59 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, enjoyable fantasy
This is Snyder's excellent follow-up to her solid first novel, Poison Study. Yelena has traveled south with the Sitian Fourth Magician, Irys, and the other surviving Sitian children from General Brazell's "orphanage," and has now arrived at the home she doesn't remember to meet a family who are complete strangers to her. Irys leaves her with her family to get...
Published on October 6, 2006 by Elisabeth Carey
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not at the same level as Poison Study
The first thing you notice about Magic Study is that a pallid teenager has replaced the exotic beauty who graced the cover of Poison Study. It's a metaphor that carries through the text as well. Magic Study has a case of "middle book syndrome;" it's not as compelling a story as Poison Study. I confess I liked Valek better when you never quite knew if he were predator or...
Published on February 6, 2007 by Bella Rosa
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59 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, enjoyable fantasy,
This is Snyder's excellent follow-up to her solid first novel, Poison Study. Yelena has traveled south with the Sitian Fourth Magician, Irys, and the other surviving Sitian children from General Brazell's "orphanage," and has now arrived at the home she doesn't remember to meet a family who are complete strangers to her. Irys leaves her with her family to get reacquainted, intending to come back and get her in two weeks to take her to the Keep, where she'll be trained in the use and control of her powers.
It's a culture shock for both sides, and while her parents are welcoming, understanding, and patient, others--especially her brother, Leif--are unremittingly hostile. Leif has his own, more specialized, magical talent, the ability to sense the emotional traces of a person's actions. He knows that Yelena has killed, recently and more than once, and he concludes that she's a murderous Ixian spy.
Imagine Yelena's joy when a change in plans means that she and Leif will make the journey to the Keep alone.
It's from this point that Yelena's life starts to get even more interesting--in the sense of the old proverb--than it was during her last few years in Ixia. She and Leif are ambushed along the way, by a troop that Leif turns out to be on surprisingly good terms with--Cahil Ixia, the presumed heir to the throne of Ixia (Valek, we're told, was careless after all the adults were dead, and lost track of this infant) and his men. Even convincing Cahil (who wants this Ixian spy to reveal what she knows about the Commander's security and military dispositions) that his best course is to bring her to the Keep doesn't end her troubles, because the First Magician, Roze, is easily persuaded that she's a spy. She launches an assault on Yelena's mind which would have been wholly against the magicians' ethical code if she weren't a spy--and makes two unpleasant discoveries. Yelena isn't a spy, and she is strong enough to successfully defend herself and survive the assault without the damage it would have caused to a weaker mind.
So Yelena settles in at the Keep for her training, with a brother who hates her, a First Magician who too powerful and too close to maturity to be safely trained (for the safety of all magicians, she should be killed instead), and very soon, the hostility of the other older apprentices, who resent the fact that she didn't have to work up from the lower ranks the way they did. All this fun is considerably leavened, though, by the fact that she also makes good friends--Irys, once she returns, one of the final-year apprentices, the Second and Third Magicians, even a somewhat rocky friendship with Cahil, who much to the dismay of both of them, now that he's grudgingly convinced she's not a spy, finds himself her riding instructor. (The Sitian Council lets him and his troop have a home; they haven't committed to supporting Cahil's claims, and he and his men still have to support themselves.)
With all this going on, though, even more interesting is the conflict between the Ixian customs Yelena was raised with, and the Sitian customs she's trying to learn and adapt to. Snyder doesn't do anything as simple as showing one as good and the other as bad. Sitia is in many ways more open, more free, more tolerant of difference, more friendly to trust and mutual cooperation. On the other hand, one of Yelena's new friends is a little beggar boy with no prospects at all in the world, and a real danger of starvation if he can't beg or steal enough to get through the day--and he's extremely bright. In Ixia, his brains and talent would have been identified early, and he'd have assigned to suitable training and be on the fast track to a really good position in life. And while the Sitians are great at collaboration, they're not so good at recognizing when there's not time to consult and collaborate--when someone just needs to make a decision and act. And when Yelena does that, it makes even her friends doubt and wonder about her intentions. Mind you, sometimes Yelena needs to learn to slow down, consult, and collaborate. And sometimes not; that's what makes this a really difficult learning experience for her.
All of this is extremely well handled, and when Yelena finds herself faced with critical choices on how to respond to the old enemy that's come back to haunt her and threaten her new home, it's a real and painful choice.
(Once small note for people who read my review of Poison Study--I mentioned that the limited background there seemed to be a mediaeval culture that wouldn't have supported the professional army necessary for the events that created the Territory of Ixia, but I allowed for the possibility that more background in the sequel might change that impression. It has; the world of Ixia and Sitia does have an early modern level of development that can and has supported professionalized armies.)
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Done!,
Magic Study, the continuation of the adventures of Yelena and Valek, has it all, without being a clone of it's predecessor, Poison Study. New scenery, a new kingdom to learn, new challenges for our hero and heroine. Fascinating new characters, new possibilities, completely different cultures, new and growing abilities. Beautifully written, you learn with the heroine, you feel more a participant, less a spectator.
Four stars instead of five, simply because this is not a stand-alone book. The extremely complex relationships between Yelena, Valek, the Commander, Irys, Ari and Janko needs to be understood, in depth, as well as the world Yelena left behind, before you read Magic Study. For that you need to read the first book. That said, this sequel is wonderful, and the growth of the main characters is a joy to experience.
Importantly, at least to me, is that this story finishes it's own chapter. The conclusion is satisfactory, but as in real life, not final. A continuation is obvious, not necessary, and doors are left open to advance the saga, but there are no intentional holes in this particular adventure that make you grind your teeth in frustration. I really hate cliffhangers, and generally avoid authors that try to manipulate me in that way.
I do want to read more about the world Maria Snyder has created, not because I have to, because I want to stay involved in the lives of these people. That takes talent, not cheap tricks.
Again, Well Done!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not at the same level as Poison Study,
The first thing you notice about Magic Study is that a pallid teenager has replaced the exotic beauty who graced the cover of Poison Study. It's a metaphor that carries through the text as well. Magic Study has a case of "middle book syndrome;" it's not as compelling a story as Poison Study. I confess I liked Valek better when you never quite knew if he were predator or protector. He says, "Yes, love" A LOT in Magic Study, sort of dulls the edge if you know what I mean. His deference to Yelana oddly highlighted the age difference for me instead of making them seem equals. As for Yelana, I preferred her on the precipice as well, rather than developing a new superpower to get her out of EVERY situation. And there are plenty of situations arising in Magic Study - a few too many, at least one subplot line could have been eliminated with no great detriment to the story.
I will say I loved the character of Cahill. His every action flows believably from his brash immaturity and his belief in his own PR. He moves the plot along, but does it all completely in character. I'm interested to see how he develops in the next volume.
Reservations about Magic Study aside, I will be buying Fire Study as soon as it's released, in the hopes that it recaptures the spark of Poison Study.
35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Yelena is Invincible, but Not Interesting,
Too bad Yelena isn't interesting anymore. In the first book, she had her missing past and imprisonment to overcome. In book two, the author can't stop giving powers and emotional jackpots to Yelena.
She re-unites with her birth family in chapter one, but her brother hates her. Wait, it turns out he really hates himself. Never mind; for an apprentice magician he was written as very stupid, and his plans were all easily foiled by Invincible Yelena.
Then Yelena reaches the university, and gets meets her bestest friend in the entire world. It's the magical telepathic horse Kiki! With a cool gust-of-win(d) gait which outshines all other equines.
Meanwhile, Yelena is feeling sort of down at being apprenticed to one of the four living Master Magicians, so who shows up but her Perfect Love and friends from book one? They make her feel better.
The actual plot? Well.. Yelena develops the power of telepathy (and forced sleep), the power of healing, the power of earning and commanding the trust of beggar children (with her apparently infinite supply of money), and gosh, she might just be some Invincible Magician Specialty which comes along once every two hundred years.
Oh wait, the plot. Stop a murderer who is a magician. Invincible Yelena to the rescue!
Overall, this book felt like a shallow romantic parody of a fantasy adventure story, and I can't recommend it. I found the characters one dimensional, and I never worried Invincible Yelena could get hurt from heading foolishly into danger. Not as good as the first one.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "When dangling, watch your participles.",
If Amazon allowed half-star ratings, I would give _Magic Study_ a 2.5 rather than a 3. I don't want to give it a 2, because I did find it entertaining and when I rate something a 2, it's generally because I found it an adequate substitute for NyQuil. However, it's not as good as the first book in the series, which I rated a 3, so 2.5 sounds about right.
A brief overview of the plot is this: Yelena, the poison taster turned magician whom we met in _Poison Study_, leaves Ixia for Sitia, the country of her birth, to enter magical training and meet her long-lost family. Along the way, there are family tensions, new friends and enemies among the students and teachers at Yelena's school, and sinister forces that may claim Yelena's life, or that of one of her friends, if Yelena can't thwart them. It's a fast-paced and exciting plot, and I stand by my earlier assertion that Snyder can tell an interesting story.
What isn't so interesting anymore is Yelena. There were hints of Mary Sue in her character in _Poison Study_, but here she blossoms into full Sue-itude. Yelena is not just a magician, she has staggering powers that are almost unheard of. Then, after the umpteenth person has commented on Yelena's nearly-unprecedented powers, it seems a little disingenuous when she responds to "You're very powerful" with something along the lines of, "Who, me?"
Another issue I had with _Magic Study_ has to do with grammar and editing. I don't know if this issue existed in _Poison Study_ and I missed it because I liked the story better, or whether the success of _Poison Study_ meant the author was given less editing, but there are a lot of unintentionally funny dangling participles in this novel.
I will read the third book in the series, but will almost certainly not buy it in hardback.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thank you Maria V. Snyder!!,
Poison Study is the only Luna Book to sit on my top shelf along with all my other favorites. I loved the idea, I loved Yelena and Valek and Janco and Ari, and I loved . . . well, I loved just about everything about it. So, needless to say I could hardly wait for Magic Study to be published and when it was, I grabbed it and read it as fast and as often as I could.
In Magic Study, Yelena is forced home to Sitia by her own magic and by the death warrant issued in Ixia- both of which could kill her. She is reunited with her family, and her clan- many of whom believe she is a spy thanks to her brother's hatred and suspicion. Before the book ends, Yelena struggles to overcome just as many if not more obstacles than in Poison Study. Almost immediately, she is kidnapped, accused of being a spy, and her mind is stripped to find out her loyalties and secrets. When the other magicians are convinced she's not plotting again Sitia, only then does Yelena begin her training and very soon her quest to find and stop a serial killer.
Magic Study may not have the same sense of hopelessness surrounding Yelena's fate that I enjoyed so much about the first one, but that's to be expected. She has a better understanding of her powers now and she is capable of defending herself and others, and that is just as entertaining. For anyone who enjoyed Poison Study, this one is a must read.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome!,
I read many many many books a month. I read mostly fantasy. And while I enjoy the books I read, I can put them down. Both books by this author kept me up late at night, unable to put the book down. This is a rarity for me. I started this book last night at 9:30, intending to read only a few pages before going to bed. 2 hours and 250 pages later, I stopped, but only because my eyes were so tired that I couldn't read anymore. I finished the book during my lunch hour. I couldn't wait til I got home after work. I just love her world and the characters! And will be anxiously awaiting Fire Study.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent follow-up to Poison Study,
"Poison Study", the first novel published by Maria Snyder, was excellent. It followed the fortunes (or misfortunes) of Yelena, a prisoner about to be executed who is given a chance to live a little longer by being the food tester for the Commander, the leader of Ixia. Yelena is trained by the assassin Valek to taste different poisons but it isn't only death by poison that she faces - her latent magical skills are beginning to break through and magic is outlawed in Ixia. When saving the life of the Commander by defeating a magician Yelena shows that she has magical talent and the Commander has to write an order for her execution, so Yelena decides to travel to Sitia, apparently her birthplace and home of magicians, to learn her trade, leaving her lover Valek behind.
"Magic Study" starts when Yelena, having travelled through Sitia for a couple of months with Irys and the rescued girls and having been taught magical skills on the way, approaches her home. She has no memories of the Zaltana people but they remember her and her welcome is generally good - apart from that of her brother Leif. She has to travel to the magicians Citadel with Leif but on the way they are ambushed and Yelena's life is once again pulled into danger. It's hard for her to know who to trust and how to stay safe in an unfamiliar place but she once again is able to assemble some friends around her, even four-legged ones.
The polarisation between Sitia and Ixia is very well written - each side views the other with suspicion and Valek's reputation in Sitia is mud. Yelena has to keep quiet about their partnership and yet she has grown up a lot in this series of books and is able to look deeper into the morals and deeds of those around her. In "Poison Study" Yelena was a slightly fearful character whose main method of self-preservation was to run away; in "Magic Study" she has grown in confidence in stature and in fact now her reaction tends to be to barge in, magical guns blazing. It's a welcome development in her character, that we see her able to stand on her own two feet as she slowly unravels the extent of her powers. She faces a great deal of opposition from an evil magician and even from the heir to the throne of Ixia who becomes her friend and yet she throws herself into protecting those weaker than her, even at risk to herself.
For those (like me) who liked Valek in the last book - and I know not every reader has found him a suitable hero - he features again in this book. This time, however, he allows Yelena to find her way as she is growing into her skills and power; his assassin and spying abilities seem somewhat magical again and yet he is not always able to protect Yelena and she has to rely on herself. This book contains some good writing as their relationship settles into something more of equals than the teacher-and-student of the first book.
For those who enjoyed "Poison Study", "Magic Study" is definitely worth reading. It's as good, has the same great writing style but isn't just a rehash of that story - it's a new direction for our characters to move in and one that is very well realised. There's a third book, "Fire Study", due out some time in 2007 and I, for one, am very much looking forward to its publication.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just as good as it's predecessor,
Poison Study, book one in the adventures of Yelena's precarious and often dangerous life, introduced a heroine worth giving more than a second look at. Put through hell and back, she refused to let abuse and foul black magic to take her life as a child. As a young woman, she conquered the challenges of becoming the poison taster for the ruler of Ixia and managed to secure the heart of its most dangerous assassin. Through many tests, Yelena has already walked, but there's one left that she's only dreamed of and it may prove the most difficult for her to overcome yet.
Fourteen years have passed since Yelena was taken from her family, kidnapped from the southern country of Sitia. As those possessing magic are put to death in Ixia, Yelena must take herself, along with her newly budding powers, to the only place left for someone such as her. The first challenge of her once again new start at life? Her family. When she meets up with them again, it's a culture shock for both parties. Determined to rekindle something of her past though, Yelena gives it her all with the large Zaltana clan. Treachery is never far from home though, and soon she's having to watch her back around a close family member. Even in the capital city, where Yelena travels to learn how to control her magic, she can't gain a moments respite from danger. There, she become embroiled in the machinations of a would-be king, the treachery of an evil magician and the stigma of a power so great, others fear the very mention of one who wields it. Looked upon with suspicion wherever she goes, Yelena must once again fight for a place in a society that has no place for her. True to her nature, she makes a place for herself, and soon is hot on the trail of the evil magician as well as her constantly unfolding destiny.
Yelena's first person voice leads the reader straight and true throughout the twists and turns she encounters. This is the type of story, the kind of adventure, where nothing slows down, nothing stops till the end. From her boisterous and unique family, to the stringent atmosphere of the Citadel, where Yelena begins her magic study, I was entranced by every word, hungry to know as much about Yelena's past and abilities as she was. The addition of an Ixian delegation and with it, Yelena's assassin lover, Valek, only heightens the strenuousness and level of difficulty for her. Magic Study, like its predecessor, is a book uncluttered by unnecessary elements. Every character mentioned counts. Every action holds weight. I wanted to yank Yelena back a few times and rail at her to accept the help of her friends (besides Valek), and in this the frustrations some characters in the book have with her are completely understandable. But too, Yelena's had no one to depend on but herself for years, and no chance to adjust to all the new developments in her life before the next comes hurtling at her. She is still by this book's end very much growing into her own skin. The twist to this installment will lead readers right into the next book, into the next stage of Yelena's ever entangling life. I look forward, very much, to the continuing growth of such a strong, engrossing and heartfelt character. I would suggest reading the series in order. If you're new to the books, you'll glean enough info about the first one to be moderately enlightened, but likely left yearning for the first anyway. The next book, Fire Study, releases March 1, 2008, where we'll learn more about the terrifying power that Yelena may be the first to wield in centuries.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fabulous,
I loved POISON STUDY but I was unwilling to pay for a hardback when MAGIC STUDY came out. Now however, I am pre-ordering FIRE STUDY. This is a fabulous tale and I can hardly wait for the next one. The trade paperback is now out for MAGIC STUDY and I encourage you to get it now.
Yelena is very leery about going home and meeting her family, she has no memories of them and tho she longs for a family her heart belongs to Valek. Imagine her surprise to find a mother and father who love her and a brother who doesn't. Yelena is still unsettled by her magic and doesn't know what her special magic is. But maybe all the trauma and torture and adversity have honed her talent and she will be surprised where it may lead.
Valek is the Commander's Chief of Security, a master assassin and poisoner. The Commander is ruler of Ixia. I love Valek's confidence and the love he has for Yelena, if you haven't read POISON STUDY, you really need to find and read that book also. Although he is hated in Sitia, the country of Yelena's birth, he is willing to take chances to see his beloved. Valek is a null and magic doesn't affect him but somehow Yelena does and only she seems to be able to breech his non-magic.
Lief is Yelena's brother and senses the blood she has spilled. He is determined to hate her and seems to betray her at the first oppertunity.
Yelena will be taught by Irys, the fourth Master magician. She has much to learn about trust and using her abilities. There is a serial killer, a master magician, stalking young girls and when he turns his eyes on Yelena all bets are off. Yelena is no fifteen yr old, and she has friends who will stand by her. The world of MAGIC STUDY expands and opens up to marvels and wonders Yelena has never seen.
I found it a diverse and wonderful journey and I know you will love it as much as I did. Well worth the time and money and I am sorry I didn't get it earlier.
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Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder (Paperback - December 1, 2008)