This series (or at least the first book) filled a void in my fantasy-loving heart. As my first exposure to Maria V. Snyder, the Study series has some of her best characters and plotlines yet. The stories, cultures, and worldbuilding in this series are captivating, and there’s just the right amount of romance, politics, betrayals, and everything else. (Well… okay, maybe still a little too much romance, but I always err on the side of caution when it comes to romance.) Also, happy 10th anniversary to Poison Study!
Nineteen-year-old Yelena faces execution for murdering an Ixian general’s son, but is given the choice of becoming the food taster for the Commander of Ixia. She chooses to live, although she is continuously tested with poisons by the Commander’s assassin, Valek. In Ixia, where magicians are killed on sight, Yelena struggles with her own developing powers while she gets entangled in a conspiracy she wants no part in. I love the premise, because magicians + poison + conspiracies + assassins = WOOHOO FANTASY! The worldbuilding is also really well done, and it’s interesting to compare Ixia’s magicless, militaristic structure with the different societal structures in other parts of the world, like the council-governed, magic-driven Sitia in the south. Yelena is also a heroine who I can support wholeheartedly because of her determination to live and her ability to strategize and think calmly. Her personality allows her to make unlikely friends and survive when the odds are against her. It’s also incredibly easy to empathize with Yelena because of what she’s gone through (physical and psychological abuse), but this book is also a darker world than most YA fantasies. (I don’t even know if this is YA or just adult fiction? Not that it matters much…) A wonderful adventure that provides a solid conclusion that hints of another journey yet to come for Yelena! Also, Valek…
In this second installment of the Study series, Yelena is a free woman and starts her training as a magician. Although they aren’t sure if that’s what she is, since she doesn’t display the same magical abilities as the standard magician. Aside from that, Yelena is once again involved in a plot that she doesn’t want to be involved in – this time, from the other side of the border. I really enjoyed seeing some of the old characters again, and the new ones are just as exciting. I wasn’t a big fan of the conspiracy this time around, but what I liked most about this book was Yelena coming to terms with herself and realizing how her powers work.
Fire Study is the third (but not last now because there’s going to be more Yelena books!!!) book, and by far my least favorite of the three. The plot is not as exciting or as fast-paced as the previous books, and although the ending was interesting, we could’ve gotten there faster. There are times when I wished that Yelena would just make fewer mistakes, so a lot of face-palming on my part.
Altogether, the Study series started out very strong but dwindled as it went on. I’d definitely recommend Poison Study because it’s amazing! The other ones? Take them or leave them.
Have you read the Study series?
What fantasy concepts/themes excite you?
(Mine is magic being banned!)