Last week, after reading my way through a fantasy trilogy which had absolutely no magic in it, I decided to return to a world with magic which I had really enjoyed – the world of Ixia and Sitia. I’ve read all six of the forerunning Ixia books, although I’ve only reviewed two – Poison Study and Magic Study (in the same post). So I was looking forward to a return to catch up with Yelena the former poison taster to see what wonderful things she was up to now, being a magician and international liaison as she was.
Once, only her own life hung in the balance…
When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia.
Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek.
Suddenly, though, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job—and his life—are in danger.
As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive.
So after reading the first three Yelena books early in 2015 (#32, 34 and 38), it was a few months later that I went back and read the followup trilogy, which focuses on another main character, Opal Cowan (although all the main characters from the first trilogy made appearances). Soulfinders, the third trilogy, returns to Yelena as the main character, and the new challenges she faces as a liaison between the two countries of Ixia and Sitia. You would think that I couldn’t possibly forget all the details of what happened in the first six books over the course of less than a year, but you would be totally wrong. I definitely can forget very many things in that time! In any case, it came back to me as I read, mostly.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book – I love the system of magic, the different skills the characters have, and the people we’ve grown to know and love over the course of the six forerunning books. I had a few complaints about this book, though, and they were things which really irked me.
The book was told from multiple perspectives, which is the first time this has happened in the series (I’m pretty sure.) I was fine with that – it’s nice to get into the heads of other characters sometimes, although if it happens mid-series, it often means someone’s going to die (**spoilers**coughcough**Allegiant**). I’m keeping my eyes open about what’s going on here.
In any case, my problem with the multiple perspectives in this book was that one was told in first person, and two were in third person. I don’t know what the reason for that choice was, but it was extremely annoying, and it irritated me every time I changed to or from a Yelena chapter.
My second problem with this book was (and admittedly this might be my fault for forgetting what happened in the previous books) that I found it very hard to read without having read Ice Study, a short prequel story which is available on the author’s website.
I was about a quarter into the book and the characters were talking about Ben Moon escaping from prison. Wait a minute, thought I. Who’s Ben Moon? The way he’s presented feels like I should know who he is, but I don’t recall ever hearing about him. It sounds like there’s more to this story. Was it mentioned in Spy Glass? Have I forgotten about it?
It got so irritating that I put the book down, googled him, and realised that he was introduced in a prequel story which I had not yet read. But he was presented in such a way that, not having read Ice Study yet, I was totally confused. I’m not saying that short stories shouldn’t add extra detail to the books. But I am saying that I disagree with short stories containing major plot points which are crucial to understanding the book and the characters in it. It got even more important towards the end of the book, for reasons which are too spoilery to say.
My third problem with the book is entirely my own fault – I started reading it knowing that the third book in the trilogy hasn’t been published yet, and won’t be until next year. So I’m now debating whether I should hold off on reading Night Study so I can reduce the amount of time I need to wait before Dawn Study, or whether I should read it immediately, because I want more time in Ixia.
As for the final-line reveal of the book? Saw it coming a mile away.
Even still, I really enjoyed this book. Once I had read Ice Study, I was swept away by the intrigue and plotting of Ben Moon as he manipulated Valek, Leif, Yelena, and everyone else he came into contact with. I loved Yelena’s relationship with her brother, her in-laws, her heart-mate Valek, and the other magicians in the keep, as well as her struggle with her new-found status after the events of the beginning of the book. I loved Valek’s plotting and the insight into his childhood as he became the deadly assassin we know and love from the first three Study books. I also enjoyed the new characters – the mysterious Onora especially. This book left loads of loose ends to be tied up – nothing whatsoever is resolved by the end of it, which I find quite frustrating a lot of the time. There was no real defeat of a small bad on the way to get the Big Bad this time. I felt like it finished with no resolution, and is just a stopping point on the way to the rest of the trilogy. It felt a lot more like a second book than a first book (by the end), which is why I’m extra annoyed that Dawn Study isn’t out yet. I don’t do waiting well, and I’m going to have to wait a while to finish this trilogy out.
Still though, Shadow Study was very enjoyable, and I liked getting reacquainted with the world of Ixia. I suspect that the second book will end on similarly hanging scenes, but hopefully by the time the third rolls around, I’ll get a proper sense of conclusion!