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on 18 April 2007
"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.
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I wrote a review on book 1, Poison Study, and whilst I wasnt over critical, I believe it fell short of being a rivetting in-depth read to recommend to others. I gave it 3 stars.
Magic Study is the second stage of Yeleena`s Journey of self discovery, and picks up exactly where book one left off.
Ive rated this episode as 4 stars, because I believe that the trials and tribulations in Sitia that beset Yeleena are more colourful and engaging, and with the introduction of her true family and an opportunity to add some flesh to the bare bones of her back history manage to engage the reader on a more personal level.
However, it became glaringly obvious within a couple of chapters, that the writer is following a pretty formulaic pattern for the 3 stages of the story.
This doesnt detract from the story much, and my ratings are based upon the books themselves rather than comparing them to similar writers of the genre. Were I to do that, I`m sorry to say that the ratings would be rather more brutal.
I have completed the trilogy, but wont be writing a review of book 3, Fire Study, as I firmly believe Ive been as kind as I can in my overviews, and just as the books follow a very restrictive pattern , so would a third review.
So, all in all, if youve read book 1, and enjoyed it, you may enjoy book 2 more. Book 3 is very similar.
I dont suppose Ms Snyder will ever read these reviews, but if she does, might I make a simple suggestion?
I would much prefer to have read Yelena`s story as one complete novel...
I cant help but have the nagging feeling that this story didnt require three separate publications, and consequently, three different outlays of cash.
Individually, they arent deep enough to deserve three slots on a bookshelf, though monetarily, I`m sure your publisher is VERY pleased with the end result.
Had you released them as one volume with 3 sub-sections, I`d have reviewed them more affectionately.

Overall, they were a pleasant, if lightweight read.
In their own rights, I`d say : 3 star, 4 star, 2.5 stars.
As a single volume, 4 stars.

In comparison to others in the same field?
I wouldnt wish to hurt your feelings Ms Snyder.
However, thank you for introducing Yelena Zaltana.... if ever you decide to tackle this genre seriously, bring her back and give us "more" of everything, rather than serve us with canapes.
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on 2 April 2007
I came across Poison Study by accident and was hooked, and was really over the moon when Magic Study came out. I actually think this novel would work as a stand alone book as well.

I rather wished there was a little more of the romantic subplot, but the main plot carried me along beautifully and it was really nice to see Yelena actually developing. A fantastic world with some fantastic characters, although a little too prone to letting everything work out in the end.

I can't wait for Fire Study!
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on 17 November 2006
This is the sequel to the first book - Poison Study. Yes I was so desperate to find out what happened next I forked out for a hardback edition...and yes it was worth it.

The scenery changes as Yelena moves south into Sitia to face new challenges as she meets her lost family, who are now strangers to her. That change breathes new life into the continuing story so that it still feels fresh, although it doesn't quite have the power of the first book, as Yelena is developing her strength and no longer has the same fear and vulnerability as when she faced execution.

In this book we discover more about Yelena's new found magical abilities, the country where she was born, her family, and how she came to be kidnapped in the first place. I couldn't help but miss some characters from the first book, but never fear they put in an appearance. The love story also continues, but thankfully again it doesn't overwhelm and just adds an extra element.

I look forward to the third in the series, Fire Study, due out October 2007.
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on 29 June 2008
Magic Study picks up very shortly after the end of Book 1 - Poison Study. Yelena and her companions have journeyed to the land of Sitia, reuniting the stolen children with their parents. Yelena meets up with her own family but this is an awkward reunion. She doesn't stay with them long before journeying on to the Magician's Keep where she must begin her training as a magician. Unfortunately it seems nothing in Yelena's life is fated to go smoothly. Once again, she needs to use her magical abilities to sort everything out and once again it's her own life that's on the line.

There's a lot going on in this story: - Yelena's reunion with her family - the fact that her brother seems to despise her, Yelena enrolling in Magic School, a serial killer, a visit from the Ixian ambassador and the exiled heir of Ixia turns up. It's quite busy plotwise and Yelena is at the centre of it all - which leads to my problem with this book.

I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the story because I did (though not as much as Poison Study). But somewhere in between Book 1 and Book 2, Yelena became a little too arrogant for me. When four master magicians don't know what to do but Yelena does and they're looking to her for help it annoyed me a little. Apart from this her character is still well drawn and you want to read about her and her adventures. It's just grating that she's always right. Even when events spiral beyond her control, things still have to be done Yelena's way, because she knows best. It's a positive thing that she's so independent, but you can't help thinking at certain points that if she had just stopped and asked for help the outcome may have been resolved differently.

Saying that, there were plenty of other things I enjoyed about the story.

Yelena's time in the Magician's school.

The complex relationship she develops with her brother, who was the most interesting character in the book for me.

The visiting Ixian dignitaries because this means Valek, Janco and Ari are in town. Though Valek is not as present in this story as in Poison Study. Which makes sense as this one really is more about Yelena, but it was great to have him turn up. And Maria V. Snyder maximizes the impact of his appearances.

It quickly becomes apparent that Sitia is just as dangerous a place, if not more so, than Ixia, but in different ways.

I think middle books in trilogies can be tricky. So I am left wondering how fair it is to grade this book on its own, without knowing how the third book goes. I am heartened by reading other reviews that consider this the weakest of the three, as hopefully that means Fire Study is a return to form. I will be getting Fire Study but I don't have the desperate urge to immediately get it, that I did for Magic Study.
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on 29 March 2009
Having read and loved 'Poison study' from the word 'Go', I was more than eager to start 'Magic Study'.. but for some reason the second installment just wasn't as good as the first. I think one of the main issues, for me personally, was I had loved the characters and setting of Ixia in the first book, but the change of setting and people just didn't feel right - None of the characters in 'Sitia' really caught my interest in the same way those of the first book did. Overall this just didn't live up to expectations - and perhaps that is more my own fault than the books! Perhaps Fire study will be better?
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on 12 December 2008
I thought poison study was excellent and rate this title as three stars because I think it is that weak in comparison to poison study. Along with one other reviewer I disliked the fact that Yelena seemed to now know more (or think she knows more) than master magicians which makes it harder to see how she will develop in fire study. My main disappointment however was as one of Valek's fans, to see what a comparatively weak and uninteresting character he seems to become in this book - just providing resources on demand for Yelena as she develops. I hope the characters grow and develop in a way that hangs together better in the final of the series.
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on 5 January 2010
This is the second book in a series based on Yelena Zaltana, a young woman coming to grips with her lost childhood and her newfound magic abilities. Where the first book, Poison Study, focused more on the characters and the politics of the two lands of Ixia and Sitia , Magic Study has tipped over into what I would call `Fantasy-LITE' territory.

As context, I rated Poison Study 4 stars due to the lack of `half star' availability. In my review of that book, I said 3.5 stars would be more appropriate. Magic Study gets a definitive 3 stars from me. No more.

My reasons:
1. The setting. Ixia was a far more original setting than Sitia, which is 'ye olde sword and sorcery' territory, whilst the magic school smacks of a poor-man's Harry Potter.
2. As a pace-driven, limited word count book, Poison Study walked a fine line between `telling' and `showing'. Magic Study takes a quick look at the line and proceeds to leap over into `telling', which often includes stating the obvious. Not only is this condescending for the reader, it also takes the fun out of complementing the text with your own imagination.
3. The dialogue can be extremely corny. Exhibit A: `Kill me? You can join the `I Want To Kill Yelena Guild'. I hear they have six members in good standing'.
4. Yelena has become audacious. She's lost the attractive quality of the flawed heroine, because in Magic Study, she takes the world and its villains on by herself, heedless to help or advice of others. It's like watching a sports team who has had years of dominance in their league - you know they're going to win so the game becomes boring.
5. The sexual abuse theme. Fine, it worked for character building in the first book. But was it necessary to have more of it in the second? I'm not sure it actually added to the tension or the plot. For me, it just made the book resemble an episode of Law and Order SVU.

Despite all this, I still give it 3 stars. There are some interesting points here and there. I liked the idea of Yelena's style of magic and her ability to communicate with animals. Her helping the beggar children was also a very positive detail for me. Overall, this book would still appeal to the target audience of young women, though these readers will probably enjoy it because it is Poison Study's sequel, rather than for the book it is in its own right.
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on 5 June 2009
As the title suggests this trilogy is perhaps th most addictive story line
I have read, the pace and constant suprise elements contained at almost every chapter keep you wanting to read late into the night.
I highly recommend this trilogy to any reader.
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As a 49 year old male I am slightly worried by how much I am enjoying this series. Especially the references that suggest this is a 'Young Adult' book, I think this has much wider appeal then the YA readership.
Anyway, following on from the excellent Poison Study here we have Yelena going back to her family roots and exploring her magical abilities. She makes both friends and enemies as the story unfolds and as she tries to discover more about herself and her long lost family, she has to study magic with the ultimate threat if she fails to be able to control it...
Fast moving, well plotted stuff and highly recommended.
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