I had to take time to strongly and unreservedly recommend Maria Snyder's POISON STUDY.
Yelena, the heroine, is in prison and scheduled for execution but reprieved to take the job of food taster to the "Commander" who has overthrown the king. She had killed the son of a powerful man, who still wants her dead. Her relationship with Valek, the head of security for the general, is complex and nuanced, and doesn't dumb down some of the very real conflicts that they experience, especially as she begins to develop powers as a sorceress/magician that are completely despised in this culture.
The politics and intrigue within the palace are well drawn and original. Yelena discovers that friends and enemies are not so clear a concept as you might think.
Her role is much more interesting than your standard healer/princess type. Yelena had been educated as part of a cadre of intelligent, specialized orphans by the father of the man she killed. That background also provides some welcome realism to the types of skills that heroines seem mysteriously to come by in a lot of fantasy novels.
I particularly liked the comparative lack of glamorization of the overthrown king and the comparatively positive view of the general who is ruling. I get really tired of the "inate nobility of the nobles" type of book.
I am really surprised to see this kind of power and expertise in a first novel. Her website shows a lot of other writing chops so that may be it.
Luna obviously thinks well of the author, since this book is a hardcover. It's worth every penny, folks.--Lynn (7 Nov 05)