Yelena, convicted of murdering the son of a powerful general, awaits execution. But with only a few hours left, she is offered an incredible reprieve -- and agrees to become the new food taster for Commander Ambrose, the military leader of Ixia. Living in a palace and eating only the best meals is a dramatic change for Yelena, who spent the last year locked up in a rat-infested dungeon, eating gruel. But she soon realizes that she has more to worry about than ingesting potentially lethal poisons in the commander's meals. The general whose son she murdered has vowed bloody vengeance, and everyone in the Commander's retinue look at Yelena as an untrustworthy criminal. The longer she stays alive, however, the more she begins to understand her own perplexing abilities -- all of which will be put to the test when cunning rebels plot to take control of Ixia.
It is not very often that I delve into the fantasy genre, I find that I can only read so many pages of world building as it tends to go on and on. But that is not the case with this book by Maria V. Snyder. Her incredible writing pulled me in from the first page, and I was completely immersed in Yelena's world. I finished practically half of the book in one sitting and quite simply couldn't stop turning pages. Filled with complex characters, magic and danger this book takes you on an adventure you won't soon forget. The book flowed flawlessly and the pace keep the story moving quickly. Maria's incredible storytelling through Yelena's voice makes envisioning her world simple yet detailed. The dynamic relationship between Yelena and Valek was emotionally encompassing. In the beginning he takes the role of her instructor, teaching her the signs of poison detection. His protective attitude toward her becomes apparent after she is accosted by a guard within the halls of the castle. They are the perfect match for each other, but due to the circumstances of Yelena's imprisonment and subsequent release, they must build trust between them before their true feelings are made apparent. Danger surrounds Yelena as a powerful magician is out to kill the Commander and another is trying to kill Yelena. Yelena, Valek and tow of the guards that have befriended her are the only ones who can stop the traitorous acts against the Commander. Trusting Valek will keep Yelena alive, but when she tells him the truth of who she really is, she fears he may turn her away forever.