Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder

May 18, 2015 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Shadow Study by Maria V. SnyderShadow Study (Study #4) by Maria V. Snyder
Published: March 1st 2015 by HarlequinTeen
Format: ARC, 402 pages
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Publisher
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4 Stars

Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she’d survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands — and protect her relationship with Valek.

Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek’s job — and his life — are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret — or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is — while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.

Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous...

It was delightful to get back to Yelena and Valek after so long, and Shadow Study proves that the magic of some worlds and their characters only strengthens with time. This book is a wonderful beginning to a kick-ass new series that introduces us to a new threat, some new characters, and reacquaints us with all our favourites.

Shadow Study begins almost immediately after Spy Glass. Valek and Yelena are looking forward to spending some time together before he returns to the Commander after a long absence when everything goes to hell. Although they are separated for almost the entire novel, the connection between Yelena and Valek is so strong that it permeates the story. They’ve been together for years now and their commitment and love shines through. They’ve always been a strong couple and I really enjoyed their journey in this book.

As amazing as they are as a couple, Yelena and Valek are also great independently. Yelena’s reputation as a Soulfinder has helped her a lot, and she takes her job as the liaison between Ixia and Sitia very seriously. She has strong relationships with those around her, including favourites like Lief, Mara, Opal, Devlen, and the Magicians Bain and Irys, who all rally to help her when she needs it. Valek has also strengthened his relationships, not only with the Commander, but with Ari, Janco, and Maren as well. Valek’s storyline is particularly interesting in Shadow Study because Snyder uses a series of flashbacks to show us how he ended up killing the King of Ixia and becoming the Commander’s right-hand man. This means that readers get to know how Valek became an assassin (including training sequences!), and about his earlier jobs.

Shadow Study uses three points of view to tell its story – Yelena’s in first person, and Valek and Janco’s in third. Readers get a very rounded view of the story and experience Yelena’s fear and helplessness as the mysteriously loses her magic, Valek’s increasing disillusionment with the Commander and his position in Ixia, and Janco’s unique blend of intelligence, humour, and temper. I think the points of view worked well and enjoyed how each chapter ended on a cliffhanger, although it was a bit stressful!

Speaking of cliffhangers, this books ends on one that will distress most readers!

It saddens me to say that I think Shadow Study is let down by its plotting. Although it’s an interesting read, and one I didn’t want to put down because I was enjoying being with old favourites again, when I finished the book I couldn’t deny that not very much had happened, and that what had happened was quite predictable. The magic of this book is definitely in getting back to this world and its characters, and not in the plotting of the story itself. Some of the decisions Yelena and Valek took made no sense at all, and it took too long for them to realise that their individual missions were connected.

I didn’t have a problem with the languid pace of the book as Snyder increased tension by ending each chapter with a cliffhanger, I but tired of the repetitive conversations Yelena had with everyone she met. Valek’s flashbacks, while extremely interesting, tended to break the flow of the story because he would suddenly slip into them and then abruptly come back to himself.

I really enjoyed Shadow Study. I loved reading a new story about Yelena, Valek, and their friends, and am excited to see where this series goes. The magic that was in the original series isn’t reproduced here, but honestly, I think Snyder would find it hard to recreate the atmosphere of Poison Study. Fans of the Ixia/Sitia books, particularly the original Study series, will devour Shadow Study, but this book will be enjoyed by new readers as well. References to past events are handled well and the story stands alone admirably, although new readers are warned that this book contains spoilers for the earlier Study and Glass books.

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