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Review: Shadow Study - Maria V. Snyder

Shadow Study
Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder
My rating: {★★★★☆} 

Young Adult Fantasy
Published March 1st 2015 by Harlequin Teen

Source: Borrowed

New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she's back with a new tale of intrigue.

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…

Praise for Maria V. Snyder:

“Doing full justice to the plot of this original and entertaining epic fantasy is impossible. Suffice it to say that the action is nonstop. The many characters leap to life, particularly Yelena, whose first-person narrative is riveting.”—RT Book Reviews on Fire Study

For lovers of the Chroicles of Ixia, this was an unexpected and yet completely welcome continuation of the Study series and centered once again on Yelena and Valek. I absolutely adored Poison Study (enough to make it one of my favourite YA fantasy books ever!) and Snyder's writing, her characters and her overall plot arc drew me in utterly, but even I have to admit that Magic Study and Fire Study were not her best work. Shadow Study, however, took me right back to everything that I loved about Poison Study.

Although I haven't read the Glass series of which the events took place between Fire Study and Shadow Study, I was easily able to get reacquainted with this world and catch up with all the characters again. I do think I will go back now and read the Glass series because after 6 Study books, I can't really imagine my life without this series anymore!

The world building is pretty epic with so many things being well thought out and intended from the very outset. There's a well planned and consistent system of magic, a diverse and believable social structure and an immense history and political movement. What I also love about this series is that magic isn't the be all and end all - it isn't all powerful and it's not the only means to an end. There's emerging technology and science and there's a whole host of non-magical characters who are kick-ass in their own ways.

In this trilogy there are multiple POV's and it was great to have chapters from Valek's perspective although I did have a slight issue with switching from first person with Yelena's chapters to third person with everyone else.

There's a certain chemistry about Valek that makes every scene he is present in something more, something better (this is probably also influenced by my love for him since Poison Study!!). We also got to see more of his background and motivations and a young Valek? That was definitely something to behold - he was a pretty terrifying tyke!

The relationship between Yelena and Valek is just fantastic to see and read. They are true soul mates, heart mates and equals. Their love and trust in each other is pretty incredible and they hold a place in my 'favourite couples of all time' list and (I've said this before) I love that Snyder doesn't use any unnecessary cliches or tropes to add drama to that relationship. In saying that though, there isn't a whole lot of romantic suspense or build up in this book because our main couple are already together. Their love story is served on the side but it was still satisfying to me. It's a strong and healthy relationship and I think that it's important for YA to have more examples of that.

This book completely reignited my love for Snyder's world. It's a well plotted character driven fantasy full of diversity and action. There's romance and friendship, humour and magic and it's brimming with positive role models.

Fire Study (Study #3) -- Night Study (Study #5/Soulfinders #2)→