REVIEW: Magic Study by Maria Snyder
Dear Ms. Snyder:
I think your cover depicts the exact problems I had with this book: It looks like a modern girl dressed up in a costume and plunked down in a fantasy setting. Also, while this cover is beautiful, it is not the same woman that was featured on the cover of Poison Study. This wouldn’t bother me if the narrator had changed, but this is still all about Yelena. Please talk to your art department.
Magic Study is the second book in a trilogy featuring Yelena, a magic worker from the south (Sitia) who was kidnapped at the age of 6 and taken north to Ixia. Ixia is governed by a mysterious Commander who overthrew the monarchy that once ruled both the South and the North. Some of this information I know because I read Poison Study. I sensed early on that despite your promise in the coverleaf that this was a stand alone, readers would struggle with your world building.
Yelena was found in the north by Irys, Fourth Magician of Sitia. Irys takes Yelena south to meet her family and then onto the Citadel where Yelena is to be Irys’ student, to learn to harness and control her magic. Without this knowledge, Yelena could flame out and lose all of her magic. The reunion with Yelena’s family is a bit flat in that the parents are both alive but their feelings do not resonate. The feelings of Yelena’s brother, however, are strong and carry an important plot point throughout the story.
Another secondary character is Cahill who believes and asserts that he is the rightful heir to the throne of Ixia and along with his military advisors is attempting to gain support to overthrow the Commander. Cahill appears to be a rube who is at the mercy of his military advisors. Yelena’s time in the North hasn’t been all bad and coupled with her love for Valek, the Northern assassin, her loyalties are torn. The themes of betrayal and forgiveness are strong throughout this book and repeat themselves within Yelena’s life, but they are overshadowed by vagueness in the world building and the inconsistencies in storytelling.
Yelena, upon meeting her mother and father, immediately refer to them mentally as “my mother” and “my father” but then about 10 pages later, you have Yelena struggling with saying “my mother” outloud. I didn’t recall in the previous book having problems with the language used by the characters but in this book the anachronistic language was jarring. Everytime someone spoke, I felt I was reading an urban fantasy rather than one set in previous age.
Of course, you are wondering whether I liked the story at all. I did. You do a great job of putting Yelena in jeopardy (even though she is responsible for putting herself there many a time) and making the book suspenseful. In the end, though, too many questions about Yelena’s magic and the course of the story were left unanswered for me to feel satisfied. Valek and Yelena’s much anticipated reunion even felt a bit flat for me. I couldn’t remember why I thought Valek was so interesting in the first book as he appeared to be quite a bore in this one. He kept calling Yelena love and made a major and not very characteristic mistake later in the book. I will definitely buy the third book in the series but if it doesn’t deliver for me, I will be a paperback buyer of your future books. C for Magic Study.