by Maria V. Snyder
The book starts with Yelena, a prisoner condemned to execution for murder, being offered the choice of facing the hangman’s noose or becoming the Commander’s next food taster. The story is quickly paced, and a good read. There is character development evident throughout, and unlike some stories where the characters only start developing once they enter the story, there is plenty of development present in the backstory as well.
I read this book over the course of a few hours, and though I had only planned to read a few chapters over dinner I found I wanted to do anything but put the books down. I wish I had read it much earlier, and yet I am thrilled that I waited long enough that the sequel, Magic Study, should be released soon. This is a book that I checked out from the library but is going on my Wish List; a book that I will be re-reading with an eye to improving my own fiction. A mark of how much I enjoyed it: most books that I’ve read since starting to seriously think I could write my own have been punctuated by moments of “I would have done this part differently” or “ah, that’s a neat trick”. This story caught me up so completely that I didn’t stop to think about how I could learn from it, nor how I would have improved it.
I think that I could recommend this book even to my few friends who don’t like magic. There is magic in the world that has been created (as the title of the sequel might suggest) and yet this first book is focused more on politics and intrigue that I think even a dislike of magic wouldn’t hurt someone’s enjoyment of it. I am oh so thankful that this was a book discussion book on Kelley Armstrong’s discussion board, since I don’t think I would have picked it up based on the title alone.