Friday, April 7, 2017
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book two in the "Study" series continues where book one (Poison Study) left off, with Yelena heading to the Magician's Keep in the southern province of Sitia, where she will not only receive training in her magic skills, but she meets her long-lost family. We learn a lot about the different clans in Sitia, some living in the jungle as with Yelena's family, some living on the plains, etc. We also learn that even though the Master Magician, Irys, supports Yelena's training, not all of the other 3 Masters do. Nor does her brother, Leif.
Nevertheless, Yelena begins training, only to be caught up in the hunt for a magical serial killer, preying on young women. Yelena's headstrong nature continually causes her problems with Irys, and the council of Sitia, and it also places her in danger more than once. But, of course, our intrepid heroine always survives. Nevertheless, I appreciated that each time Yelena branched out on her own and got in trouble, there were consequences for her. This helped to mediate the 100% success rate she has.
Naturally, being a romance-tinged fantasy, Yelena's lover, Valek, manages to secrete himself in a delegation from Ixia, and they have many secretive trysts. Not only are they trying to find the serial killer, but the purported heir to the deposed king of Ixia falls for Yelena, which complicates his desires to mount a military campaign against the current Ixian ruler.
All in all, the story moved along well, and the author again does a good job with secondary characters. I thoroughly enjoyed how Yelena was able to communicate with horses, and how her own horse becomes a player in the story. The simple-mindedness of the equine characters seemed fitting, and added a bit of levity to the book.
However - and this is a big however - the author made some really boneheaded errors in other areas, which jarred me out of the fantasy world, and interfered with my overall enjoyment of the book. The problem is the author's use of Earth terms for items that should have Ixian/Sitian names. For example, in one case, a character describes a jacket as having a "mandarin" collar. Uh, "mandarin" refers to Mandarin CHINA, of the real world, Earth. Another example is when Yelena's father, who is an herbalist, discovers a plant extract that causes paralysis - he calls it Curare, which is a real paralyzing poison from plants found in Central/South America. Why in the world would he call it Curare?? In another case, the name of one of the horses is "Rusalka" which is a Slavic name for a water sprite! These are just a few of the times that the author's laziness was a detriment to the verisimilitude of the fantasy world. There really is no excuse for such shoddy world-building.
In all other respects, this is still a fun book. Not deep, nothing too mind-blowing. Just light-hearted escapism, that can be enjoyed as long as you don't look to closely at the details.