Magic Study - Maria V. Snyder

"Living is a risk...Every decision, every interaction, every step, everytime you get out of bed in the morning, you take a risk. To survive is to know you're taking that risk and to not get out of bed clutching illusions of safety."

I know a lot of other reviewers have said that Magic Study isn't as good as its predecessor and that it will ruin the series. I personally disagree. While I did have a few qualms, they in no way affected my enjoyment of the second book in the series. We join Yelena in Sitia, where she is journeying to finally meet her parents, who have thought her dead for the past 14 years. Yelena is thrown into the mysteries, intrigue, and politics of her new country as she attempts to learn how to control and use her magic.

It's very odd to me that this series is categorized as young adult. Apparently, the publishers decided to market it to young adults, but these books deal with very mature subject matter, not to mention that the heroine is 20 years old. Scenes of abuse, rape, and torture are pervasive in the novel, both through Yelena's memories of her horrible past and through new characters she meets and helps. Even though I'm 23, these scenes made me cringe and made me uncomfortable to read about. Nonetheless, they really serve to make you hate the villains, rather than feeling a cold indifference towards them. You want them gone not just for the characters sake, but for everyone else's sake so that they cannot continue to commit these heinous and evil deeds. Anyhow, I really do wish they had marketed to adults so we could actually get some more info on the steamy scenes with Valek and Yelena. I'm not satisfied with them waking up together!

Before I get into what I liked about this book, I wanted to talk about something that I've already highlighted in my status. It's difficult for me to understand why authors continuously portray white people as 'northerners', with drab and boring clothing/uniforms and a rigid system of government. And I'm not just offended because I am from Canada. What actually bother me more is the portrayal of darker skinned people as 'southerners', with colourful clothing, living in trees and on plains like 'barbarians', sometimes not even wearing clothing (heavens forbid!). Life in the 'South' is always much more colourful and magical than in the north, but people are poor and unempowered. I have been an avid fantasy reader since I was very young, and I find these divides in almost every fantasy novel I read. Most recently, I noticed it in Siege and Storm, but another perfect example is Game of Thrones. If anyone can think of a fantasy book without these dichotomies that reinforce differences between skin colours/cultures/ways of life, please let me know! RANT OVER!

Aside from the issues I just talked about, I loved every second of this story. Yelena is a fantastic heroine. Even after everything she's been through, all the abuse and torture, she refuses to give up and remains strong. Despite horrible nightmares that plague her sleep, she continues to fight. I also love her attitude about Valek. While she has moved on to Sitia, he is still in Ixia. But does Yelena spend all of her days thinking endlessly about Valek? NO. She trains hard, she learns as much as she can about magic, she makes new friends, and she helps cute little street urchins to make a living. In fact, she does this so well that at one point I thought there might be a love triangle forming. But, fear not! There is NO CHANCE of a love triangle happening here. At least not with the person I thought.

Supporting characters were also fantastic. Irys continued to be a chastising mentor, but also allowed Yelena to discover more about herself in the process. Yelena's horse, Kiki, was very fun to read about. But my absolute favourite new addition was Leif, Yelena's brother. He was such an interesting and complex character. I can't say much more without giving it away, but I really enjoyed reading about such a flawed character.

Like Poison Study, the plot is quick, with very few lulls. Sometimes you're screaming at Yelena not to be so stupid, and other times you're sticking up for her when various people don't believe in her. The book was nice and fast paced, with a few twists - most of which were easy to guess - and an engaging story line. Definitely moving on to Fire Study