This is another of those books that is most commonly shelved as romance, but is actually a fantasy with some elements of romance in the story. I had this wrongly shelved as paranormal romance, which I guess I had picked up from other peoples labels and reviews. But as soon as I read the blurb in the shop, it was clear what it was actually about. which just shows you, don't judge a book by it's cover.
Yelena is a prisoner about to be executed for murder. But the Commander needs a new poison taster, and the law is that the job must be offered to one that is about to be killed. And so Valek, the Commanders adviser and spy-master, offers Yelena the position, and she accepts. Valek begins her training by feeding her the poison 'Butterfly Dust', for which she must then recieve an andidote every morning for the rest of her life. Thus securing her loyalty. Yelena's job puts her right in the middle of all the political intrigue, And if Yelena's job weren't dangerous enough, she begins to discover she may have magic abilities, in a country where magic is outlawed and punishable by death. All the while being haunted by traumatic memories of the past.
I thought the setting was very unusual for a fantasy novel, Ixia is a country that has recently been overtaken by a military regime. Each area of Ixia is ruled by a general, and all citizens wear uniforms and must carry paperwork. It's a tiny bit orwellian, But this is all still in a fantasy setting, which is a strange, but interesting new twist for the genre.
I'm fairly sure the book was supposed to be Young-Adult, but after reading it I'm not actually sure what age range I would recommend it for. Parts of the plot were a little easy reading to me, something that I could happily have read when I was 10-12 and in my 'point fantasy' stage. But then some parts, particularly the flash back scenes, would require much more emotional maturity.
The one mistake that I think the author made, was using certain items from real life in her fantasy setting. It wouldn't really have mattered, except one particular item was pivotal to the plot, and was supposed to be a mystery to the protagonist, but since it was taken directly from real life, and not invented for the fantasy setting.. it was no mystery to me as a reader, which was a bit of a let down.
Despite that one problem, and despite it being a young adult novel (which I don't often read), I think I'm definately going to continue to read the rest of the trilogy. Good thing too, since I already bought all 3 books together.See my other reviews of the Study trilogy:
| #2 Magic Study