You gotta love Maria V. Snyder. Her books are like pizza - even when it's cold, it's pretty good. (Not my joke. Look up "Edward Wallbanger" for more details.)
I loved this. After struggling, and failing, to read Hans Christian Andersen's biography, this was the perfect get-me-outta-this-funk read. (Sorry, Hans. I know your life is interesting. It's just me.) "Magic Study" is the perfect kick-your-feet-up-and-read book, the perfect pick for a lazy Sunday or a holiday (in fact, just pick up the Study trilogy and leave it at that. It's what gets you through the family weekends.)
The story follows Yalena's adventures in Sitia, where she reunites with her family and tries to have a normal apprenticeship in magic... except, she's barely had time to put her feet under her before people are trying to kill her, torture her, or use her as a political pawn. (Seriously, girl can't catch a break!) Luckily for her, she's got enough magical powers for a small army, combined with a few useful allies here and there, to keep us hanging on for the ride.
(Sorry for the snark, but then again, we're here to be critical. Most of the time.)
Let's just get this out of the way: Yalena has ALL of the powers. All of them. Not just magic, but special magic. Magic that hasn't seen the light of day for a while. She can use it almost effortlessly and shock even Master magicians with her mad skillz. She can also talk to animals, fight super-experienced fighters, and when all else fails, she has Just The Right Friend to help her fill the gaps. And while it's not super-jarring and in-your-face as in other books... it gets old after a while.
Which is strange, because you'd think the plot would keep you occupied for a while. There's quite a lot of it. Almost too much of it. We have a kidnapping plot, a plot involving an Ixia delegation, a plot involving Yalena's brother, a plot involving a long-lost heir to the throne of Ixia, a plot about relatives to the evil wizard Yalena beat in the first book... it just goes on and on and on!
I suppose it's a little like Frozen - we spend waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time on the least interesting character.
That's not really to say Yalena is a bad character - she is not. As far as her set-up goes, she makes perfect sense, and even all the powers she amasses like Pokemon cards don't really faze me because why the hell not? She's clearly operating on a different level from everyone else, let her be a super-powerful main character. They're nice to have.
Except, you have so many other interesting characters, and they all seem to have the most fascinating scenes... off-screen! Limitation of format, maybe, but only to a point - with Yalena's handy-dandy mind-reading/projecting tricks, you could easily have had a few of those scenes happen "in real time."
I'm sorry I'm spending so much time talking about this, especially since it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel. No, really, I enjoyed Yalena's POV. But... it could have been better if there were a few more added in for variety.
("Days of Blood and Starlight" is a kinda-sorta-example of where multiple brief POVs, mixed in with the extended main character POVs, can work. Kinda-sorta because it gets a little jarring at times. Example, because for the most part in the book, it works.)
Anyway, back to the good: I really, REALLY liked Valek in this book. No, really. It's been a while since "Poison Study", but thinking about Valek's actions in that book doesn't really endear him to me. A lot of what he did was morally wrong, and I can't really recall him telling Yalena he was sorry. In this installment, though, we get to see him in the role of a lover and a friend, and now that he and Yalena have trust each other... he really is kinda swoon-worthy. (But shh, don't tell anyone I said that.)
All in all, a very nice second installment. Looking forward to the last book.
Note: Image via BookLikes.