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Magic Study - Maria V. Snyder
I have to admit that I really love finding new series from discount stores! This book is part of a trilogy (Study Trilogy) which I was able to pick up for £5.00 for the three of them from my local 'The Works' shop. The RRP for each book is £6.99 so that is a great saving!
Magic Study is the second book in the series.
Magic study continues a few months after where 'Poison Study' (book 1) left off.
Yelena escaped her execution for murder by becoming the Commander of Ixia's food taster, putting her life on the line every time she tasted food for poison. She was then able to escape life as the official food taster after doing a number of very good deeds, though now, she once again has an execution order on her head, and Yelena has no choice but to escape south into Sitia.
Yelena only has a year to master her magic, or once again face death, and travels south to begin her magical apprenticeship at the magicians keep. Even though Yelena was born in Sitia, she has no memories of her family or the place which she should be able to call home, and she stands out here just as much as she did in Ixia. Although her mother and father welcome her home with open arms, her brother resents her return and accuses her of being an Ixian spy which throws her into a whole new world of danger.
Yelena struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her rare powers, and if that is not enough, Yelena has to deal with a rogue magician who is intent on making life as evil as possible. With the battle between good and evil going on, Yelena realises that it will ultimately be her magical powers which will save her life...or destroy it.
I found the first book in this series absolutely amazing and so I had high expectations for this second book. I did find, though, that this second book took a lot longer for me to get in to. For the first half of the book, I found myself reading quite slowly in attempt to get into the storyline. It was a lot slower moving than the first and the absent of one of my favourite characters made it difficult to digest. Luckily around half way through, the style and flow gets back to how it was in the first book, and the excitement and anticipation grows to a whole new level.
I would still recommend this book, even with the slow start, as you will want to learn more about this amazing story. Although not as strong as the first book in my opinion, it has a lot of strengths and the ending left me wanting more.
Magic Study is the cracking follow-up to Snyder's debut novel, Poison Study, and sees heroine Yelena returning to the homeland of Sitia that she no longer remembers to be reunited with her family and to begin her magical training. But once there, she finds that life is every bit as complicated in Sitia as it was in Ixia with just as many plots, schemes and people trying to kill her as before!
This time around, the plot revolves around the alleged only living descendant of Ixia's Royal line who plots to reclaim the throne he rightfully believes to be his; a brother who seems to resent Yelena's very presence and whom seems convinced that his sister is a spy for enemy forces and a rogue magic-user who plots to seize by force an abudance of other people's magic so that he can take control of the South!
With an embasy from Northern Ixia due any day to discuss peaceful negotiations with their neighbours and a mentor who is frequently dismayed at her student for never obeying orders, Yelena has her work cut out for herself just trying to prevent her new life from falling apart.....but can she prove herself without betraying her loyalty to those who know her in the North?
Once again this is gripping fantasy that combines all the best bits of author Robin Hobb with elements of George.R.R.Martin and shades of Harry Potter! All these influences are blatantly apparent and yet, this somehow manages to feel fresh, original, unique and new whilst still being true to the roots set with the first novel!
Yelena is a wonderful lead, as brilliantly crafted in her own way as Hobb's Fitz Chivalry was, and yet the books here are much lighter, less intimiating and more casually-sized than can normally be expected from high-fantasy of this calibre! I cannot reccomend this series enough and cannot wait for the final installment to come in the shape of Fire Study; the final book in this series.
One of the more minor characters from this novel, Opal, goes onto her own trilogy in future adventures meaning that this series is not the last we see of this world but those books have recieved mixed reviews! For now though, I am really really really enjoying this series and cannot believe I have missed out on it before now!
Here I was thinking that I had read all the books in Waterstones worth reading, and then it turns out that I'd missed out on these three treasures! Magic Study is the second book in Maria V. Snyder's fantasy trilogy, which begins with Poison Study and ends with Fire Study. For information about the first book, please refer to the two reviews that have been posted previously. It is an intelligent and well-written series aimed at young adults.
Magic Study is part of a trilogy based on the concept of a clash between two lands: Ixia and Sitia. Yelena has grown up in Ixia, in the North, which is divided up into 8 different Military Districts and ruled by the Commander. In Ixia, Magic is not allowed, and is in fact punishable by death. To the South of Ixia lies Sitia, which is ruled by Magicians.
Without giving away too many of the good bits, here's a summary of the story:
Having been found out as a magician, Yelena now has an execution order over her head, and has to leave her beloved Valek behind in Ixia to travel to Sitia. She is accompanied on her journey by Irys, a Sitian who is leading Yelena to Sitia to be reunited a the family she has never met. Although Yelena is now free, she misses Valek and finds it hard to adjust to the Sitian way of life. Being reunited with her family is not the fairytale it could have been. While her parents welcome Yelena back with open arms, her brother Leif and many other members of her "clan" suspect Yelena of being a spy. Despite this, Yelena is keen to start her magical training, because the sooner she finishes, the sooner she might be able to return to Valek. But in the Magician's Keep too she struggles to fit in and is in constant danger from those who suspect she is a spy.
Her plans to complete her apprenticeship and leave take a radical turn when she gets in the way of a powerful magician's plans and becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia's throne for a lost prince. Worse still, when a rogue magician begins to harm the only people that Yelena is close to, using a new sort of weapon which was inadvertently discovered by Yelena's father, she has to do all she can to counter his plans. Yelena will need all the help she can get, from her highly intelligent horse to some unexpected sources.
WHAT I THINK
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. After reading the first book, I was concerned that it would get too sugar-coated, but the opposite is true. The plot of this book is even more gripping than the first, and Snyder has a remarkable ability to keep the pace high at all times, making her books absolutely impossible to put down.
The contrast between the land of Ixia and that of Sitia is very well-constructed and highlights the dangers of crossing from one land into another perfectly. The descriptions are extremely visual without being longwinded, and this really makes the story come to life. The magic in these books is rather subtle, which is a positive thing, because it means that the difference in status between magicians and ordinary people is not so big that ordinary people become entirely insignificant and almost like slaves, which happens in some fantasy books. The romance within the story is minimal, making the books suitable for boys and girls alike.
The action sequences in the book are also worth a mention. Apparently Snyder is a brown belt in karate, and constructed the fight scenes by playing them out herself. And whilst I'm sure that martial arts ability has no bearing on writing ability, the extra effort really seems to show in the action sequences. They are detailed and intricate but also concise and exciting. They also help maintain the pace of the book very well, balancing the slightly slower sections with an injection of adrenaline.
In terms of character development, this is slow but steady, and the reader only learns as much as is necessary in order to understand the story. This keeps the reader guessing and means that your predictions will change every ten pages or so. The books are narrated by Yelena, in the first person, which is something I usually find irritating but which I had absolutely no problem with for this trilogy. In fact, if anything, it improves the immersion factor of the books. This is because Yelena starts off knowing comparatively little in the book, meaning that the reader discovers things while she does. For me this really helped me get into the story, and works very well.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a little magic in their life, as it really strikes the right balance between tension and release.
After gaining her freedom, poison taster Yelena returns home to Sitia where she, after receiving a not-so-warm welcome, starts her magic training, which unexpectedly hurls her into the middle of a plot to reclaim Ixia's throne and exposes a plan, orchestrated by her brother, to take her life.