Review: Magic Study – Maria V Snyder

  • Title: Magic Study
  • Author: Maria V Snyder
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Why: I liked Poison Study enough to want to continue the series.
  • Rating: 4 Stars

Description: You know your life is bad when you miss your days as a poison taster…

With an execution order on her head, Yelena has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of her birth. With only a year to master her magic – or face death – Yelena must begin her apprenticeship and travels to the Four Towers of the Magician’s Keep.

But nothing in Sitia is familiar. Not the family to whom she is a stranger. Not the unsettling new facets of her magic. Nor the brother who resents her return. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her rare powers, a rogue magician emerges – and Yelena catches his eye.

Suddenly she is embroiled in battle of good against evil. And once again it will be her magical abilities that will either save her life…or be her downfall.

Review: Definitely a better effort than the first part of this series, though it was too messy to give it the full five stars.

After being forced to leave Ixia (it’s that or be executed for being a magic-user), Yelena goes back to Sitia to be reunited with her family, from which she was kidnapped so long ago. Not that she’s particularly keen to see them, since she doesn’t remember them, and she’s being forced to leave her lover Valek. This is further complicated by the fact that her brother Leif seems to hate her on sight, despite the loving welcome by their parents, and the fact that Yelena has real difficulty adapting to Sitian society.

Yelena soon moves to the Citadel to start learning to use her magic, and that’s when things start to get a bit messy. She is too strong – and intuitive? – a magic-user to start at the bottom, so gets put among the apprentices as a personal student of Irys, one of the four master magicians, which makes her an instant hate-target for the rest of the faculty. Then she gets involved in trying to stop a rogue magician who captures young girls, then rapes and tortures them for several days before killing them to increase his power. This is soul-magic, and since Yelena appears to be the first soul-finder magician in several hundred years she is unavoidably drafted in to help.

On the whole I rather like Yelena. Her stubborn, if-you-want-something-done-do-it-yourself personality appeals to me, and I can understand her exasperation at people debating something for days on end before finally doing something. However, time and again she subsequently fucks something up, so after a few times you’d think she’d become a little more cautious, not still keep rushing in to fix things.

As far as the writing goes, I found it a lot less bland than Poison Study, which is where a good part of the extra star comes from. I felt more invested in Yelena, which definitely helps. However, some of the characters in the book fell a little flat, and Cahill especially went from enemy to friend and back to enemy a little too artificially. An entertaining read, but to me it didn’t fully lift itself out of the ‘first-novel-syndrome’ type of writing.

(I do have to add that I laughed quite a lot when I saw that this is #2 on the Goodreads list of ‘Books that sound so much more interesting if one removes the last letter of the title’. Genius category.)



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