Magic Study by Maria V Snyder
or: … what the heck-? Yelena!!!
Synopsis: YOU KNOW YOUR LIFE IS BAD WHEN YOU MISS YOUR DAYS AS A POISON TASTER…With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can’t help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways—and her newfound friends and relatives don’t think it’s for the better….Despite the turmoil, she’s eager to start her magic training—especially as she’s been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia’s throne for a lost prince—and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians. If that wasn’t bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with all her new enemies….
A couple of book reviews ago, I reviewed the delightful Poison Study by Maria V Snyder and raved about the book. Well I quickly got my hands on the sequel and third book in the series intending on whizzing through the series. While real life may have held back the whizzing part, I did eventually get around to reading the sequel to this book.
I’ve really struggled to write this review, partially because I’m not sure how to articulate how I feel about this book, and partly because I never know how to write reviews about sequels in book series. Like how much do you reveal without giving away the first book?
Now that I’ve finished the third book in the series and have clear thoughts on what to write for it, I’ve been able to put together a simple review for this one.
As sequels in series go, this one was reasonable. It was a bit drier, and not as much happened yes, but most sequels in the fantasy genre tend to focus more on world building and developing the strength of the main characters. This book did this as promised. Sure the action in the book sort of rolled along too slow, but I appreciated it. If Snyder had rushed explaining Sitia or fleshing out what magic means in Sitia then I would have been really disappointed. A lot of people called this book dull for this reason, but I don’t think it’s dull, it’s just Snyder being a good author and explaining some stuff. For a lot of people its tedious, for me its a necessary and desired part of any series. I want to immerse myself in these fantastic worlds the author has created, but I cant do so unless I have all the information possible.
So on behalf of the readers, thank you Ms Snyder for giving us what we need. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to need that information for the intensity of the next book.
With the benefit of hindsight, its clearly obvious why Snyder provided us with so much information in this book- she didn’t intend on providing it in book 3 and wanted to get it out of the way. It would be easy for many readers to skim this part of the book but I bet they got a mighty surprise and wish they hadn’t when they reached Fire Study. It pays to pay attention in this book, not only does it help with the rest of the books, but it also helps the reader solve the mystery of the book along with Yelena. Snyder positions us next to Yelena so we learn about Sitia and magic as she does, effectively creating a nice empathetic energy between her main characters and us as readers.
This brings me to Snyders characters in this book. This book introduces us to a swath of new characters and develops and strengthens the characters of old. Yelena becomes even more 3D and we begin to understand why she does the things she does. Meeting the Zaltana clan is amazing and I loved everything about their development and features. A clan based of amazonian tribes? Hell yes! Give me all the metaphors!! We also meet in this book several key players for the next book- Irys is explained in more detail and we meet the other 3 master magicians Bain Bloodgood, and Roze being two notable additions (Bain is like a medieval Dumbledore minus the scheming and Roze is something akin to a voodoo priestess with a bad attitude).
Yelena’s connection with Kiki the horse is also a beautiful moment in the book. It was fascinating to see the bond form and was even nicer to see how the relationship progressed. Snyder has a strong knowledge of horses and it shows.
Also worth mentioning is the Sanseed clan, in particular Moon Man. While not exceptionally clear in this book, Moon Man acts as the physical embodiment of Yelena’s inner voice and his vague, poetic lines are expertly crafted. He’s a fascinating character but doesn’t reach his peak until book 3 leaving him rather under utilised in this book. He could have played a bigger role here, but I understand Snyder’s reasons for not doing so.
The mystery of this book is tantalising but not overdone. Snyder could have beat this to death but didn’t, leaving the mystery out of reach in the most skillful way. I didn’t see it coming, and I’m sure neither did others. The mystery appropriately acts as the catalyst for the beginning of Yelena’s realisations about herself and the mystery doesn’t stop at the end of this book. Snyder sets up an appropriate villain to usher in the events of her next book and effectively distracts the audience from the real problems at hand.
And man, was it good to see Valek again. Oh how I had missed him. Like fine wine, Valek’s character brings new elements to the table each time he slithers from the shadows and its impossible not to fall more and more in love with him. This book definitely confirms Valek’s place on my fictional boyfriend list… yes I have a list… yes, I know i’m sad.
I’ve hinted a lot a book 3 in this review, but there’s a reason why, and you will probably work it out when I post the review for that book. It’s coming soon. For the moment, just enjoy Magic study, love.