Sunday, 15 June 2008

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Following my TBR Wednesday review for May which was Poison Study I bought Magic Study the second in the trilogy. As an aside there are now about three different versions of these books. My copy of Poison Study was from Luna I think, Magic Study is from Mira and that means different covers. :(

Anyway, enough of my griping and on with the review.

Magic Study picks up very shortly after the end of Book 1. Yelena and her companions have journeyed to the land of Sitia, reuniting the stolen children with their parents. Yelena meets up with her own family - mother, father and brother (who unlike his parents is just not happy she's home), but this is an awkward reunion. She doesn't stay with them long before journeying on to the Magician's Keep where she must begin her training as a magician. Unfortunately it seems nothing in Yelena's life is fated to go smoothly. Once again, she needs to use her magical abilities to sort everything out and once again it's her own life that's on the line.

There's a lot going on in this story. Yelena's reunion with her family - the fact that her brother seems to despise her for some reason. Yelena enrolling in Magic School. A serial killer. A visit from the Ixian ambassador and her retinue. The exiled heir of Ixia turns up. So it's quite busy plotwise and Yelena is in the centre of it all. Which leads to the main reason I gave this one a C+.

I had a problem with this book and the name of that problem is Yelena. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the story because I did (though not as much as Poison Study). But somewhere in between Book 1 and Book 2, Yelena became a little too arrogant for me. When four master magicians don't know what to do but Yelena does and they're looking to her for help it annoyed me a little. Apart from this her character is still well drawn and you want to read about her and her adventures. It's just grating that she's always right.

I liked the fact that her family reunion wasn't a roaring success, that there is some distrust there - on both sides. And if I had a favourite new character from the book it would probably be Yelena's brother Leif, the first character who's reminded me of a flow diagram. (Flow Chart in Question) Honestly he seems to run his life according to this. I like the sibling relationship he and Yelena have towards the end of the book. You can tell that he isn't going to let her get away with anything and she needs someone saying to her "You're doing that wrong", even if she isn't. :)

There were plenty of other things I enjoyed about the story.

Yelena's time in the Magician's school. LOL - I'm a sucker for stuff like this, it's reading all those adventures set in boarding schools when I was young.

The visiting Ixian dignitaries because this means Valek, Janco and Ari are in town. Though Valek is not as present in this story as in Poison Study. Which makes sense and is realistic, this one really is more about Yelena, but it was great to have him turn up. And Maria V. Snyder maximizes the impact of his appearances.
Trouble love? Valek asked.
I need your immunity to magic.
I also liked the Ixian Ambassador. :)

And it still isn't clear who it is safe to trust. It quickly becomes apparent that Sitia is just as dangerous a place, if not more so, than Ixia, but in different ways.

There were a couple of things that made me shake my head.

At one point Yelena has to hold a pill the size of a robin's egg in her mouth and not bite down onto it. (For an American Robin that's 2cm by 3cm, for a European Robin that's 2cm by 1.5cm). So I spend five minutes not reading and trying to puzzle out if this is possible.

Even when events spiral beyond her control, things still have to be done Yelena's way, because she knows best. It's a positive thing that she's so independent, but you can't help thinking at certain points that if she had just stopped and asked for help the outcome may have been resolved differently.

I think I've said before that middle books in trilogies can be tricky. So I am left wondering how fair it is to grade this book on its own, without knowing how the third book goes. I am heartened by reading other reviews that consider this the weakest of the three, as hopefully that means Fire Study is a return to form. Once I've read Fire Study I'll grade the trilogy as a whole. Yes, I will be getting Fire Study but I don't have the desperate urge to immediately get it, that I did for Magic Study.


Carolyn Jean said...

Oh, great review. I have book 1 of this very high on my TBR, and I can't wait to read it.

That is a really interesting point, Lesley, about the trickiness of 2nd books in trilogies. I never noticed, but now I'm going to start.

kmont said...

This is one series that always "did it" for me. There were things that made me shake my head too though, and Yelena's rigid independence at times was one with me as well.

My problem was I could not wait for the third and then still couldn't believe it was ending. I guess it's good Snyder will at least continue within that world she's created and we'll see some of the characters again.

Good review, Lesley! I enjoyed it as always. :)

Tracy said...

Great interview Lesley. I need to read the first book first, but I'll be interested to see what happens.

LOVE the flow chart! I may have to put that up in my house! lol

LesleyW said...

Carolyn Jean - I've noticed it in a couple of trilogies. Usually the more excellent the first book is, you pick up on it a little more, because of course you measure the second book against the first. But in a trilogy the three books have different jobs to do if you think about it.

If you say Book 1 is where everything falls apart - even if there is some kind of resolution at the end, Book 3 is where everything comes together and somehow Book 2 has to be a bridge between the two. I think the middle book often has the hardest job to do, and from reading reviews it's often the book that's judged most harshly.

LesleyW said...

Kmont - I was reading your review on Amazon just after I'd posted my blog review. :) I didn't want to make it sound like I hadn't enjoyed the second book because I had. But not as much as the first, and giving the first book a B+ (I think) this one had to be a C. But a very high C.

I do like the world she's created and I love her characters - maybe more so the secondary ones - Janco, Ari, The Commander, Leif. I think she has some of the best written supporting cast of any author around.

I may have to wait a while to get hold of Fire Study anyway, because it doesn't seem to be out in the UK yet.

LesleyW said...

Tracy - I reviewed the first book (Poison Study) in May - it's under that months TBR review.

LOL - the flow chart. Ah I have a copy of that somewhere. Honestly, I can just see him running all his options through it whenever he has to make a decision. Though hopefully by the end of the book he's got over that.

Sarai said...

So I agree I couldn't finish this book at all. She did get on my nerves all powerful (if your so powerful then why are you going to school to learn?) I mean really?
I am going to give it another shot b/c I loved the first one. *sigh* hopefully I can get through it this time.

Tracy said...

Ok - I just realized I put interview instead of review. duh! lol

LesleyW said...

Tracy - it's okay, I knew what you meant. :)

Sarai - I still love the first book and am hopeful about book 3.

Nicole said...

I've been wanting to read Magic Study, but had heard that it wasn't as good as the first one, and so haven't gotten to it yet. I think I must read it soon, though, and see what I think. I really, really liked the first one.

LesleyW said...

Nicole - I really liked Poison Study after having it on my TBR pile for ages. I did like Magic Study but for me it didn't quite match up to my expectations after reading Poison Study.