I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder
Also by this author: Inside Out, Outside In, Fire Study
Series: Soulfinders #1
Published by MIRA on February 24th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Fiction, Literary, Romance
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New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she's back with a new tale of intrigue. Once, only her own life hung in the balance… Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she'd 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, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek's job and his life are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret—or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is—while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers. Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous… "Doing full justice to the plot of this original and entertaining epic fantasy is impossible. Suffice it to say that the action is nonstop. The many characters leap to life, particularly Yelena, whose first-person narrative is riveting." —RT Book Reviews on Fire Study Now available as ebooks!
After finishing Fire Study, the third in Maria V. Snyder’s Study series, I was really nervous about beginning Shadow Study. Unfortunately I felt that Fire Study was not quite on the level of the previous two books in the series. Thankfully my fears turned out to be unfounded. Snyder returns to the intrigues of militaristic Ixia and magical Sitia with Shadow Study. We are reunited with Yelena, Valek, Ari, Janco, Leif, the Commander, Kiki as well as some previous villains. If you’ve been curious about what happens next, look no further. Snyder totally delivers with Shadow Study and in fact ends the book on a note that had me wanting even more Yelena and Valek and the whole gang.
Shadow Study opens up eight years after the timeline of Poison Study. Yelena is still the Soulfinder. She travels back and forth between Sitia and Ixia as the liason. Meanwhile, Valek is still the Commander’s right hand man and spends most of his time in Ixia. This book has consistant cameos from Opal from the Glass series as well as constant references to characters from that series and what happens. Frankly, this made me want to pick up the Glass books right this instant. I think that reading the Glass books will greatly enhance your enjoyment. Anyways, Yelena and Valek are enjoying each other’s company in a secluded cabin on a mini vacation when they are ambushed and Yelena is attacked. While Yelena’s magic is typically enough to protect her and keep her in good health, she ends up losing her magic. That’s right! She cannot access her Soulfinder powers. She can’t communicate with Kiki telepathically anymore. So Shadow Study pivots around Yelena’s vulnerability and how she struggles without her magic. In addition to Yelena’s viewpoint, we get to see what’s going on with Valek and Janco.
I found Yelena to be much more tolerable in Shadow Study than she was in Fire Study. First off, she’s not mean to Moon Man, seeing as how he is not around which is something that actually really bothered me about Fire Study. Second, Yelena is a lot less stubborn in this book. I did not find her unwillingness to listen to others to be a sign of strength, but rather to be annoying. I liked that in this book she actually considers what other people have to say and acknowledges that other people may have wisdom. In Shadow Study, Yelena has definitely matured. Overall, as a character who is vulnerable, I liked Yelena so much more in this book. I liked that she has this conflict of what to do and how to proceed now that she’s not all powerful and does not seem to be able to access her magic. Her struggles are actually interesting in this book.
As for Valek, he’s very focused on finding the gaps in the Commander’s security in Ixia. In fact, what drives his chapters is the fact that someone has gotten through security to the point of holding a knife to the Commander’s throat. A youngster named Onora, who has also trained under Hedda. This spurs Valek to have ongoing flashbacks about training as an assassin and then becoming the King Killer and murdering the entire royal family. What’s interesting to me is that in these chapters Valek considers retiring from being the Commander’s right hand man and finding a replacement — potentially Onora. In all, Valek’s chapters are action packed and just add to his mythos in a fascinating way.
Janco, of course, provides some comic relief to what could be quite the heavy book. His chapters are very short. They tend to include Ari and are a throwback to why I loved Poison Study so much. I feel like Janco and Ari are underrated characters in this series, so it’s nice to see at least one of them take center stage. ALSO! There’s a potential romance in the air for Janco and I cannot wait to see the direction it goes in.
At this point, we are all pretty familiar with the world Maria V. Snyder builds in her Study series. We are used to the contrast between militaristic Ixia and magical Sitia. We are used to the tension between the two nations. This book ratchets that tension up, despite the uneasy truce. I loved that there was even more to uncover in regards to Yelena’s powers. I loved that we got to reunite with almost every character from this series and also from the Glass series. It’s kind of a where are they now sort of story. Furthermore, the ending is this huge reveal that has me completely ready to pre-order and read the next book. Thankfully Shadow Study has redeemed the series for me.