Review: "Magic Study" by Maria V. Snyder

Magic StudyYelena's life changed the day she was offered the choice to become the Commander's food taster or face the gallows. She took the job. And it started her on an adventure that brought her friends, the love of her life, and the opportunity to save the Commander and the entire state of Ixia with her magic. The only problem was that magic was illegal in Ixia. And despite everything, she was banished -- a gift, since most magic users would have been killed. Now in the southern country of Sitia, Yelena struggles to find her place and learn to use the magic powers that she has only just discovered.

Poison Study was the first book in a long time that I read in a single sitting. Magic Study is the second. It was everything I wanted from a sequel. Sometimes the second story in a trilogy is the weak one; the author is trying to set up the final chapter, where the real story will be. That is happily not the case here.

Magic Study changes setting from the military dictatorship of Ixia to the magic oligarchy of Sitia. Yelena must leave behind all of the friends she made -- a cast of characters that I loved getting to know -- including her lover Valek. Abandoning such well-wrought companions is risky business, but Snyder replaces them with people equally as interesting and deep. And the folks from Ixia aren't gone forever. One could hardly imagine them taking Yelena's exile lying down.

Yelena cannot return to her homeland, but neither does she fit in her motherland. Much of the plot is devoted to this feeling of Otherness. And Yelena's distress and anger at her situation rings true. Her mother and father are strangers. The people of the south accuse her of being a spy from the north, constantly withholding their trust. And as a student of magic, she is both advanced beyond her years and wild in her execution of spells. Most people think she is either dangerous, untrustworthy, or selfish. And in that kind of environment, one cannot help but feel awed by her refusal to toss up her hands and leave. Her sense of duty overrides her sense of frustration.

The single greatest addition to Yelena's story is Kiki, her horse. Yelena discovers that part of her magical ability is speaking to animals, and she makes better friends with horses in Sitia than most of the people. Kiki has a strange kind of wisdom, which comes through as both hilarious and ultimately correct. Horses have a simple view of life, strong senses, and an excellent ability to judge character. When she can trust no one else, Yelena can trust Kiki, who will do just about anything for her Lavender Lady who brings her apples.

While you could just pick up Magic Study and read it cold, I really do recommend reading Poison Study first. Mostly, this gives you more on Valek and the country of Ixia that Yelena misses so much. And you really don't want to miss out on Valek. In the words of Kiki: Book is peppermints. What more could you need to know?

Lora Friedanthal

(Editor's Note: Lora is giddy at learning that a third book in the series, Fire Study, is due on shelves on March 1, 2008))

Magic Study (Study, Book 2) by Maria V. Snyder
Published by: Mira (September 1, 2007) (Reprint edition)
ISBN-10: 0778323927
ISBN-13: 978-0778323921
Genre: Fantasy

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