Poison Study Trilogy (Chronicles of Ixia #1-3) by Maria V. Snyder (2005 – 2008)
Fiction | Dystopian Fantasy
POISON STUDY (Book One)
Choose: A quick death… or 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 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…
pooled ink Review:
Did you miss my lengthy, meandering reviews? Haha. I’ve been writing One-Line Reviews as a way to keep this blog going despite not being able to commit as much time to it as before, but every once in a while I can’t resist returning to my wildly wordy style. So, here goes!
Okay just to quickly preface this review… The Chronicles of Ixia series is currently comprised of three trilogies: Poison Study trilogy (books 1-3) followed by the Glass trilogy (books 4-6) and Soulfinders trilogy (books 7-9). I’ll also note that the Poison Study trilogy and Soulfinders trilogy follow main character Yelena while the Glass trilogy follows main character Opal. For this review, I’m only discussing the Poison Study trilogy aka Chronicles of Ixia books 1-3. I’ll list the full series with their sub-series below. I just wanted to clarify this for anyone confused because I know I was at first lol.
Now to the books…
I am obsessed. WHY oh why did it take me so long to finally read these books??? The first book spent ages on my TBR list and even once I’d finally selected it as my next read I assumed I’d probably only read the one and not the full trilogy, etc. but now I have read the trilogy and am convinced I’m going to read the entire Chronicles of Ixia including all of the novellas and short stories because, as I said, I am obsessed. I had a few moments of meh, but not enough to keep me from continuing.
The Poison Study trilogy has some Throne of Glass vibes which is only a good thing and by that I mean: fantasy, action, assassins, romance, magic, conspiracy!
Fantastic. When it comes to fantasy there is a struggle to craft something both wholly unique and something understandable and yet while this series’ setting too is not something never before seen it never felt disappointing in the least. Perhaps it is the combination of world, characters, and plot that bring it to life, but even so the world-building deserves its own praise.
A realm of fallen kings, powerful magicians, a new militaristic regime, wild jungles, and a breath held on the cusp of change, the Poison Study trilogy presents a setting that feels as if leaning towards the genre of dystopian fantasy (though more fantasy than dystopia). The reign of the Commander is an intriguing one that is sparse, utilitarian, and unyielding in any regard, yet no one goes hungry or is left with idle hands while the south values their magic, customs, vivacity and free market though such freedoms leave some as beggars on the streets and others corrupted by power.
The magic system presented in the series is intriguing though sometimes it is enchanting (communicating with animals, healing, calming storms) and other times it is horrific (shredding minds, trapping souls, absolutely everything related to blood magic). Magic is not only woven into the souls of magicians but it is woven into the actions and reactions throughout the series. It reveals both its darker side as well as its heroic side, evidence of how magic is magic and it is the magician that bends it for good or evil.
Though Sitia, the South American-esque southern nation, was fascinating to explore, I admit it was the first book and the cold, stone Ixia, the northern country, that captivated my interest and like Yelena I had longings to return though perhaps for us both it was only for the people who lived there. Of course, I’m sure Yelena does not miss checking foods for poisons.
Snyder has crafted characters that are multidimensional, complex, and with its main players proving either lovable or hatable to the nth degree.
Yelena, the main character and protagonist, is the perfect balance of strong female and soft soul. She has a strength in her spirit and heart that is immediately admirable, she’s clever, she’s a survivor, she’s kind, and yet her entire character grows throughout the story adding to her realism as well as forging a bond between reader and character. I was rooting for her from the start and there wasn’t a moment where that changed (Okay not quite. In book three there is definitely a chunk of the book where I grew very annoyed with her. For a moment she seemed to transform into an irritating teen drama character. I don’t know what was up with that but she did eventually snap out of it).
Oh and I also really love Snyder’s idea of crafting a story from this life-altering moment in Yelena’s life when offered the choice between food taster or the noose. She’s given the role of someone dispensable only to prove herself worth so much more. No one ever thinks about the poor food taster and yet Snyder managed to birth an entire series from it!
We meet kitchen staff, servants, students, and soldiers, including Irys the powerful magician from Sitia and Yelena’s “boss” Valek who oversees her new job as food taster, and they create such a wonderful array of personalities that round out the story. With each book we meet new characters such as Yelena’s estranged brother, Moon Man, a wannabe king, street kids with clever minds, and the powers in the south as well as faces we meet only briefly and who play anything from inconsequential to pivotal roles. Instead of just fixating on action or conspiracies, Snyder crafts these varying roles to ground the story with a reminder of simple life, simple desires, simple connections such as friendship, competition, jealousy, support, banter, pride, romance, etc. I will say, this seemed to fade with each book and was strongest in the first and perhaps part of why Poison Study remains my definite favorite.
Speaking of romance though… I really don’t consider this a spoiler because it becomes an obvious potential plot line soon enough in book one and is plainly stated in the second book’s blurb, but there’s a moment in the first book when Valek, assassin and protector of the Commander, stops a couple of brutes chasing after Yelena and I just knew I loved him right then. Was he just doing his duty? Mayyyyybe. But like a true silly fangirl I was ready to ship them and start planning their wedding lol. I also adore Ari and Janco so freaking much! NO ONE HURT THEM. Besides Yelena and Valek, Ari and Janco are absolutely my favorites followed by Irys, Frisk, and Kiki. 😉 But oh Valek… *swoons*
As for the villains…they were truly foul souls. *shudders* I wanted them dead from the moment they were introduced. Even so, Snyder did a great job of keeping their motivations elusive to add an air of mystery and pressure of time to the story. But, is the Commander one of the villains? …I’m not sure actually. The Commander falls somewhere in between perhaps. Oh, I will say there’s a twist to that character revealed in book one that I never would have guessed or suspected. An unusual twist but one that delivered an interesting turn to the story. Then another twist in book two. And another in book three! I really like the Commander actually, he’s intriguing and clever.
The plot of this series has thus far proved thoroughly engaging with perfect pacing. Snyder keeps things in constant motion whether behind the scenes or blunt on the page while also knowing when to pause or slow the momentum down to lend time for a revelation, a reveal, or a development (though once again, with each book the plot seemed to lose its balance a bit more and either felt too slow or rushed). But certainly with the first book/my favorite book, Poison Study, between the high stakes and cast of characters, the plot burned like a slowly building fire with the spark of interest at its beginning and boiling ever so gradually until by its end you’re alight with loyalty unable to sit quietly but instead leaping to your feet in applause. So many books get this balance wrong, either spending too much time on action or too much time on drama, but this series for the most part does a good job of knowing how much of what and when.
I will say, I did struggle a bit in books two and three because Yelena is separated from Valek and all of her Ixia friends both times making me wait ~200 pages both times for them to be reunited and while it was interesting to learn about Sitia, I couldn’t help but struggle to focus, impatient for when Valek, Ari, and Janco would return to the page. The world-building is cool but the characters are the real strength and hook so without my favorites it was a bit of a challenge to remain focused and patient lol. Oh we meet other characters, but ugh they simply are not Ari and Janco and nobody could ever replace Valek. I really love Yelena’s character (except for a chunk of book 3 where she becomes wildly annoying), but there’s just something about Yelena, Valek, Ari, and Janco together as a group that is magic and what I long for in each book. I also much preferred her dealings with the Commander over Roze (First Magician of Sitia).
YA or ADULT FICTION?
Some readers have marked these books as Young Adult and I went into the first book expecting such, but after reading the trilogy for myself I’d have to disagree. I suppose New Adult would perhaps fit best, similar to Sarah J. Maas’ books which ride the divide between YA and Adult fiction. 1) Yelena in book one is 19 while the majority of the cast is in their twenties or older, 2) There are many dark and gruesome themes and scenarios throughout the series that occasionally become mildly graphic which for those scenarios even feels too much, 3) The books also lack the main theme of the main character “coming of age” and discovering their self that is so central to most teen reads.
Yelena grows, as any good character does in a book, but she knows who she is. Oh there are certainly details she discovers or learns about like magic, but that isn’t who she is though I suppose it is a part of who she is. Even so, it fits more with life in one’s twenties that marks the journey between self-discovery and finding one’s place in the world. Though, it does have the quicker pacing and less wordy style of YA that I prefer. So all that being said, if someone marked it as upper YA or Adult I wouldn’t necessarily disagree especially since the label of NA isn’t widely used, but I think due to the horrific scenes included throughout the series I’d put it in Adult and not YA.
The Poison Study trilogy begins strong and though I felt as if it lost some of its composure, consistency, and cleverness as it stretched on becoming a bit fickle and rushed, I’d still recommend fantasy fans give it a read and I will be continuing on with the Chronicles of Ixia. All in all the Poison Study trilogy has laid claim to a place in my mind’s library where it will not be easily forgotten but rather will raise its head from time to time driving me to re-read the series (or at least the first book) once more and stoke the flames of thrill I felt upon my first foray into the tales.
Could I do with less horrible things from the villains? Honestly, yes. They were awful and there were a lot of them. Could I do with way more time with Yelena and her Ixia friends together? Absolutely. But that aside, I am too in love with the cast to not clutch these books to my chest. For me, this is not a series to read once and forget. This is a series to recommend to friends and strangers alike for years to come whenever in search of a good fantasy read.
POISON STUDY (Poison Study #1)
Poison Study is an immediately addicting introduction to a world of fantasy, magicians, assassins, poison, and forbidden love. From the first page you will be consumed and left yearning for more once you’ve read the last.
MAGIC STUDY (Poison Study #2)
Magic Study delivers a surprise of a sequel full of wild jungles, ancient rites, plotting royals, and magic even more powerful and feared than once thought possible. New characters join the cast, new obstacles tangle the plot, but in the end you will be clawing for the final book in the trilogy.
FIRE STUDY (Poison Study #3)
Fire Study concludes the trilogy with a happily ever after that makes all of my grievances almost forgotten. Packed with ever weaving story threads, shifting loyalties and secrets, and characters that never pause in their quests, this book wraps up the horrors yet promises more adventure to come.
Chronicles of Ixia
Poison Study | Glass | Soulfinders
- Poison Study (Chronicles of Ixia #1; Poison Study #1)
- Assassin Study (Chronicles of Ixia #1.5; Poison Study #1.5)
- Magic Study (Chronicles of Ixia #2; Poison Study #2)
- Fire Study (Chronicles of Ixia #3; Poison Study #3)
- Power Study (Chronicles of Ixia #3.5; Poison Study #3.5)
- Storm Glass (Chronicles of Ixia #4; Glass #1)
- Sea Glass (Chronicles of Ixia #5; Glass #2)
- Ice Study (Chronicles of Ixia #5.5; Poison Study #3.6)
- Spy Glass (Chronicles of Ixia #6; Glass #3)
- Shadow Study (Chronicles of Ixia #7; Soulfinders #1)
- Night Study (Chronicles of Ixia #8; Soulfinders #2)
- Shattered Glass (Chronicles of Ixia #8.5; Glass #3.5)
- Dawn Study (Chronicles of Ixia #9; Soulfinders #3)
- Diaper Study (Chronicles of Ixia #9.5; Soulfinders #3.5)
View full series (Chronicles of Ixia) list on Goodreads
View Yelena’s series (Poison Study) list on Amazon
View Yelena’s full series (Poison Study + Soulfinders) list on Amazon & Goodreads
View Opal’s series (Glass) list on Amazon & Goodreads
Meet Maria V. Snyder!
When Maria V. Snyder was younger, she aspired to be a storm chaser in the American Midwest so she attended Pennsylvania State University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology. Much to her chagrin, forecasting the weather wasn’t in her skill set so she spent a number of years as an environmental meteorologist, which is not exciting…at all. Bored at work and needing a creative outlet, she started writing fantasy and science fiction stories. Over twenty novels and numerous short stories later, Maria’s learned a thing or three about writing. She’s been on the New York Times bestseller list, won a dozen awards, and has earned her Masters of Arts degree in Writing from Seton Hill University, where she is now a faculty member. Her favorite color is red. She loves dogs, but is allergic, instead she has a big black tom cat named…Kitty (apparently naming cats isn’t in her skill set either). Maria also has a husband and two children who are an inspiration for her writing when they aren’t being a distraction. Note: She mentions her cat before her family.
When she’s not writing she’s either playing volleyball, traveling, or taking pictures. Being a writer, though is a ton of fun. Where else can you take fencing lessons, learn how to ride a horse, study marital arts, learn how to pick a lock, take glass blowing classes and attend Astronomy Camp and call it research? Maria will be the first one to tell you it’s not working as a meteorologist.
Readers are welcome to check out her website for book excerpts, free short stories, maps, blog, and her schedule at http://www.MariaVSnyder.com.