Well somebody sneezed.
Not reblurbing because I really don't want to remember this book again.
This was a very strange reading experience for me. It ticks a lot of the things I like in fantasy but at the same time they are the very things that made this such a chore to finish. I've set myself to finish at least half of a book before chucking it to the DNF pile (call it my post-Real resolution) but I read the first 50% ofPoison Study in two days. That's an eternity for me, Christmas notwithstanding.
My biggest complaint is that the world building was pretty uneven. It was a lot like watching Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (where Leo sent every pre-adolescent girl straight to puberty). You know how in that film Verona is set in contemporary Miami but the original Shakespearean dialogue was retained? Here Ixia sounds a lot like any high fictional fantasy city: horses, banished kings, magicians, castles and assassins. Medieval. Except here, colloquial words like "Mommy Medic", "Daddy", "Hard-core negotiations", I think a magician exclaimed "Are you crazy?" at one point.
Here was a side of Valek I never imagined existed. I felt as though I had intruded upon his most personal secret. As if I had uncovered a wife and children living up here in happy seclusion, complete with family dog.
Already I was having a hard time losing myself into Snyder's world building and these certainly didn't help matters. I actually liked the complexity in the imagination behind the history of the realm: how the Commander managed to stage a coup chasing off the monarchy and is now ruling Ixia with a fair yet militaristic hierarchy with Valek as his right hand and a league of generals watching over sectors. It was in the presentation of this world that failed my interest.
It felt like this story couldn't decide whther it should be UF or high fantasy and I know we shouldn't be bound by genre labels but this being marketed as (I suppose) high fantasy, these just came across as sloppy missteps and evidence of uneven distribution of creativity (i.e. Snake Forest? Soul Mountains? Sunset Ocean? Really?). It will be a considerable stretch to believe these colloquialisms as deliberate.
I usually gripe about insta-love, heroines upholding feminist cliches, heroes that gain the saccharine gene midway through once he sees the kickass heroine in a dress. This committed none of these offenses. The romance behind Valek and Yelena were very subtle.
So subtle that when it came to fore it didn't feel like a fit in the over-all feel of the story. Which is such a waste because they were a likable pair. I liked their verbal and physical sparring early on. Unfortunately I read all that tension as just that: tension. They have the sexual chemistry of a toothbrush and a fire hydrant. But separately they had fascinating backstories that would have made their coming together more satisfying when it happened.
Valek is easily one of the most cunning heroes I've read of but I'm very… concerned with how I'm supposed to picture him in my head. Because "shoulder-length hair" + "dark curls" + "thin eyebrows"? I love his brain, he's a badass fighter but I have the strangest picture in my brain of a white guy with Jheri curls. Which can only be justified if you're Justin Timberlake and its 1996. Reference for the kids who were too young to know what JT looked like in the Britney Era:
Yelena's earlier description of his determined expression as "metal face" did not help either. Yes you can call me out on my shallow vanity for making that an issue. It was really strange and I've wondered how one can swoon over a guy with "shoulder length ringlets". But then Yelena's abilities makes her one strange duckling So she basically hears a theme song in her head and she becomes this unbeatable fighter? So maybe its a thing and maybe she's a big "Eye of the Tiger" fan but you can't tell me that doesn't make you snicker.
The mystery was too simplistic. Which would have been fine except the story champions both Yelena and Valek's intelligence. This just made everything seem absurd and unnecessarily drawn out while everyone seems to be chasing their tails.
The ending wasn't necessarily a cliffhanger but it's supposed to draw you in and read in to the next book immediately if you're not me.
"Yelena, you need to learn, you need to find your family, you need to spread your wings and see how far you can fly."
Unfortunately I'm me. So no thanks.