by Maria V. Snyder
5 of 5 stars
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 agonizing 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.... - from Goodreads
I was longing for a book I could sink into and love, and I was fortunate to read this one. I was persuaded by several bloggers to put this on hold at the library and it came up just when I needed it. I quickly devoured this never-boring fantasy.
The Good Stuff:
- Intriguing. I was fascinated by mystery, the horrible past, and the simple fact that this seemingly good character was perfectly fine with the murder she committed. I had to know the back story.
- Different. I have never encountered the premise of being a compelled food taster before and enjoyed it. The post-rebellion world was also cool to explore. For all the problems with it, and all the reasons to dislike the government, it became apparent that it was a great improvement over before.
- Pacing/Plotting. It was never dull. It felt like as soon as I got a handle on what was going on and started predicting where things would go next, new layers of plot were spread on top.
- Characters. I loved that the characters where all (or nearly all) multi-faceted. The good guys did some questionable things, the bad guys had their reasons. Enemy and Friend where titles that were constantly changing. And yet the characters were consistent within themselves, you just couldn't always see the big picture at first.
- World Building. I mentioned the post-rebellion government, but there was more to the world, including other countries and a magic system. This wasn't a hugely detailed or political book, but there was enough to completely immerse you in otherness.
- The ending. There was a fully satisfying ending that wasn't perfect. Not a stressful cliffhanger. Not a pretty bow. Just goodness.
Cautions: Some sex, fair amount of violence, and mature themes including torture and murder.