Books #32 and 34 – Poison Study/Magic Study

Originally I wasn’t going to post about these books until I had read all three, but I’ve accidentally gotten myself into the middle of three different fantasy series (Valisar, Study, and The Goddess Test), and I felt the need to write a blog post today, so here’s what I’m going to write about – Yelena Zaltana, and her first two adventures.

First, before anything else, let’s just talk about that cover art – I first became aware of Maria V. Snyder’s Study/Soulfinders/Chronicles of Ixia novels on Tumblr, and when there are gifsets and image posts running around, you can’t help but notice how beautiful the cover art for poison study is – there are four different editions, that I’ve seen, and they’re all gorgeous, but I particularly enjoy the one which looks like coloured smoke. This is one of those times when having a Kindle edition of the book really upsets me, because if I had a paperback edition of Poison Study on my shelf, it would make me very happy.

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In any case, beyond the gorgeous cover art, let’s get down to the books themselves.
Poison Study
Magic Study – Both by Maria V. Snyder

{this is the blurb for Poison Study, obviously, as that’s the first one}

Choose: A quick death… Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

I really, really, really enjoyed Poison Study. I thought the worldbuilding was excellent, giving us the military-esque Ixia, controlled by the Commander, fifteen years after a revolution in which Valek, chief of security and assassin, played a major role. Yelena was a character who’s been through a ridiculous amount of stuff but still managed not to be a total Mary-Sue (although she walks a fine line). The plot was interesting, with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing throughout the book, from potential love interests to political intrigues, and a mysterious substance which sounded a lot (a whole lot) like chocolate. Mmmm, chocolate.
The plot, the character development and the description of magic in Poison Study were enough to keep me entirely hooked throughout – I read it in about a day and a half, and was left thoroughly satisfied after – although there were clearly threads for many more books (and I was aware that there are, indeed, five more books about Yelena), I didn’t feel like I had been cut off in the middle of a story, as is often the case in many fantasy trilogies.

There were a few things in Poison Study which kept me from bumping it up to a full five stars, but they were only small – I felt like Poison Study was straddling the line between YA fantasy and Adult fantasy, and as a result didn’t really fall firmly into either category. Personally, while I still liked it, I think that, given the strong subject matter at times, and the developing love interest, it would’ve worked better as an Adult fantasy than YA, simply because of the freedom which it would’ve granted the author. But nonetheless, it’s a minor quibble, as it does work well as a YA fantasy. The other thing which got to me, and this was mostly from a GoodReads review that I couldn’t get out of my head, was that at one point there’s a trampoline in the book. The rest of the book is straight-up medieval-style fantasy, with swords and knives, and poison, no mention of electricity or guns or other sorts of technological progress. Yet, of all the things… a trampoline. Steel-tension springs, really?
Oh, and chocolate as an evil plot device – why would anyone do that to my beloved chocolate?? =(

Still though, all tiny niggles, and Poison Study remains a solid four/four and a half stars.

Magic Study, then, moves from Ixia in the North of our territory, to Sitia, where Yelena meets her family, and starts to develop her magical abilities (you know… studying magic. See where the book title comes in? Clever.)

You know your life is complicated when you miss your days as a poison taster…

With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be united with the family she’d been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But although she has gained her freedom, she once again finds herself alone – separated from her lover Valek and suspected as a spy for her reluctance to conform to Sitian ways.

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 embroiled in 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 her new enemies.

In Magic Study, however, the quality dropped a little. Yelena seemed to become that little bit more perfect, and yet at the same time even more ridiculous, while Valek moved from being a smart, lethal, assassin to being some kind of damsel in distress who needed saving from dire circumstances oh, a half-dozen times?
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy Magic Study either – I really did. Once again, the world-building was good, and there were certain twists in plot that I never saw coming, and was really satisfied by. Other things were a little obvious though, and at times it felt a lot like ‘of COURSE that’s Yelena’s skill, because hey, she’s the main character!’
I appreciated the return of Ari and Janco, who were some of my favourite characters in Poison Study, and also quite enjoyed the horses, whom Yelena has developed an ability to communicate with, which is partially funny and partially a source of great eye-rolling. I tend to come down on the side of enjoying it, though.
Three Stars

Although Magic Study wasn’t as strong as Poison Study, it wasn’t enough of a drop to deter me from reading on, and Fire Study is next on my to-read list. There are also three more books to come, of which the first was published last month, and set six years after Fire Study. They’ll make it onto my list eventually, too.


Filed under Books

2 responses to “Books #32 and 34 – Poison Study/Magic Study

  1. Pingback: Shadow Study – Maria V Snyder | Much Ado About Books

  2. Pingback: Fireblood – Elly Taylor | Much Ado About Books

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