Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

WARNING: Contains minor spoilers for Poison Study, book 1 of the Yelena Zaltana novels by Maria V. Snyder.

Confronting the past - controlling the future

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. Not 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 against good and evil. And once again it will be her magicial abilities that will either save her life... or be her downfall.

I was absolutely thrilled when I got my hands on the second book of the Yelena Zaltana novels, Magic Study, and although I enjoyed reading it, it's got some issues.

The first 300 pages of the book I loved just as much as I did Poison Study. The writing was great and the flow and pace of the story was good. Yelena's reintroduction to her family and clan, the land of Sitia, the journey to the citadel, the other magicians and their lessons, the political drama; it was all great.
But then something happened. Too much happens actually. Like another reviwer at points out, Yelena has too many scenes involving defying authority/kidnappings/escapes/torture/using magic to save the day. There's too many repetitions and those 100 pages or so feel overcrowded with action and it drags the story. The writing also takes a turn for the poorer, even childish, as if Snyder felt stressed by all the story lines she had crammed into the book.

Another problem is the ongoing torture/rape-villain. It worked in the first book, but when you meet several more in the next it gets old. Snyder has to move on and let her villains have as many sides as her good guys does. Because her good guys are great - their feelings and actions range the whole spectre. There's love, friendship, jealousy and hatred all at once. So why are the evil guys all chronically insane with a habit of slicing up their victims?

Finally, there is the use of the characters. New ones are introduced and old ones hover in the background. Though most of the new characters have their moments, Valek, Yelena's love from the first book, only appears about halfway through the book and he's only really there to bed the girl. He's gone from an almost almighty spy master that Yelena could trust to save the day and work with, to some obscure presence in the background.
Another character problem is the appearance of a villain that should have never have been there. Adding to the flood of action in the final pages, the character could easily have never existed and many pages been spent otherwise without the reader losing out whatsoever.

The final chapter of the book manages to save the book, pulling all the loose strings together and shipping off the majority of the characters, leaving behind the ones that we need. Yelena must make some choices and we finally get back to focusing on what this is really all about, her figuring who she is and who she wants to be.

I give this book 4 stars, because I did really like the majority of it and I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Fire Study. It might only have deserved 3 stars, but I'll give it the benefit of doubt and hope for better editorial skills in the third book.

Review by Iben Jakobsen, BoB, 2010


  1. Wonderful review! :) I agree with so many of the points you made about this book. I loved Poison Study, and I really wanted to love Magic Study just as much. But I missed Valek & was disappointed to discover another villain who enjoys raping and torturing his victims. Overall, I actually did enjoy Poison Study, just not quite as much as Magic Study and not enough to send me rushing to the store for Fire Study.

    Violet @ The Eager Readers

  2. Thank you :)
    I know just how you feel. You want to love the book, but.. you just can't. I'm halfway through Fire Study atm, and so far I'm afraid it hasn't really proven itself worthy as a successor to the initial Poison Study


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