Poison Study, by Maria V. Snyder
I picked up this book on a whim. A friend added it to her “to read” list. I read the description and thought I’d give it a try. I was a little skeptical as it is published by Harlequin (not my normal cup of tea). But, I was very pleasantly surprised. Yes, there is an element of romance, but it is only a minor component to the story.
One might be tempted to dismiss this book as “just another story of a reluctant heroine in a distopian society.” While they would be technically correct, this is not a completely fair assessment. There is something different about this destopia. You are allowed to see the society it replaced and realize that, while far from perfect, it is in many ways a much better world than the old kingdom. Moreover, this is a first generation distopia. Those in charge really do care for those under their care and have not been corrupted by power. There are are those who would usurp power for personal gain… and this is the source of conflict our heroine must face.
This is a very well told story. While we may feel comfortably at home with the genre, it is not clear until the very end if and how things will resolve. Who is friend and who are foe? What does it mean (and what is the cost) to be 100% adherent to one’s ideals?