Oh I loved this book. It is already on my keeper shelf. Why did I not read this one before, and why did I not buy the rest at once when I started reading this one. As it is now, 2 weeks for more. How will I make it? First up, it's YA, well I have read adult fantasy with less violence, and with a younger hero/heroine. So in the end, sure ok YA, but this one can be read by all. Especially when considering her torture flashbacks, and the rape.Yelena has been in a filthy dungeon for a year, then she is brought up for her execution. As a murdered she is given a chance. Death or become the Commanders food-taster. With a slime chance of survival she chooses the latter, and the Commanders right hand man Valek introduces her to the world of poison. But first he poisons her so she has to stay at the castle. That chance for escape is fading away, and the family of the man she liked wants revenge.I really liked Yelena, she had a strength that even years of torture and darkness in a prison cell could not take away from her. She had doubts, and was human. She also discovers a secret about herself, magic, and that is outlawed and will get her killed for sure. Then there is the other person in this book, Valek, mysterious, dark and he had me at once. Even when he poisoned her. Because he sees through her, even when everyone else calls her murderer and would rather spit at her.This is true fantasy with intrigues and magic. There is a hint of romance, and I do prefer the real fantasy so that works fine with me. I can live on that little hope of love and feel for them, because I love to read about magic, war and political intrigues, that is what fantasy is all about. And of course I wonder if we will be given a HEA in the third book. I sure hope so, after the dust has settled, she has found her power, and life, then I do want her to have love too.Snyder has created an interesting world, I always like a world I would want to live in or not. as it is now, I would not like Ixia. It's so strict, everyone wears the color of the profession they have and it's hard to travel between cities. Everyone has to be accounted for and no one can just take off. In the south there is Sithia, where magic flows, and they seem exotic, but would I want to live there, I don't know yet. But I appreciate her work and the political system she has built. There is also darkness, the glimpses of the horrible things she has suffered through and the doubts she has and ghosts she has from her past. There is also the uncertainty of her future, but she is strong and determined to built a future for herself.A lovely world, intrigues, magic, power and some great characters makes this book a keeper for me. The style is easy and flows. I kept turning the page to see what happens next, and it's a sure recommendation for fantasy fans. But if you do want that romance, well perhaps in later books. If you want pure fantasy this is the book for you, and I did find myself enthralled by her storytelling. So now I am waiting to get my hands on book 2 to find out more about Yelena, and Valek of course.