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…
This book left me with a lot of feels, and I think I am still working them out. But ultimately, I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to continue the series (though there are a lot of mixed reviews about the other two books that have me kind of worried).
The whole premise of this book is so interesting. Especially given the fact that the main bad guy isn’t the ruler of the country. He did take over by force, and killed a lot of people on the way, but we see so many examples of progressive thought, empathy, encouragement, and general intelligence from the Commander that it’s hard not to like him, which is how Yelena feels.
Yelena is a really interesting character too. She’s been through so much, and most people would break under the treatment she’s been through but she has a will to live and an intelligence to match it. She’s smart, though not all knowing; and actively works to improve herself in learning, relationships, and physical prowess. She seems like any other woman trying to make her way in the world, though under extreme circumstances.
Valek, her tutor and keeper, is equally interesting. His devotion to the Commander first presents him as a ruthless assassin with little care for others lives. But as we get to know him we see other sides: an artist, and intellectual, a friend. It was so fun to watch he and Yelena grow together as a team and watch them work through problems and lean on each other. Neither of them have ever had a partner like that before and it was so cute to watch them learn how to create a relationship like that.
Ari and Janco – the power twins – are some of my favorite secondary characters ever. They are the levity to the story, yet also the heart of it. They are so openly caring and protective and loyal that it brings to light a side of Yelena and Valek that is sometimes hard to see.
I loved the world Snyder built, the detail she wove into the storie and the environment. Though I do have to mention that it drove me crazy that she doesn’t use Oxford commas, I hope she gets with the program with her later books.