Convicted of murder, Yelena believes that she's headed to the hangman's noose, but she's offered a chance for a new life. She will live in the palace and have her every need provided for, at the cost of becoming the Commander of Ixia's new food taster. Given the alternative, Yelena agrees to risk death with every bite, and Valek, the Chief of Security, ensures her cooperation by feeding her a poison for which only he knows the antidote.

As she tries to find a way out of this new dilemma, Yelena inadvertently becomes involved in palace intrigue, as rebels and spies plot to take over Ixia's military govern-ment. Yelena and Valek grow closer as danger mounts and are thrown together in unexpected ways.

Snyder provides an intriguing look at life behind the scenes of a military coup. World-building is strong, with realistic details that provide more than a generic pseudo-medieval fantasy setting. Supporting characters Valek and the Commander are fascinating studies in power, control and hidden motives, while Yelena, in contrast, is unable to hide her growing affection for those who were once her captors. While the plotting is at times transparent, colorful details and unique characters should keep readers turning the pages. (Oct., 350 pp., $13.99)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum