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Fire Study (Study, Book 3)
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2008
Fire Study the final book in Snyder's trilogy was the weakest link of all three books. The series began very strongly with Poison Study and went downhill from there.

The book could have easily removed 200 pages and would have been better for it. I felt the author lost the passion for the storyline and was just rushing to finish it off.

Snyder left her roots of interweaving a story of magic and a fantasy world where Yelena learns to adjust to her increasing powers and removal from Ixia. Instead we have a repetitious action adventure plot missing the magical world the author had previously created.

Any magic that was used was extremely repetitive (Curare and Theobroma) and the fight scenes which were easily over half of the book were very repetitive. The main characters are out numbered, rendered paralyzed with Curare, captured, escape, Kiki needs to kick someone to save Yelena, and they all meet at the rendezvous point about 20 times. This followed with around 20 pages of repetitive bow staff fighting amongst friends. Not exactly exciting stuff there.

The rogue Warpers motivations seemed disorganized which proved to be a very serious failed opportunity to add a very interesting component to the story.

The main characters did not grow or form closer bonds with each other. Holes within their personal history were not filled in. I did not learn anything new about the fascinating people, history, or culture of Sitia or Ixia. The plot also follows the same line as the first books, children of children being harvested for the power of others. Yelena coming into her own to harvest and control her powers seemed improbable as the challenges put before her were more physical in nature. I did not see a personal growth that brought the story together for me.

The ending was decently strong although it was rushed. Ironically, it opened me up to wanting to know more about Sitia, Ixia, Yelena, and the supporting characters. Had the book started out with the same passion it ended with the trilogy would have ended with a great success.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
I just forced myself to finish Fire Study, and I can't believe how let down I am. Poison Study is on my Listmania list of all time favorite books. Magic Study was a good follow-up. I have been eagerly awaiting this book for years and rushed out to buy it the day it was released. My thoughts mirror those of the other negative reviews. It felt that the book was a collection of action scenes strung together with no direction. The focus was action driven not character driven. I wanted more meaningful interactions between Yelena and Valek. Overall the book lacked the depth of character development that we had in Poison Study. Fire Study was a let down, but Poison Study remains an amazing book, which is why I am giving this two stars. I know this author has the capability of writing incredible stories, so I will still be reading her next novel Storm Glass which will apparently be focusing on Opal and glass magic. According to an interview with the author, it should be releasing this December.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2009
Maria Snyder's third book about Yelena is quite inferior, particularly compared with the first book. I am disappointed, and very sorry to have to write a review with so many criticisms, especially because I did like the first book so much. This book has both writing and conceptual problems.

The quality of the writing is lacking. Snyder writes in stilted, simplistic fashion and presents information in an awkward order that makes the book difficult to follow. She needs to develop more tricks in her plot toolkit to move things along: the constant kidnappings and escapes became ridiculous. The amount of travel also strained the bounds of credulity. It's annoying how stupid she made Yelena, when she presents really obvious solutions chapters before Yelena comes to the correct conclusion. Other times, such as with the magical glass animals, it's as if scenes were cut out or moved but the rest of the book wasn't edited to ensure continuity. Suddenly Yelena's theory of how they worked became tested, when that didn't happen until much later. It's almost as if they published the first draft of the book with a few bits and pieces hacked out. A really thorough, deep developmental edit by a competent and caring editor would have gone a long way to sort out these problems.

While editing could have resolved the mechanical problems with the book, I'm not persuaded that Snyder's magical theology is clearly conceived. Since it's written in the first person, we mostly learn how magic works along with Yelena, which is pretty random and not grounded in theory. The unclear writing, the awkward unfolding of ideas, and the obtuseness of the character all make the final revelation about the soul of the world in the last pages of the book unsatisfying. How does that one grand idea tie into all the other magical elements that Snyder has presented along the way? Everything is such a jumble that I would be hard pressed to explain it, and I don't think it would be worth the effort.

The central challenge for any fantasy/sci-fi writer is to build a credible world for the reader and explore humanity in it. Many fantasy/sci-fi books involve young people learning and growing into a particular magical world. Those writers manage to show their readers how the world works--look at Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, JK Rowling, Isaac Asimov. You have to be able to bring your reader along into your world, suspend their disbelief, and make it real. Snyder fails to pull that off.

I would compare the whole trilogy to your average movie trilogy--think Pirates of the Caribbean. First book is great. Second book, eh, it's okay but they threw in way to much. Third book is just a hot mess.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2009
I absolutely loved the Poison Study, drudged through the Magic Study, and could barely finish the Fire Study. At some point I couldn't believe that I was reading about the same extraordinary characters I adored in the first book. Personally, I would recommend reading Poison Study as a stand-alone novel and not going further. Here's why:

Protagonists - In Poison Study Elena was a resilient, loyal, intelligent and clever young woman. In Fire Study she became obtuse, fickle, rash to the point of foolishness, and just all together unlikeable. I still remember when she stood in Valek's study, half starved and dirty, and chose to become a food taster instead of being executed, saying `I'm no fool' with total poise and dignity. Where did that girl go? In this book Elena is afraid of her magic and is faced with a difficult task of defeating a malicious new clan that has threatened the country of her birth, and all those she holds dear. And what does she do? She pushes everyone away, rushes into impossible situations, gets caught and almost killed multiple times, putting everyone around her in even greater jeopardy. This especially applies to Valek, who continuously rescues her from perils and gets no thanks in return.

Both Valek and Leif have been portrayed poorly in this book. Leif doesn't seem to possess a backbone and a personality, other than his ever changing moods from playful to sulky. Valek, on the other hand, went from a rather mysterious assassin and a strong love interest to a supporting character that occasionally gets to rescue and bed Elena. I felt no emotional connection and no rationale for the continuous melodrama. Also he is supposed to be a master strategist, but the twenty year old Elena ends up making all the decisions.

I won't even mention the other supporting characters since they were even less developed here than Valek and Leif.

Antagonists - there are four different villains in this book and not a single one of them was well developed:
1. Daviians were two dimensional baby-killin'-blood-drinkin'-power-grabbin' tattooed monsters. Their takeover of Sitia was so far-fetched and implausible that I could barely read through those parts.
2. Cahil seemed to possess multiple personalities throughout the books. He made no sense most of the time and his behavior went through so many phases that if there were psychiatrists in Sitia he should've been committed.
3. Roze Featherstone is a special kind of crazy. Being a powerful magician and a seasoned leader she seems to lack both intelligence and common sense, not to mention that her blind `I-WANNA-KILL-ELENA' goal was irritating to say the least. There was also Gede, but considering that I learned practically nothing about him, I will place him next to his buddy Roze.
4. The Fire Warper stayed true to the previously described trend of poorly developed antagonists. His character seemed like a caricature of a super-villain jumping out of fires to rule the world Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha! Enough said.

World Building/Characterization - the two cultures being featured in this series are not well developed. In Poison Study world building took a secondary part to character development, which was a great way to start a series. But in the two following books, especially the Fire Study where Elena is supposed to be a liaison between Sitia and Ixia, the legislative structure of both countries should've been better explored. Yes I know that Ixia has military districts ruled by the Commander and his code of behaviors and Sitia has the Council of clans and four magicians who like to discuss everything to death - but that is just the layout, where is the substance? Both the Councilors and the Generals are cardboard cutouts and for that matter so are the Commander and the magicians. And what about the realms outside these two countries? Even a cursory mention of how other kingdoms/nations impact the world would have been useful.

Conclusion - I will not spoil the ending for those still planning to read this book, but let me say that it was not adequate. The author resolved all the plot points but the resolution made no sense. Elena's dialogue with Moon Man and even the Fire Warper was perplexing to say the least and her subsequent reunion with her loved ones lacked any feeling.

Overall, very unsatisfying read. The reason I gave this book two stars instead of one was due to some lingering fondness from the world Poison Study created.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I felt a bit blue as I finished FIRE STUDY, the third and final volume in Maria V. Snyder's Study Trilogy. Though she is currently working on a new series following a side character from the Study books, this is the last one to center on the adventures of Yelena, the convicted murderer, turned poison taster, turned diplomatic liaison. I felt blue because I'd been expecting more and I ended up finishing it more out of a feeling of obligation than because I was truly engrossed.

The story picks up shortly after the events of Magic Study leave off. Yelena, her brother Leif, and the mercurial Moon Man are busy trying to mop up the Soulstealer's mess and dealing with accusations from the Mage's Council. First Magician Roze Featherstone is calling for Yelena's head on a platter and there is little rest for the weary on the horizon. The problem is, very little happens from this point on. Or rather, very little new stuff happens.

What there is is page after page of no one believing Yelena that Roze really is That Evil. Page after page of people stabbing each other with curare left and right (and waking up from being stabbed). Page after page of no Valek. And when he is there Yelena's not letting him help her. Instead she spends the majority of her time worrying about his potential demise and trying to protect him from a threat he's much better equipped to deal with than anyone else in the book. Towards the last three quarters of the story, the characters do start to wake up and act like themselves. They begin to deal with some of the meatier issues hanging over them just as the book reaches its end. And I felt myself wondering what took them so long? And wishing that the wonderfully dark, emotional atmosphere and tension from Poison Study were present here. Because I missed them.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2008
The book is a continuation of the first two books in the series, begun with Poison Study and Magic Study. While Poison Study grabs the reader with a highly original hook and compelling telling that makes you feel like each plot twist was clearly led up to even if you couldn't guess it in advance, Fire Study feels more rambling, like the author took to much to heart the common writer's advice to let the characters tell the story themselves without rewriting it later to ensure each major plot point follows logically. The major revelation at the end was at once completely predictable, yet at the same time very disappointingly not foreshadowed. This isn't to say that the book isn't enjoyable to fans of the series. It continues on the course of the previous books, and unlike some of the complaints of Magic Study, the main character, Yelena, is not so over-powerful compared to others. The feeling of helplessness from Poison Study and the mad rush to action is there at especially well written moments, but the character has clearly aged.

The throwaway references to the characters from the first book, like the Commander, were intriguing for their contrast, showing the depth to which the author truly made them come alive. While a few of the newer characters from book 2 come alive, few are done with such a clear and compelling style. While the plot advance was minimal, it was welcome as a reminder that this author can still produce material of that quality.

The end is really the most disappointing aspect of the story. It felt like the author wanted to end the story and go back to the roots of the story in romance rather than accepting the cross-genre nature of the story as an adventure fantasy as well as a romance. Entire action sequences that would previously have gotten at least a few pages are reduced to a mere paragraph or two that required extra reading in order to capture the details.

That said, the book does bring a sense of forward motion to the storyline, and it also brings it to a point where if no further book is written, one can feel satisfied, without closing the story in a way to preclude future books. I hope that the author is able to take her time on the next book, I'd rather wait an extra few months for another book of the quality of the first one in the series. Strong fans of the series will likely enjoy this book. All key plot points from the earlier books are smoothly reintroduced for the reader who has forgotten them, at times in ways that does not feel at all like a reminder, showing a technical skill in the writer that is quite enjoyable.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2008
In a lot of ways, I just cannot believe this is the conclusion to the fantasy series that got me re-hooked on my breakthrough reading craze. I do credit Snyder with reeling me back into fantasy mainstream, my first reading love and passion. Reading Yelena Zaltana's journey's from Poison Study and now through her culmination in Fire Study has been, quite simply, an amazing journey. What a great, awe-inspiring series to reintroduce myself to one of my biggest passions in reading. For that, Ms. Snyder, thank you.

The first few chapters were a bit slow to start and as a result a little difficult to get into. They do pick up seamlessly though where Magic Study leaves off, with Yelena seeking out the Sandseed clan once again, whom she's related too. But fortune is ever unsmiling on this newly discovered Soulfinder (which she still has no inkling of what one can do), and her studies are exchanged for intrigue and danger-an all too reoccurring pattern. Yelena's still not completely in her skin yet, but she's as tenacious as ever and takes on challenges with the air of a natural leader that everyone around her begins to look up to. Thank goodness for her small circle of supporters too because Sitian and Ixian relation are as unbalanced as ever and a new threat is on the horizon. Outcast Sandseeds, known as Vermin, have joined forces with the villain form the last book, Ferde the Soulstealer, and Cahil, resident sorta-sorta-not-lost-heir-to-Ixia, who just won't give up the bone to rule that he's latched onto. Something stinks in the Sitian council too when Yelena and her brother are denounced as traitors, their arrests called for by Roze Featherstone, first Master Magician. Chaos ensues and suddenly Sitia is on the brink of declaring war with Ixia and as always, it's up to Yelena and her merry band of rag-tag magicians and her assassin lover to resolve the multiple dilemmas. Add in a diabolical and ancient Sandseed magic and suddenly a Fire Warper is out to make Yelena his. From the plains and Magician's Keep of Sitia, to the northern military ruled territories if Ixia, Yelena's got her hands more full than ever.

There's a lot going on in this book! There's no other way to put it and at times it was a bit confusing. Snyder's world building, while seemingly flawless, does get a bit hazy as Yelena struggles to discover her identity as a magician and Soulfinder. There's non-stop action from the first page till the last, as seems to be the norm now after two prior books, and it's not really till the end that we see once again that it's all actually vital to the climax of the series as a whole. Were there holes in the plot? Honestly - there well may have been, but this reader eventually was able to bypass the more muddled beginning and by about the fifth chapter or so, I was as hooked as I've ever been in Yelena's upside-down life. If there were holes, I blithely overlooked them in favor of a thoroughly intriguing story. At the end of Magic Study, we finally discover the driving force behind the tipsy-topsy snake path that's been Yelena's life from the moment she was kidnapped and stolen into Ixia as a young child. Snyder does an admirable job of detailing the previous two books enough so that we get a gist of Yelena's past as a child and as the former food taster to the King of Ixia, but without bogging down this latest installment with unnecessary info. It's woven seamlessly into the story...although there were a few points that were never resolved that I'd looked forward to reading.

Yelena...what can be said that hasn't been already in past reviews? She definitely experiences almost a full circle of development. Again, some of those unresolved issues might have hindered this. Her first person voice, no matter how tricksy things become, is so matter-of-fact and rational. And maybe that blunts some of the more horrific aspects that she deals with, but it also helped portray her as the leader some eventually look up to her as. I could go on and on but, well, Yelena rocks and the books are the evidence. If you enjoy first-person POVs then this here's the gal that can lead you on one interesting adventure after another through three satisfying books.

The book has a very satisfying ending, with Yelena discovering, FINALLY, who she really is and what her purpose is, but it did not really feel like the end of a series. So, good enough ending for this particular book, but I am left in major wanting of more from Yelena and her cohorts. Much more! Maybe, for a series ending, it was a tad too succinct and abrupt, not to mention too convenient. Yelena has finally come into her own, but there are too many of those unresolved issued with others like Cahil, the Sandseeds, and there's still a lot of turmoil to undo in the Fire Warper's wake. I was not ready to move on after this installment, though I thoroughly enjoyed it.

**Note** After posting a slightly different version on my blog, I received an update from a fellow blogger that Snyder has a spin off planned about Opal, the glassmaker that first made an appearance in Magic Study. Word is sometime next year.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2008
While reading this book and not being too impressed I kept thinking it was similar in ideas to a book I had read and really enjoyed. While trudging onward through the book, not having anything else new to read on hand, I kept remarking on so many similarities to the book I liked. FINALLY, half way though, I realized it was a continuation of the story I had really liked! But, boy, I didn't like this one. I only finished it because I HAD liked Poison Study so much. Yelena bops around in this book getting stabbed and stabbing people with curare. She's always "triggering" her switchblade. Other characters pop in and out too briefly. I got a headache from the evil female magician. I don't know, it wasn't written with the attention the story deserved. Very simplistic, no richness of detail. I felt all the characters were cheated of their due. Bad and evil things happen and are treated very tritely, almost brushed off. I was a bit astonished at reviews that said her writing just gets better in each book. It's over 400 pages, so lots of things happen, so I don't understand why I feel so let down, but maybe that's what people meant, that there's lots of action. Too much happening but not enough detail or character development for me though. No real explanation of why people acted they way they did. Just a couple of simple sentences. I don't want pages and pages of people emoting but a little more embellishment would have been welcomed by me. Good guys turn into bad guys and bad guys into good. The humor was rather missing. Okay, time to say something good. Kiki was fun as usual and I did enjoy the spirit bat. I really had so looked forward to this book. Many people say they were impressed by it. See what you think.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2008
Ok, this series started out wonderfully and had great and interesting characters and a super story line. The first two books, Poison Study and Magic Study were pretty much divine. But this one, not so much. It almost seems like the author gave up (in my own humble opinion at least). The only reason I even bothered finishing this book was because I hated to leave the series so close to the end, I also believe that I was holding out in the hopes that it would get better, but was sadly disappointed. If you are one of those people who just has to know how it ends then by all means, try it for yourself. But truthfully you can get away with reading the first two and knowing that eventually everything works out in the end.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Courtesy of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques

A CK2S Recommended read!

Please note I am reviewing the audio version of this book. So I cannot guarantee all of my spellings are correct.

When word got out that Yelena Zaltana was a Soul Finder, the magicians in Sitia start to worry. (See Magic Study) Sitian history has only recorded one other case of a Soul Finder and that one had created an army of zombie warriors to take over Sitia. It's only natural they fear Yelena would be corrupted and attempt the same.

It's not long before Yelena uncovers a plot to force Sitia and neighboring country Ixia into war. The leader of the plot is the same magician, a Soul Stealer, that Yelena defeated once before. He escaped with the help of Cahil who has his own plans to take over Ixia. He also has the Daviian Clan who use blood magic to increase their powers and a mysteriously powerful Fire Warper, behind him.

It's up to Yelena to defeat her enemies once more. With the help of her loyal friends it should be easy, but who is friend and who is enemy? When the lines begin to blur, Yelena is in for the greatest magical battle of her life.

In Fire Study, the conclusion to the Study trilogy, we find Yelena really come into her own in the magical community. Be forewarned, this is not a series easily read out of order. Each preceding book leads into the next one and with each book, we learn many more intricacies about the lands of Ixia and Sitia, but especially about the magic that Sitia thrives on. Yelena continues to grow and adapt and learns how important it is not to abuse her gifts. Her fears are very real as she understands the immense responsibility she has to wield her powers appropriately.

All of our beloved friends from Ixia are back, from Ari and Janco to Commander Ambrose and of course, Valek. Iris is back too of course, Yelena's mentor and one of the few people in Sitia who truly understand Yelena. We are also introduced to more of the Zaltana clan, as well as visiting with those we've already met. One of Yelena's greatest strengths is the love and loyalty she shares with her friends and family and in Fire Study she needs them more than ever.

Fire Study is a highly emotional read. Yelena is really put through the paces and has to reach deep down inside herself to find her true power. She has several very difficult choices to make and as she struggles to weigh what must be done against what she wants. These struggles provide some very poignant moments, especially when she fears she may very well lose Valek and all she holds dear if she hopes to defeat the Fire Warper. I had tears in my eyes more than once, sometimes sad tears, other times joyful ones. As Yelena finally comes to understand what magic is capable of, we find some very powerful scenes. Be forewarned too, there are some mind blowing surprises revealed. A few you may have already guessed, but let me tell you, even the ones you think you know will shock you.

Make sure you have plenty of time to spend with Yelena and company. Once you start Fire Study, you won't want to stop until the final page is turned. What's so wonderful about this book is that while it is an ending of sorts, it is an even greater beginning... to the rest of Yelena's life.

Once more, Gabra Zackman has done an incredible job performing Yelena's story. As many different players as we find in the Study series, Zackman never ceases to amaze me with the depth of her talent. She brilliantly portrays each and every person in the story and the voices are distinct enough that you're never in doubt who is talking.

© Kelley A. Hartsell, April 2008. All rights reserved.
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