Before her execution, Yelena is offered a choice: hang for her crime, the murder of Reyad; or, become the ruler’s food taster. Naturally, she chooses the option offering even a limited chance for survival. Under the guidance of Valek, the chief spy-assassin of the realm, she learns to distinguish poisons by scent, texture and taste, and then is responsible for ensuring the Commander’s survival. The cost of failure, of course, is death.
Under Valek’s guidance, Yelena blooms again next to Ixia’s most powerful man. If she can detect and survive poisons, she can live a happy and prosperous life beside the Commander... and beside Valek. But Yelena has more on her mind than poisons. There is the ghost of Reyad, who haunts her. There is Reyad’s father, General Brazell, one of the most powerful men in Ixia, who wants nothing more than to see Yelena die in agony. There is her growing but deadly attraction to Valek. There is her own dark past. And on top of all that, there is a subtle but fatal plot spreading like a disease over Ixia…
And oh, yeah, Yelena might be a magician, which in Ixia carries an immutable sentence of death.
I liked the characters, I liked the plot, I didn’t see all of the plot twists coming, and overall I enjoyed reading this.
And I have to note, this cover is basically amazing. Especially how her eyes match the green of the plants perfectly...
First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about a food taster before; I loved that unique angle. The storyline was interesting, if occasionally predictable, and the romance fairly well-written. There were a couple of twists, some of which were expected but some of which came as a complete surprise and kept the story interesting.
I loved Yelena. She was interesting, and she had a dark past but wasn’t whining about it every other page. She was also practical, and didn’t let her faith in humanity and nice things like that get in the way of basic survival. I like heroines who aren’t afraid to stand up for themselves instead of their ideals (yes, people, there's a difference.) Unfortunately, she couldn’t quite make up for the other characters, who all felt a little fake and flat.
Snyder is a very good writer, who keeps the story moving at a good pace but still provides enough description to draw the reader into the story and really make them cheer for Yelena.
End Result: four stars. A good book, definitely worth your time.