Poison Study by Maria V Snyder tells the story of Yelena Zaltana, who begins the tale awaiting execution for a murder that she did commit. The society in which she lives is one in which murder is murder and there is no leniency regardless of what her motivations might have been and so she refuses to explain herself or offer excuses. She is granted a last minute reprieve if she agrees to serve as the Commander’s poison taster. It is a position that is considered to be a death sentence but given the choice of certain death and a chance to live she takes the latter. Yelena’s story is interesting on many accounts, not least because she is a woman of colour in a land of fair-skinned northerners, but I am not going to discuss her here.
Instead I’d like to discuss one of the secondary characters, Commander Ambrose, who is the ruler of Ixia, the country in which the story takes place.