Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Review: Shadow Study by Maria V Snyder

Publication Date: 24th February 2015

Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Once, only her own life hung in the balance.
Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she'd survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands and protect her relationship with Valek.
Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek's job - and his life - are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret - or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is - while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.

Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous.

I absolutely adored the original Study trilogy, particularly ‘Poison Study’ so when I heard that there were going to be more books in the series I, like most other fans of the books, was thrilled.
And whilst it was fantastic to be back with Yelena and Valek and co. sadly the book didn’t quite live up to the very high expectations I had.

It’s become a worrying trend with the last few Snyder books that I will tear into them eagerly, my interest will wane and then at around the half way mark I will put them down and go and read something else, which is tragic. They are such good stories, but the first half of each of the latest books is so slow and weighed down with story and exposition that isn’t needed that nothing really happens. Eventually I come back to them, and the second half is so much better, everything picks up the stakes get higher, the tension is raised and I am reminded of all the reasons that I love Snyder’s books. Shadow Study is no exception to this new trend. The first half was so slow, so much back and forth and no one really knowing what’s going on or what to do and a lot of that leads from Yelena’s feeling of being adrift and lost, but the story shouldn’t be impacted this heavily by that. There should still be action, forward progress and a level of interest retained by the reader. So I took weeks to read the first half and eventually took a break from the book altogether.

The second half was so much better though. The storylines started coming together, and whilst everyone’s individual journeys were important, everything works so much better when everyone is together. The tension is amped, everything felt more terrifying and real and I was flying through the end of the book. I just wish that the rest of it could have been the same.

I also had a few problems with how flat and one dimensional some of the characters seemed. The new introductions particularly, as well as Ari and Janco. This was most noticeable for Janco as we had some of the story from his point of view – important so that we could see more of the puzzle pieces come together, but by far some of the weakest bits of storytelling. It felt as though because they were characters we knew, nothing really had been done to flesh them out, and that was horribly evident once we started seeing the story through their eyes, instead of just through Yelena’s and Valek’s.

Other minor grumps come in the form of the heavy handed insertion of Valek’s back story, a fascinating story in its own right, but not handled particularly well as it was just dropped in from time to time in Valek’s chapters of the book. It felt random, yes it provided backstory and context, but it could have been its own novella (one I would have loved to read because it was fascinating seeing how Valek became who he is) and stopped weighing down the narrative with excursions into the past that only aided with some insight into the present.
Also with names – I’m sorry but there’s only so many times that I can read the words ‘Goo goo juice’ and not want to stop reading. There is so much imagination and creativity in this series and it’s let down by sloppy elements like this.

Despite the ranting there was a lot to love in this book. It was fantastic to be back in this world and to see where the characters were now. Once the pace picked up and we got into the story, it was truly brilliant. I loved the twists and turns and I am definitely left wanting to find out what happens next. There is so much to look forward to in the next book and hopefully now the ball is rolling, the pacing will be better in ‘Night Study.’ The second half is wonderful and reminded me just how much I love Snyder’s books, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to undo the damage wrought in the first half. Fans of the series will love this new instalment, but be warned it does take a while to get going. Newcomers, I highly recommend going back to the beginning and starting fresh, jumping straight in at this point wouldn’t do the series any favours, and all issues aside this is a brilliant fantasy series.


  1. I only sort of skimmed your review as I was sent a copy of this book for review just today. I really enjoy the books that I've read by Maria V Snyder but I feel like I've only ever read the first book in the Poison Study and also the first book in the Sea series and maybe 2 of the Healer series? I just don't have the other books and I really need to track them down already. And stop reading books out of order!

    1. Ha! Read them in order! I definitely recommend ready the Study series in order before tackling this new one, and the Glass series feeds into that. March could be Snyder book month!