series brings everything from the previous books together and wraps everything up in one neat, bow-tied conclusion. However I’m so glad that we can see these characters continue their journey in both the Glass and Soulfinder books, as I’m definitely not ready to say goodbye to them just yet.

When the murderous magician Yelena recently defeated escapes, chaos breaks lose within the Magicians Keep. For that magician knew too many dark secrets, and now they are spreading like poison through the magic world, creating warpers - dark magicians who use blood and torture to increase their own powers - and they are intent on overthrowing the Sitian councils decision for peace with Ixia. They want war!

But as Yelena learns more about her own unique powers, more and more people turn from her in fear of what she could become. Only with the aid of her Ixian friends can she hope to defeat the blood thirsty magicians, and only with Valek’s love can she prevent herself from becoming the monster everyone fears … but for all his special abilities, Valek is still just one man, and the Sitians are determined to see both Yelena and Valek dead. Just how far does their love stretch? And will they live long enough to see the sunrise?

These books have been a pleasure to read and Maria. V. Snyder remains one of my favourite YA fantasy authors. I love the magical world she has created, with Ixia’s strict rules and regimented structures, to Sitias vibrant towns and crazy clans people. These are books that I have revisited again and again through my teen years and ones I’m sure I will continue to do so throughout life. They are a must read for all fantasy fans.

I think one of the best elements of Maria. V. Snyder's writing is her ability to take her characters full circle. Always bringing them back to the place their journey began from, its forms a clear distinction for the reader as to how the characters have grown and changed throughout the pages. 

This is especially true of Yelena. She has overcome death many times, mastered her powers and taken control of her life, all while remaining loyal to her friends and beliefs. However while she may have hated Valek in the beginning, she accepts that things and people aren't always what they appear and now Valek holds the place closest to her heart. They make a perfect couple.

The plot also held some twists and bends along the way that took me by surprise. But as the book is pretty action based you will find you simply fly through the pages and all you can do is hold on for the ride.

A magical, spellbinding read, I would recommend Maria. V. Snyders books to all fans of Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce and Sarah-Beth Durst. 4 stars!


Friday, 20 March 2015

Magic Study - Book Review


Magic Study - Book Review
Maria. V. Snyder
YA Fantasy
Book #2 in the Study Trilogy
UK Publisher: Mira Ink

Synopsis:

With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can’t help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways - and her new found friends and relatives don’t think its for the better.

Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magic training - especially as she’s been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince - and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians. 

If that wasn't bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with her new enemies. 

Review:

A fantastic middle book to what I know to be a truly spectacular trilogy. With new challenges, old fears and a mix of divided loyalties, this book takes the reader on another adventure, only this time we get to see the other side of Maria V Snyders fantasy realm.  The place where magicians roam free, colour paints everything and the horses are occasionally smarter than the people who ride them. Picking up mere days where the previous novel ended, Magic Study follows Yelena on the next leg of her journey.

 After a short reunion with her long lost family, Yelena sets out to discover the true extent of her magical powers, all while doing her best to avoid the pointed stares and whispered gossip from her fellow students that she is an Ixian spy. But when she learns of a plot that could lead to an outbreak of war between Ixia and Sitia, she is torn over whom to trust … and is unsure of which side she is supposed to be aiding…

Another brilliant read, this book sees Yelena faced with more problems and even greater challenges. But it is clear to see that she has really grown as a character. Applying previous experience to new situations, she knows her limits and now sets about expanding them. While still quick to jump into trouble, she remains a kind, brave heroin and I loved each and every page of her story.

The new characters also contain a motley crew of friends, villains and in-betweens who each add something unique to the plot line. Yelena’s brother, Leif, is a particularly layered character who’s agenda remains difficult to figure out. Of course the old and well loved characters such as Ari, Janco and the elusive Valek, also make appearances in the book although they arrive quite late into the story. 

The plot moves at a fast pace and contains plenty of action. Although there is less backstory in this book, we still get to learn more about Yelena’s childhood and the events that led up to her previous abduction. 

However one of my favourite things within this story was the horses. I love their mind speak and the way they attach names to people based on their impressions. It adds some comedy to all the adventure and with their casual outlook on life, they occasionally offer insightful advice.

All in all yet another great read with just enough of a cliffhanger to ensure you pick up the next book. Fantastic! 4 Stars!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Half Bad - Book Review


Half Bad - Book Review
Sally Green
YA Paranormal
Book #1 in the Half Bad Trilogy
UK Publisher: Penguin

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shacked, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus.

Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers - before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?

Review:

What started off for me as a slow, slightly confusing read quickly turned into something special that I was unable to put down. Half Bad is a book with a strong, unusual voice that will take you on a journey of magic and adventure through one boys quest to discover the truth about who and what he really is. 

All his life Nathan has been shunned by the white witches, including members of his own family. For he is a hybrid, half white, half black and until he reaches his seventeenth birthday, no one knows how his powers will manifest. Deemed as a danger to the white witches, his childhood is stolen from him when he is put under lock and key and forced to endure test upon cruel test. His only hope is to escape the white witches clutches and seek out the father he has never met, Marcus, a notorious black witch and murderer. 

But Marcus will not be easy to find and Nathan’s survival depends on him being granted three magical gifts upon his seventeenth name day. Gifts that can only be obtained by drinking an elder relatives blood. But as the day’s to his birthday tick down, Nathan learns that he must pay a price to get what he wants, but the question is, just how much is he willing to sacrifice? And is his own survival worth the cost?

I felt this book got off to a slow start and as the story jumps from past to present, the beginning is a little confusing. However, I  urge readers to not despair, preserve as eventually it all makes sense and by that point you will be hooked. Also as the story is told from Nathan’s point of view and he has a very blunt way of perceiving the world,  it may take a couple of chapters to become accustomed to his voice alone.

Nathan himself is a very complex character. Treated badly by the council of white witches, and unable to understand the sheer hatred that radiates from his older half-sister, he grows up trusting few and learns the valuable skill of playing dumb. Suffering with constant self doubt over who he is and what he may become, my heart bled for him as he tried to show again and again that he was a good person - despite the councils best attempts to turn him into something else.

I simply loved Aaron, Nathan’s half brother. He is one of the kindest characters in the whole story and I hope he continues to be a pillar of support across the next few books. However I thought all the characters came with strong traits and personalities and I enjoyed meeting each and everyone of them, both the good guys and the bad - although sometimes the line that divided blurred.

Relationships also play a huge theme in this novel. Half bad explores the bonds between family, the unity among outcasts and the excitement and sacrifice of both forbidden love, and love unrequited. All these things contributed to the depth of the story.

The whole good vs evil, white vs black element  also adds a strong current to the plot and although the book transpires at a rather slow pace, I feel that Sally Green intended for this to be a more emotional read - although the action does pick up towards the end. It is definitely one of the most unique and original books that I have read for a long time. For that alone, I would recommend people give it a try.

A book that I think will be enjoyed by both boys and girls alike, I give Half Bad 4 stars!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The One - Book Review


The One - Book Review

Kiera Cass

YA Dystopian

Book #3 of the Selection Trilogy

UK publisher: Harper Collins Childrens Books

Synopsis:

The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown - or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realises just how much she stands to lose - and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants.

Review:

I enjoyed this series from start to finish. Although I felt it had some flaws - and I occasionally wanted to punch Maxon for being an idiot - I liked reading about America’s adventures in the Selection. From not wanting to be there, to becoming a true possible candidate for future queen, America has had quite the journey. With both its ups and downs and I feel The One brought the series to a satisfying conclusion.

Now among the final candidates, America and the rest of the world hold their breath as the deadline to the Selection draws ever closer. While the world and half the rebel army wish to see her become their future Queen, America finds she only wants one persons opinion. But America will only stay if she has captured the Prince completely, for her heart belongs to him. But will he give her his  in return?

I think what I really enjoyed most this book was the change that came over many of the characters. Especially the other girls within the Selection. For the first time, I felt we truly got to see the sides of themselves they had previously kept hidden, and I loved how the queen embraced them all into her family - sharing her own past and experience with the girls.

More emotionally packed than the previous books, its nice to see America finally make her choice between Aspen and Maxon. The love triangle was beginning to get a little tedious, however even with her decision made, Aspen and Maxon continued to wreck havoc in Americas life - and each others.

This story was also a lot more action based, with the rebel movements playing a bigger role and therefore increasing the threat of danger. I must admit the ending did surprise me and I was sad to see so many characters meet untimely ends. However I really do think Kiera Cass did a fantastic job in wrapping up this story.

4 stars!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Fated - Book Review


Fated - Book Review

Sarah Alderson

YA Paranormal

Fated Book #1

UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster Childrens Books


Synopsis:

What happens when you discover you aren't who you thought you were? And that the person you love is the person who will betray you? If your fate is already determined, can you fight it?

When Evie Tremain discovers that she’s the last in a long line of Demon slayers and that she’s being hunted by an elite band of assassins - Shapeshifters, Vampires and Mixen demons amongst them - she knows she can’t run. They’ll find her wherever she goes. Instead she must learn to stand and fight.

But when the half-human, half-shadow warrior Lucas Gray is sent to spy on Evie and then ordered to kill her before she can fulfil a dangerous prophecy, their fates become inexplicably linked. The war that has raged for one thousand years between humans and demons is about to reach a devastating conclusion. Either one or both of them will die before this war ends.

If your life becomes bound to another’s, what will to take to sever it?

Review:

I thought this book was an ok sort of read but I have to be honest, I didn’t love it. While I liked the main character and parts of the story made me chuckle, ultimately it just had one to many niggles for my liking. For instance I saw so many similarities between this story and Buffy the Vampire slayer that I found myself picking apart each line, which obviously took the joy out of reading. 

The story begins with Evie. A feisty, no-nonsense sort of girl who works each hour of everyday with the singleminded goal of getting out of her small town. Trying to escape the gossip thats circled her since her best friend died the month before, Evie locks up after a late shift at the diner only to be attacked by a group demonic beings.

Saved by a Hunter named Victor, he takes Evie under his wing, explaining that she is the last of her kind, a true blooded Hunter whom it is prophesied will end the thousand year war between Demons and Hunters.  But as Victor plots to train Evie into a killing machine, Lucas Gray conspires to end her existence before that can happen. Half-human, half-shadow warrior, he takes a position as a Lodger in Evies house, taking his time to learn her skills and weaknesses. Yet what he docent expect is for Evie to become his weakness and as Luca’s begins to fall for Evie they both begin a dangerous game of love and war. But who will turn on who first…

My main grievance with this story was the instant love between Evie and Lucas. While both strong and likeable characters, Lucas’ attraction was immediate and all to soon, within only a few days and a mere handful of conversations, Luca’s was ready to die for her. Literally. For me part of the enjoyment of the story is watching the romance develop and I felt Fated lacked that important spark.

Yet otherwise I thought the plot moved at a good pace. Developing from Evie’s reluctance to accept the truth of her heritage, through her training to the inevitable betrayal and kick ass fight scene. There were a couple of surprises along the way too, but there were also a couple of cliches. 

Honestly while it wasn't a bad read, I do think this story would be liked more by those who haven't watched Buffy as they wouldn't get distracted by the similarities. However I refuse to give up on Sarah Alderson, I have heard nothing but good things about her Hunting Lila series so am determined to try that next. 

All in all, I would say an average 3 stars!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Poison Study - Book Review


Poison Study - Book Review

Maria. V. Snyder

YA Fantasy

Book #1 in the Study Series

UK Publisher: Mira Ink


Synopsis:

A quick death? Or a slow Poison?

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace - and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust - and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonising death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear…

Review:

I love and adore this series! Having first read it as a teenager, its a book I find myself coming back to time and time again. I only hope I can find the words to give it the worthy review it deserves. 

In this first book we meet Yelena, an orphan, murderer and prisoner who is soon to be executed after almost a year long stay in the Commander of Ixia’s dungeons. But fate is on her side. When she is offered a chance to live in exchange for her lifelong service as the Commanders new food taster (a job with great benefits but a very low mortality rate) she jumps at the opportunity. 

… But perhaps death would have been the easier option. Now with potential poison lurking in every meal, and a general  determined to see her hanged for her crimes, Yelena must also contend with out of control magical powers that she must keep hidden from the Commanders spy master, Valek, at all costs. But when enemies from her past catch up with her, Yelena find herself a pawn in a much larger game where the future of the whole country rests in her hands. But can she escape death long enough to play her part...?

This a a really gripping read. The characters are amazing with intriguing personalities that range from jovial and warming to cryptic and secretive. Everyone has a hidden agenda and its often hard to know who to trust. Enemies become friends, while friends can turn into enemies, and through the whole book Yelena is constantly met with surprises of both the good and bad varieties. 

Yelena is also a great heroine. She’s admits her fears and always tries her best to face them. She has a quick mind and steely determination, but often gets into trouble for her act first, think later attitude. Yet you  can’t help but admire the resourcefulness and creativity  she puts into overcoming  each new obstacle that is thrown at her.

Valek makes for an unusual and unique love interest as his loyalty to the Commander often forces him to act in ways that go against Yelena’s ideals. However they overcome each threat together and I like that despite their uncertain beginnings, Valek and Yelena form a trusting bond in each other.

Ari and Janco however are also rated among my favourite characters. Their hard won loyalty and witty humour add something special to the story while other characters - such as the generals and magicians - aid in thickening the plot and add to Yelena’s already stressful life.

I also love Maria V Snyders use of foreshadowing too. She gives enough hints for the reader to make assumptions about the direction in which the story is heading, but only reveals that actual truth bit by bit through various backstories spread evenly throughout the whole book. All of which add to the stakes in Yelena’s ever increasing dilemmas. 

This truly is a fantastic read and ends on a perfect note that makes it easy to slip immediately into the next book - although do look out for the short novella that follows this story, Assassin Study. Overall though Yelena’s story is just too good to put down! Rivetingly deadly, this delicious story is an easy five star read!