Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review: Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

That huge gust of wind you felt from the British Isles is me breathing the biggest "Phew" I've had at the end of a book since... well, since the last one. 

The "Study" series by Maria V. Snyder are a prime example of "Cheesecake-Lit" for me: they're great on bank holidays and exam periods, but have one too many and you start questioning some of your life choices.

Yalena's adventures are coming to an end. There's fighting, magic, a little bit of romance on the side, the bad guys are bad, the good guys are good, and you get a few surprises here and there. Yalena's powers continue to grow and eventually she reaches a point where she can get her happy ending. 

Quite frankly, after three books, I'd say she deserves it. 

I'd say we deserve it too. (Seriously, has anyone tried reading these books slowly? I can't do it. It moves too fast.)

I've mentioned in my last review how Yalena's habit of collecting powers can get a little grating. I oughtn't complain about it a lot - quite frankly, if you finished the series, I'll assume you're like me and you can live with that because you want to see what happens. After all, in itself, having a super-powerful heroine is not the problem.

The problem is having a super-powerful heroine, and trying to throw some discussions on morality and hard decisions while having a plot that is too full of action and intrigue to function. Seriously, you can't have it both ways at a measely 400 pages or so. Either give us the fun magical adventure, or the harrowing character study about power and prejudice. 

I'd read both, I promise.

Oh, dear, I can hear the Hypothetical Strawman in my head right now:

But K, you're never satisfied. You wanted cool books that deliver on their cool premise, and you want strong female characters! Why are you harping on this one?

Honestly? I think I'm harping on it because it's good. 

With some books you read, you know it's the best it can be, even if you, personally, hate every sentence of it. There's just some stories that, for better or for worse, were meant to be the way they are, and would not function otherwise. (See: The Fault in Our Stars.)

But "Fire Study" didn't have to be that way. Occasionally, the story would throw the reader a line about the deeper consequences of Yalena's powers, corruption, gender politics... and then it gets waylaid by the needs of the plot. And I guess that it's nice that, at least where the plot is concerned, the book delivers, but when it comes to morality and character studies, it seems... insufficient. Those throaways are less like "deep revelations" on the characters' parts and more like carrots being dangled without the reader ever being allowed to reach them.

Admittedly, halfway through the book I started reading diagonally because, much as I enjoyed Yalena and Valek's scenes together, I didn't care enough to read every paragraph carefully. As much as I wanted to see how it ended, the prose just didn't capture me the way, say, Ian Banks' does, or Laini Taylor's. 

So yeah - overall, a nice romp, compulsively readable and incredibly frustrating at the same time. 

Note: Image via BookLikes.

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