by Joely Skye, fantasy (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-531-4
Joely Skye's Poison is a gay romance that is set in a place called Riminia which is in a different world altogether. Riminia is currently experiencing a political upheaval of sorts due to attempts by a bunch of people to overthrow the government which may or may not be related to the recent deaths of various members of the more politically affluent families.
Our hero, Arel, is an agent for the Alliance who is on his first ever assignment - to infiltrate the high society of Riminia and report back to his superiors about the political situation of that place. At the other end of the playing field, we have Tobias Smator, a whiny young man whose mother is always pushing him to be more ambitious when he'd rather figure out who killed his politically powerful uncle. Arel meets Tobias when, as "Geln Marac", he decides to become close friends with Tobias' ambitious mother. All that deception goes out the window when Tobias becomes the latest target of whoever it is that is killing off these folks.
Actually, if you ask me, the deception goes out the window because Arel is a wretched spy. How on earth did this fellow graduate from whatever academy that trained him again? He is horribly emotional, prone to dramatic outbursts of panic at the first sign of trouble, and oh yes, he likes to cry and feel lots of remorse too. He and Tobias are very much alike in that they come off like very young kids who are pretending to be grown-ups. They are really whiny and prone to emotional histrionics. In Tobias' case, it's not so bad since he's just some silly brat who thinks that his life is one endless Livejournal entry, but I don't know how to explain Arel. I can only imagine that he's actually sent to die by his superiors who view him as an embarrassment to spies everywhere.
Poison could have been an average tale of two melodramatically whiny pansies running wild, but unfortunately, it's hard to overlook Arel's incompetence in this case. It's just like reading a story where the hero is supposed to be a brain surgeon only to faint at the first sight of blood. I can't help thinking of Poison as a mountain of miscalculations which started when Ms Skye decided that Arel will be a spy and just kept growing from that point onwards.
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