Saturday, May 15, 2010
published December 2008 (c2005) by Mira
416 pages (paperback reprint), YA/adult
Yelena is in prison for murder. In Ixia, an eye for an eye rules the land, and Yelena merely awaits her eventual execution. Until she is afforded a choice - either she can die for her crime or she can become the new taste tester for the Commander. The choice is simple, and so she begins her training with Valek, the Commander's right-hand man, learning to identify poisons by smell and taste. Her life depends on it. She begins her new life in the castle with no friends or money or much hope for escape, and she is burdened by demons of her past. Perhaps a quick death would have been preferable.
I left out a lot from that description because although quite a bit happens in this book, ultimately, it is driven by Yelena's character. She is a survivor. Orphaned at an unknown young age, she is brought up with other children by a General. One whose kindness led to the murder of his son, which is how we learn Yelena came to be in prison. Was she justified in her actions? I do believe so, but you can disagree with me if you wish. She is strong in mind and body, and she is continually forced to make impossible decisions. Living in the castle, as a murderer, is no easy task - many would love to see her dead. And a few do try.
It's no surprise then that I loved this book. But loved it in a way that's reserved for the kind of literature that's painful to read because its content is disturbing and rather unpleasant. Milder than others of a similar nature (I'm very sensitive), it explores a world where right and wrong are absolute, and the consequences of disobedient actions are non-negotiable. Hmm, I've been reading a lot of dystopias recently. Nonetheless, this is a trilogy I would add to my favorites, and I haven't even read the next two yet. Magic Study is next, and I can't wait. Oh, did I forget to mention that there's a bit of magic too? :)
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