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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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on 9 May 2017
Okay, we might be here a while.

It's no secret that I absolutely loved Poison Study - and that although I loved the romance, the adventure, the plot; my main love was the main character. Yelena is for me the heroine I feel I've been searching for in fantasy. She's a person. Whilst Yelena is brave and funny and immensely likeable, she can also be arrogant, headstrong and childish. I never said I wanted perfect and I feel like Maria Snyder really gets that.

Don't worry, I'm not going to spend the whole review waxing lyrical about Yelena. However Magic Study, for me, does a great job of building on the character I loved so much in the first instalment. There was a lot going on in Poison Study; a slowly developing romance, introducing a new world, a plethora of fascinating and fun side characters, and over-arching bad guy plot...

I mean come on. That's a lot. And it was done really well. In Magic Study I felt like a lot more of the focus was put on Yelena. Firstly, she finds her parents (who I love). But she also finds her brother (who is a bit of a dick, but it works) as well as her home. This rediscovering of her roots helps her transition into the idea that the world she always believed to be home actually left her with a big feeling of disconnect. And this theme is played upon even more when she goes to learn how to control her magic; a vital part of her being which she's spent two decades being completely ignorant about. I liked the development, the way it helped me as a reader understand Yelena better, even as she herself went on a journey of discovery.

Yes, I will admit, there's a lack of Valek. He spends an almost painful amount of time out of frame. As hard as that was to accept, ultimately I think that's a good thing. Their scenes together, whilst brief, felt meaningful to me and the lack of overall interaction between the two characters is kind of part of the quirk of them as a couple. They're in love but they're not attached at the hip. Both are independent entities with their own responsibilities and goals. They can be everything to each other without being everything to each other. I like that. A lot.

Once again the side characters were tremendously well realised. I absolutely loved Irys in this book, and having talking horses has made my reading year (did anyone read The Star-Touched QueenI was getting Kamala withdrawals!). I also liked the depth of the not so nice characters, such as Cahil. He went on a journey and I hope to God he is the big bad of the third book in the series because that will be awesome.

If I were to criticise at all, my only negative would be that I wanted more depth in the big bad. Although he was nefarious to the extreme, I didn't feel his presence was ominous enough to be the main rival. He did terrible things and I thought the victims were written with heart-breaking sensitivity and tenderness. But as this "mystery" was reaching throughout the entire book, it occasionally felt a little flat for me.

Despite this small niggle, I would a thousand times recommend Magic Study, and it's predecessor. It's the kind of books I write reviews for - where the words pour out and you have to physically stop yourself enthusing all the way to the end of the word count. Will be seeking out the next ASAP!
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on 27 January 2016
A great conclusion to a fantastic trilogy. This final book in the Study series brings everything from the previous books together and wraps everything up in one neat, bow-tied conclusion. However I’m so glad that we can see these characters continue their journey in both the Glass and Soulfinder books, as I’m definitely not ready to say goodbye to them just yet.

When the murderous magician Yelena recently defeated escapes, chaos breaks lose within the Magicians Keep. For that magician knew too many dark secrets, and now they are spreading like poison through the magic world, creating warpers - dark magicians who use blood and torture to increase their own powers - and they are intent on overthrowing the Sitian councils decision for peace with Ixia. They want war!

But as Yelena learns more about her own unique powers, more and more people turn from her in fear of what she could become. Only with the aid of her Ixian friends can she hope to defeat the blood thirsty magicians, and only with Valek’s love can she prevent herself from becoming the monster everyone fears … but for all his special abilities, Valek is still just one man, and the Sitians are determined to see both Yelena and Valek dead. Just how far does their love stretch? And will they live long enough to see the sunrise?

These books have been a pleasure to read and Maria. V. Snyder remains one of my favourite YA fantasy authors. I love the magical world she has created, with Ixia’s strict rules and regimented structures, to Sitias vibrant towns and crazy clans people. These are books that I have revisited again and again through my teen years and ones I’m sure I will continue to do so throughout life. They are a must read for all fantasy fans.

I think one of the best elements of Maria. V. Snyder's writing is her ability to take her characters full circle. Always bringing them back to the place their journey began from, its forms a clear distinction for the reader as to how the characters have grown and changed throughout the pages.

This is especially true of Yelena. She has overcome death many times, mastered her powers and taken control of her life, all while remaining loyal to her friends and beliefs. However while she may have hated Valek in the beginning, she accepts that things and people aren't always what they appear and now Valek holds the place closest to her heart. They make a perfect couple.

The plot also held some twists and bends along the way that took me by surprise. But as the book is pretty action based you will find you simply fly through the pages and all you can do is hold on for the ride.

A magical, spellbinding read, I would recommend Maria. V. Snyders books to all fans of Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce and Sarah-Beth Durst. 4 stars!
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on 17 March 2015
4¼ Out of 5
"Fire is your downfall, little bat. Can not call it. Can not control it...."
It seems things were never intended to be easy for Yelena Liana Zaltana. Having escaped her homeland to seek magical training in birthplace of Sitia, she soon found out that she is a Soulfinder, a rare kind of magician with the ability to control souls.
Sitia has had an unhappy history with Soulfinders: the last one raised an army of the dead and was burnt on the stake. So when word gets around about what Yelena is, the reaction is not positive.
As the Council decide what to do with Yelena, she and her brother Leif go in search of the outcast magic clan Daviian and the wannabe King of Ixia, Cahil. They soon discover that the Daviian Vermin are using an ancient and brutal form of blood magic – and have a very powerful magician amongst them: a Fire Warper.
But quickly the Vermin grow in strength and become infinitely more deadly. So deadly, in fact, that they spark a plot to destroy Ixia, Yelena's former home.
With the Council turned against her, and with no way to help save Ixia, Yelena flees with her brother Leif to the one place they can be safe. There, she will have to prove herself to both kingdoms and stop the Fire Warper and the Vermin clan – before they destroy them all...
I love the Yelena Zaltana series and I was so sad that Fire Study would be my final Yelena-centric novel... And then along came Shadow Study and I was overjoyed! Still, I can't help feeling a sense of loss after finishing Fire Study, as it is the end of a trilogy I adored. And it finished so brilliantly, I think. We saw Sitia and Ixia, saw friends from both books, were taken on a series of wild adventures that constantly had me on the edge of my seat. I read Fire Study in a single sitting and loved every second – even though Yelena managed to get herself in a million scrapes! That girl is a trouble magnet! But, personally, I think that it is just... the perfect end to the original trilogy. And after reading it, I am itching at the collar to read Shadow Study – NOW!
Yelena, I think, was perfect in this one. She was looked to as a leader, but she worried about whether she was doing the right thing, like all young people. She was strong and vulnerable, funny and scared and real. She planned a lot more now – sure, she did her rush-in thing too, but she took charge more. She made a few mistakes early on, but I really admired how she grew.
Valek: oh, how I adore Valek. Every time he says 'love' I swoon a little. He is just... perfect. I love him so so much. I also love how he's protective but not overbearing: he lets Yelena do her Yelena thing and doesn't try to stop her. He's the best heart mate ever – I wish he was all mine.
I quite liked Leif, Yelena's brother, by the end of Magic Study. By the end of Fire Study, I loved him. He is so funny and sarcastic – and a real brother too. And I loved how close Yelena and Leif became by the end of this one – it was so cute and so funny. Their sibling-bantering was hilarious, and when they fell out it felt real, like something siblings do (God knows I've ticked my brothers off a few times, and vice versa).
Onto the other characters. Firstly, Janco and Ari, who are the best things since sliced bread in my opinion. They rock: every time they're in a scene, they kill me. Janco with his craziness and big-talk, Ari with his attempts to tone Janco down... I love them. Love them love them love them. Then there was Moon Man, who was a bit mixed in this one, but by the end I loved him. And it was great to see Opal again – and it made me even more excited to read the Glass series!
But the animals in this series are awesome. Kiki, Yelena's horse, I love: she's hilarious. And Yelena also got a little bat buddy (a LBB) in this one too – love him!
As always, Snyder's writing was flawless and beautiful. I love her lyrical voice and the beautiful way she describes the lands and people. You can really feel Yelena in the words – stubborn and scared, strong and uncertain. It was perfect. The plot, too, was perfect and just nonstop – like all of the Study plots! But, out of all of them, this felt the most fast-paced and also the most... choppy. I have no better word. There was just so much going on so fast and it felt... I don't know. Not as flawless as the previous two books. Don't get me wrong – by most book standards, Fire Study is a work of pure magical art. But by the standard I hold Snyder to (which is probably unfairly high thanks to her amazingness) it fell a little short. Nonetheless, I was hooked start to finish and was left thinking: 'Yeah. That was awesome – and a worthy finale.' Of course, I'm even more excited that it isn't the end, that the adventure isn't over, but it was still a good ending! And I really was shocked by that last twist, and terrified by one before it!
I've said numerous times that I adore this world – both the Ixian and Sitian sides. I love how both were visited in Fire Study – along with a few other worlds! The mythology Snyder used, on top of the existing magical Sitia and military Ixia, was so brilliant – she took the notion of heaven, hell and purgatory and made it so unique. Loved it!
I've loved every single moment of this series (even all the rush-in moments that ended with capture) and am sad it's over.... But it isn't over anymore, is it! Because we have a new Yelena trilogy! Excuse me while I do a crazy happy dance.
I'm back. I absolutely adored Fire Study; it was exciting, thrilling, magical, addictive and totally epic. I love all the characters, the world and the magicness of the series and can't wait to continue it with Shadow Study! Yay! I love you, Maria V. Snyder!
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on 22 October 2012
Fire Study starts off with Yelena having learnt that she is a Soulfinder, which causes distrust, and fear from the council, Cahil has released Ferde and a new enemy called the Fire Warper is after Yelena.

Although this is still a brilliant story and series, it did not flow as easily as the other two books, but saying that it is still a very good plot and you want to find out what happens next to Yelena and her friends.

Yelena regresses back into her old self a bit in this book, running and hiding instead of taking charge, however it did seem that everyone was putting too much pressure on her as she is still a young woman. However this did make her stronger by the end of the book.

Loads of my favourite characters from both Ixia and Sitia are back in this book, but as we see them through Yelena's eyes, and because she is finding it hard to trust people in some parts of the book, sometimes the characters act differently that you think they should, but most of the time they are the character you know and love.

Yelena and Valek's relationship in this novel faces more trouble as they are both struggling to understand each other, especially when it comes to Yelena's powers, but in the end they realise that while that don't need each other that want each other. The villain was a bit obvious and you cannot understand how one person in particular did not see it all along, but overall a good ending to the series.

I would recommend this book to those like fantasy especially Graceling or the Black Magician trilogy.
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on 10 April 2014
So good I actually named my daughter after the main character, Yelena - and I'm not kidding!

The book (in book 1) centers around Yelena, who finds herself put in an impossible situation by her captor: face the noose, or become a food taster for the commander. Not as easy as you might thinkwhen what you're tasting for poisons and the only way to understand what a poison tastes like...is to eat them. Valek, her captor and the commander's assassin and consultant, guides her through her training with tricks and traps. Along the way secrets are reveiled, trusts are tested and bravery is a necessity.

I won't go into it any further, mainly because I hate it when too much is revealed in these reviews, but also because the magic of the books is in the reading!

Look out for the next book in the series, according to Facebook Maria is writing it and getting ready to release it now!
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on 10 April 2014
So good I actually named my daughter after the main character, Yelena - and I'm not kidding!

The book (in book 1) centers around Yelena, who finds herself put in an impossible situation by her captor: face the noose, or become a food taster for the commander. Not as easy as you might thinkwhen what you're tasting for poisons and the only way to understand what a poison tastes like...is to eat them. Valek, her captor and the commander's assassin and consultant, guides her through her training with tricks and traps. Along the way secrets are reveiled, trusts are tested and bravery is a necessity.

I won't go into it any further, mainly because I hate it when too much is revealed in these reviews, but also because the magic of the books is in the reading!
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on 27 February 2011
When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder--able to capture and release souls--spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before....
Honour sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself--and save the land she holds dear.

Hmm. After reading the second one I was like okay, we're over with the filler, lets get to the good stuff! Unfortunately I was disappointed. This book is actually worse than Magic Study.
They do like to recycle. Yelena runs around a lot again, gets kidnapped a lot again. Various torture scenes ensue, she runs around some more before I dunno to be honest, probably having sex with Valek. Who says 'My Love' a lot.
So Roze Featherstone (a character that truly annoys me and reminds me of Dolores Umbridge crossed with Professor McGonagall - now there's a thought!) is evil, yada yada, she wants Yelena dead, etc.
The ending, in it's own way was pretty good, you just had to be willing to battle your way through and read it.
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on 2 September 2017
So many twists and turns in Yelena's life. A new family, a power that she doesn't understand and also a killer out there hunting, raping and hurting girls. There are so. Any twists in this book it makes for a gripping and thrilling read, no matter whether it the first or third time always find something you forgot.
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on 7 January 2015
I bought the Ixia Trilogy books to while away a rainy weekend and they fitted the bill nicely. An independant female protagonist with "superpower" magical ability, good versus evil, ill-starred romance, constantly changing "scenery", derring do, fight scenes etc. While the series is not hugely challenging reading, and it's best to buy the trilogy straight off if you are a fast reader, I can see the film series lining up nicely. Great for whiling away a day or two with light fantasy and some well-drawn characters and plot lines. Super.
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