With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she'd been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. While she is eager to start her magic training, her days as a poison taster have changed her in many ways, and it appears that even her own brother would want to see her dead. But she can't go back to Ixia, where a death sentence awaits her.
I loved Poison Study quite a lot, definitely more than I expected. It was entertaining, complex, diverse, political, romantic. It was everything a good book should be. Of course, I had high expectations for Magic Study. I was really interested in learning about Sitia: Sitian government, as opposed to Ixian military dictatorship, magic, clans, the Zaltanas. Unfortunately, I still want to learn about all of this, even after reading a whole novel with a plot that hinged on the differences between Sitia and Ixia. As you can guess, Magic Study didn't deliver.
The world building, which was so luscious in the first novel, is here a mere afterthought, just a background for Yelena's adventures. This was a huge letdown, but I could have overlooked this if Snyder had devised a complex and satisfying plot, which she didn't. What's driving me mad is that she had every element to make it work, but ended up discarding a very interesting political intrigue and an elaborate magic system in favor of simplistic episodes that went for a cheap thrill. It worked at the pace level, but I felt I had consumed empty reading calories.
While oddly entertaining, everything boiled down to Yelena being reckless, then kidnapped, then turning down help to try to understand her abilities better. And it seems like Yelena can do pretty much everything. There are limits to her abilities, but there is always a workaround to what she can't do. I'm sad to say she is becoming a Mary Sue. The story felt repetitive and trite, and the insterspersed flashbacks from Poison Study broke the narrative pace. We know this is book number 2. Trust your readers and don't spell everything out for them.
Also, where is Snyder's ability to make me care about secondary characters? Dax, Kiki and Moon Man are nice, and Cahill Ixia could be interesting, but you couldn't tell one from the other if you had to rely on their voices. This is surprising, considering the extremely well-written characters from Poison Study. I miss Ari and Janco. Even Valek, who appears in Magic Study, is just a sad shadow of the Valek we met in the first Study novel.
I really hope this is Sequel Syndrome, but I fear the series is veering into FWP (fluff without plot) territory. Nevertheless I enjoyed it, maybe more than it can be gleaned from this review. It was a letdown compared to Poison Study, but it still was a good book. I will be reading Fire Study - I just don't need to read it with the same urgency I felt before Magic Study.