Title: Magic Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Published: December 2008
So far, I’ve managed to survive. You would think after being kidnapped as a child, imprisoned in my teens and released to become a poison taster, I would have endured enough. But no. The discovery of my magical abilities—powers forbidden in Ixia—has resulted in an execution order. My only chance is to flee to Sitia, my long-lost birthplace.
But Sitia is unfamiliar. I’m treated like an enemy—even by my own brother. Plus I can’t control my powers. I want to learn about my magic, but there isn’t time. A rogue magician has emerged and I’m targeted as his next victim.
Will my magical abilities save me…or be my downfall?
Characterization and badassery
I have some mixed feelings about this sequel to Poison Study. No, the concept is not as unique, because it’s a continuation of the story. I’m okay with that. Yes, Yelena has grown into some groovy powers, and she’s worked hard to develop physical fighting skills, too. That’s good. But the character relationships are a bit topical. People tend to either like or hate her on sight, and pretty much never change their initial opinion.
I do like that Yelena doesn’t care if she fits in with the other students at the Citadel. Being your own person in the face of rumor and bullying is arguably as tough as being a magical phenom.
On the other hand, Yelena’s awfully impulsive and always thinks she has the only solution to any problem. This gives her a habit of running off and getting conked on the head. Shenanigans ensue. Repeatedly.
So yes. Mixed feelings. But in spite of the wonky bits, I still like it. This book builds on the concepts created in the first book without repeating it for all the people who, for some reason, decided to start with the second book. That means there’s a gradual world building that doesn’t feel like info dump or a hard work to come to terms with. In fact, I’d say it’s the gentle world build and the sense of being submerged in the book’s culture that keeps me digging this series.
Plot and pacing
I didn’t really buy the early bit of the book. It felt creaky and out of sorts. I wasn’t sure I’d stick with it. But it did smooth out and the plot picked up. The overall plot is more simplistic than the first book, but the pace was good overall.
Prose and editing
I noticed some writing style choices that seemed a little raw in the first book, but this one needed another go with the editor. There were some strange, clunky sentence structures and misuses of words. Maybe there was a big overhaul of the book late in the process—that can cause this sort of thing. But it came out a little rough. Still, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book.
There were some good opportunities for humor, but they really weren’t capitalized on. Kiki’s contributions were the best. I would have liked a bit more humor.
I didn’t think I liked where the book was going at first, but in the end I was satisfied with Yelena’s family reunion and the overall story arc of the series. Yes, second books are hard. They have a job to do. They need to get us from book one to book three, impart vital information, and also tell a story. That’s really hard to get perfect. So I’m not mad that there were a couple low points. I enjoyed this book and will be moving on to book three in the hopefully near future.