Spring Catch-Up

Once again, I’m trying a new layout for my wrap-ups, and I’m thinking of also switching them to being seasonal rather than monthly, at least at times (like now) when I’m not reading all that much… Let me know what you think! 😊 I did post a wrap-up of my March reads, so this post has everything that I read/listened to in April and May – a total of six novels, two audiobooks, and one (very short) comic:

FAVOURITE OF THE SEASON*

LIBRARY SCAVENGER HUNT PICKS

[REVIEW]

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I REVIEWED

[REVIEW]

OTHER BOOKS I READ

When Anxiety Attacks by Terian Koscik. A short, autobiographical comic about Koscik’s experience with anxiety, and her decision to see a therapist, along with a call for others not to feel ashamed or embarrassed to do the same, if they feel that it would help them. This was super-short, but it conveyed its message very well, and the cute artwork made it really fun to read, too. 😊
The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce. One of the later books in Pierce’s Emelan series, as well as my audiobook purchase for March. This is one of my favourite books of all time; I love the story and the characters, and how the four main characters have all changed after their years of separation make for a lot of tense, emotional re-thinking of their relationship. One thing that struck me this time through was how childish Sandry was at times in comparison to the others… Of course, she is a child, so it’s not entirely surprising, but I don’t remember ever really noticing it before… The performance was also excellent: Pierce took the narrator’s role, while the characters were each played by different voice actors. I did find that the actors who played Tris and Daja had quite similar voices (for a while I even thought that they were the same person), but they differ so much in personality that it was only occasionally difficult to tell which of them was speaking.
The Four Swans by Winston Graham. The sixth book in the Poldark series, which takes place in a small Cornish mining community, and follows the titular Poldark family – though the number of protagonists has been steadily increasing as the series goes on, and characters whose names are not Poldark have been becoming much more significant to the story. Obviously since this is a sequel, I can’t say too much about the plot, but it remains very exciting. I’m very glad that Morwenna’s plight has not been forgotten, and her younger sister Rowella is also an interesting addition to the cast; while I’m definitely rooting for her, and am frequently concerned for her, I’m still not entirely sure how much I like her… 😓 Ossie continues to be super-disgusting (as I talked about in another recent post), and the feud between Ross and George takes some unexpected turns in this book, too. I can’t say I found it quite as good as The Black Moon, but it was a little less anxiety-inducing to read… the Poldark series as a whole has a tendency towards drama that is probably not good for my heart, but definitely keeps me invested! 😋
Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell. A fantasy novel set in a society where magic-users, known as Jan’Tep, rule absolutely, while the magic-less Sha’Tep live lives of subservience, regardless of their own preference. Our protagonist Kellen is the son of a prominent Jan’Tep family, but with his sixteenth birthday rapidly approaching, and his magical abilities having been growing steadily weaker all his life, he has to come up with an incredible con in order to avoid the fate of becoming a Sha’Tep. I found the premise of this book really, really interesting; the tension between the different social classes, and the very real possibility of Kellen failing his trials both lent themselves to a potentially epic storyline – but while I did think that Kellen’s personal journey was very compelling, I found that the world-building wasn’t strong enough for me to feel any investment in the story beyond its immediate effects on Kellen… Ferius (probably the most important of the supporting cast) also felt quite convieniently-forced-in-for-the-convenience-of-the-plot at times, which was disappointing, although I did like her as a character. I did enjoy the book enough to continue with the series, though it’s a shame that (in my opinion) it didn’t quite live up to its potential.
Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell. The sequel to Spellslinger, in which Kellen leaves home with Ferius, and the squirrel-cat Reichis in hopes of learning the Argosi way, but is soon caught up by a mysterious girl called Seneira, who seems to have contracted Shadowblack as a disease, despite having no magic to speak of. The beginning of this book was quite slow, but I found myself really enjoying it once the plot got going (around the time they reach the University). The new characters that were introduced were all a lot of fun, and although I’m disappointed that the new setting meant that my world-building issues from Spellslinger haven’t been fixed yet, I remain hopeful that they may be eventually, as apparently this is going to be a six-book series. Book 3, Charmcaster, is out already, and hopefully I’ll have a chance to read it sometime soon. 😊
Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce. The first book in the Circle Opens quartet, which is set in Pierce’s Emelan universe, and follows Sandry a few years after the Circle of Magic books, now with her magical qualifications, and a student of her own to teach – whether she feels ready for it or not. I’ve read this book several times before, and still love the story and characters just as much as ever. I decided to listen to it as an audiobook this time (I’m slowly making my way through the whole of Audible’s collection of Tamora Pierce books), and it definitely wasn’t a mistake; the whole cast did an excellent job. 🎶

*Not including re-reads.

Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder (Spoiler-Free)

Some years ago, a devastating plague broke out across the fifteen realms, and healers were blamed for the quick spread of the disease. Avry of Kazan was never able to complete her training as a healer, yet she now finds herself the only one of her kind remaining, as the never-large guild has been mercilessly hunted down, and its members executed. And this could easily have been Avry’s fate, too, had it not been for the interference of Kerrick – her rescuer, but also her captor, and sworn to a prince she despises.

I really, really wanted to like this book. The premise sounded interesting, and I loved Poison Study, so I know I at least am capable of enjoying Snyder’s storytelling – though none of the books of hers that I’ve read have quite lived up to the brilliance of that first one. And Touch of Power did start out quite strong; Avry was quickly established as a likeable character, living in times that were difficult for everyone, but for healers in particular, their persecution entirely unjust – at least as far as Avry can discern. The nature of Avry’s healing powers – taking the injuries of others upon herself – also lends itself to the possibility for some great internal conflict, especially when combined with the deadly presence of the plague…

Sadly, however, the vast majority of the story was just boring. A good chunk of the book was spent with our heroes wandering around various different (indistinguishable) forests, and occasionally going on a short mission, or visiting a town, neither of which (usually) added anything to the overarching plot… And almost all the major twists and turns of the story were utterly predictable, from Avry’s romance to what was clearly supposed to be a shocking betrayal near the end of the book, but was in fact obvious from the moment the character in question first opened their mouth.

In fact, Touch of Power‘s biggest surprise for me ended up being the reason for Avry’s reluctance to heal Ryne, and that’s only because it seems so petty. Granted, rumour doesn’t paint Ryne as the nicest man in the world, but we’re led for a long time to believe that Avry has a powerful, personal reason to believe that the world is better off without him in it – and it would have to be a strong reason, because it’s made clear that she’s willing to risk her life to heal others, even those she doesn’t know.

The worldbuilding – one of the greatest strengths of Poison Study – was also sadly lacking here. There are thirteen different kingdoms in Touch of Power‘s world, and although Avry and her companions only travel through a handful of them, the lack of distinct environments is notable. I’ve already mentioned that there’s a lot bland forests, but they’re accompanied by bland mountains, towns and caves, with the only places that really managed to set themselves apart being the healers’ hidden archives, and Tohon’s palace, which is unusual by virtue of being the only single place that Avry explores in detail. I did see some potential in the Death and Peace Lilies (giant flowers that are identical in appearance, but one is harmless, while the other will eat you alive), but while they were conceptually very cool, they seemed mainly to act as a deus-ex-machina in execution.

As a protagonist, Avry was reasonably likeable, but somewhat inconsistent. I said earlier that I thought her reason for hating Ryne wasn’t worth the amount of energy that she put into it, but since she did hate him so much, I found it rather frustrating that she seemed to change her mind about healing him so easily – and that malleability was a trend throughout the book…

In terms of character development, she (and Kerrick) had a token amount, but the supporting cast were entirely forgettable (it’s been a few weeks since I finished this book, and the only reason I remembered Avry’s name was because it was in the series’ title; everyone else I had to look up). Two of Kerrick’s companions – Belen and Flea – had a decent chunk of screen time, but Loren and Quain could have been removed entirely without consequence to the story progression or even character interactions. Lack of screen time was a problem for a lot of the other characters, too, as they tended to flit in and out of the story quite rapidly, leaving little time for the reader to get to know them (or even want to)… Except for Tohon, who was incredibly one-dimensional, but did at least feel genuinely threatening.

[A brief aside about Tohon: Why does his power make him so irresistible to Avry? Presumably it’s due to some kind of reaction between both of their magic, because it doesn’t seem like attraction/mind control is anything that would be intrinsically linked to a person’s life-force. And why does he even want Avry to sleep with him so badly? Just to annoy Kerrick? I wouldn’t be surprised, but the weird rivalry between the royals in this book was another thing that annoyed me, mainly because I found the boarding-school-for-royals idea so out of place in this medieval-style setting… Anyway, my point is that Snyder spent far too much of this part of the book on Avry trying to resist Tohon’s advances, which really derailed the (already kind of all over the place) story, right as it was supposed to be reaching its climax.]

Given everything I’ve said so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if you all thought I hated Touch of Power, but I didn’t; I just found it disappointing, and a big part of that disappointment is my own fault for expecting too much. It was a quick and easy read, and never completely unenjoyable, and although it left me feeling mostly apathetic, fans of Snyder’s other books (as opposed to just Poison Study) may be more inclined to like this one, too. And that glimmer of potential from the book’s original premise is still there, unrealised, so I won’t say that there’s no hope for the series going forward – even if I’m not likely to stick with it myself.

Burn, Rewrite, Reread

Kiss, Marry, Kill was always the playground game at school that I was too embarrassed to play, but as torturous as it is to consider burning a wonderful book (or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, reread a terrible one), it’s still less excruciating than having to talk about – 😮 – boys. That said, I’ve been looking forward to this post ever since I was tagged, since it looked super-fun! 😀 I’m not sure who originally came up with this idea, but I was tagged by the wonderful Eve Messenger, whose post you should definitely check out, too! 🙂

Now, onto the tough decisions!

Rules:

  • Randomly choose 3 books you’ve read. (Use the ‘random’ option on your Goodreads “read” shelf.)
  • For each group of three books, decide which book you’d burn, rewrite, or reread.
  • Repeat until you complete three rounds (or five!).

ROUND 1

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Diana Wynne Jones//Howl's Moving Castle Hans Magnus Enzensberger//The Number Devil

BURN: Howl’s Moving Castle! 😥 This book is so awesome, but I just… love the other two more…

REWRITE: The Number Devil, I guess, though I don’t know what I’d change… (This was a really tough round, in case you couldn’t tell.)

REREAD: Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone is too perfect to change in any way, and I’m always up for a reread! 😀

ROUND 2

Trudy Brasure//In Consequence Stormy Smith//Bound by Duty Maria V. Snyder//Assassin Study

BURN: Bound by Duty. There was very little about this book that I found redeemable – as you’ll see if you read my review! 😉

REWRITE: In Consequence could stand to have a bit less fluff, and a bit more plot…

REREAD: Assassin Study. I gave this book 3 stars, so I must’ve liked it, but I can’t actually remember anything that happened in it.

ROUND 3

April Genevieve Tucholke//Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea James Patterson//The Angel Experiment Tamora Pierce//Wolf-Speaker

BURN: Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea, which was interesting, but not quite what I was hoping it would be…

REWRITE: The Angel Experiment, maybe? I actually really loved this book, but not as much as Wolf-Speaker.

REREAD: Wolf-Speaker is almost perfection; I’d be willing to re-read it at any time. 🙂

Tagging:

The Bookish Alphabet Tag

This tag was created by Mariana at fireheartbooks, and I was tagged by the wonderful Loreva from La Book Dreamer, whose blog you should all definitely check out! The goal is to pick out a book for every letter of the alphabet, and the only rule is that you need to own (or to have previously owned and read) every book on the list. You also don’t need to include articles, e.g. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess would count for “C” rather than “A”.

So, without further ado:

MY BOOKISH ALPHABET

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Daughter of Storms by Louise Cooper

Emma by Jane Austen

Fire by Kristin Cashore

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Half Wild by Sally Green

The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Let It Snow by John Green, Lauren Myracle & Maureen Johnson

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

River Daughter by Jane Hardstaff

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

xxxHolic by CLAMP

Young Blood by Meg Cabot

Zombie-Loan by Peach-Pit

Phew. That was a lot of books! ^^’ But I’m pleased to say that I have read all of these books, and I still own them all except for Unravel Me, which I gave to one of my cousins, and River Daughter, which I donated (it was a good book, I just couldn’t imagine myself reading it again). And I did have to break out my manga collection for “X” and “Z” – something I’d been hoping I wouldn’t have to do – but I regret nothing. 😎

I tag:

 

Upcoming Releases: Winter 2015-16

Autumn was a pretty hectic (and exciting!) season for new books, but things seemed to have calmed down a little now… That said, there are still a few things coming out in the next few months that I’m really excited for, so without further ado, here are my most anticipated new releases of December, January and Februaury!

[NB: All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 15/11/2015.]

Den Patrick//The Girl on the Liar's ThroneThe Girl on the Liar’s Throne by Den Patrick (21st January)

The third book in the Erebus Sequence, a gothic fantasy series that I picked up earlier this year on a whim and was blown away by. The second book left off on a serious cliffhanger, though, so I’m really excited for this one – which, in addition to being the continuation of an incredibly intriguing and dramatic storyline, is also told from the perspective of Anea, one of the most fascinating characters in the first two books.

Alison Goodman//The Dark Days ClubThe Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (21st January)

The first book in a new series by the author of Eon  and Eona (which I haven’t read, but which I’ve heard amazing things about). The Lady Helen series is a fantasy adventure set in Regency England, and featuring a demon-hunting heroine.

Julie Murphy//Dumplin'Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (28th January)

A book I’ve been hearing a lot about in the last couple of months – Dumplin’ has generated a lot of buzz! This is a contemporary novel about the daughter of a former beauty queen, who, despite being overweight, has always been confident and comfortable in her own skin. Until she meets a guy… So in order to prove to herself, and to the world, that she’s beautiful just the way she is, she decides to enter a beauty pageant herself.

Maria V. Snyder//Night StudyNight Study by Maria V. Snyder (25th February)

The next book in the Chronicles of Ixia series, which I’ve been really enjoying lately. I’m not caught up, so I’ll likely not be reading this for a little while, but I thought I’d share it anyway. 🙂 Night Study is the second book in the Soulfinders trilogy (which is the third Chronicles of Ixia trilogy), and follows Yelena on her continuing adventures.

November Wrap-Up

A productive month! And one that included a lot of books that I was very excited to read. 😀 In total, I read 8 novels, 2 novellas, and 3 graphic novels, which is more than I’ve read in a single month in quite some time (or so it feels, anyway). I’m also definitely out of my reading slump at this point, and I’ve been enjoying getting back into my books~ ❤ Here’s what I read in November:

Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir//The Avalon Chronicles vol. 1The Avalon Chronicles, Volume 1: Once in a Blue Moon by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir. The first in a graphic novel series that follows Aeslin, a girl from our world who is one day transported via a magical book to Avalon – the setting of a story that her parents used to read to her as a child, and where she has an epic destiny waiting for her. This book was super, super-fun! The characters are all great, and the art (by Emma Vieceli) is beautiful – and I’m enjoying the story even more than I was expecting to (which was quite a lot already)!4 starsNunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir//The Avalon Chronicles, vol. 2The Avalon Chronicles, Volume 2: The Girl & the Unicorn by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir. The second instalment, in which Aeslin gets serious about her destiny, Cassidy & Will are awesome, and a whole load of game-changing info gets dropped. I’m really, really excited to see what’s going to happen next! 😀4 starsMargaret Atwood//The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The bleak and oddly dispassionate tale of Offred, a Handmaid living in the early years of the Republic of Gilead, whose only purpose is to conceive a child. It’s a story I’ve been meaning to read for some time, and it definitely didn’t disappoint – the story is wonderfully creepy and mysterious, and piecing together the origins of the Republic of Gilead, and how Offred ended up where she is, is incredibly interesting. The historical notes section at the end (written in the form of a speech delivered by a fictional Professor of Gileadean Studies, or some such field) served as a really great epilogue to Offred’s rather open-ended narrative, answering a lot of the questions I had about Gilead and about Offred herself, while leaving other threads of the story appropriately unresolved… much in the way of life itself. A ponderous read – I suspect I’ll still be thinking about it for some time.4 starsEmma Vieceli//Dragon Heir Reborn vol. 1Dragon Heir Reborn, Volume 1 by Emma Vieceli. A fantasy adventure comic which follows the four Dragon Heirs – people fated to carry the different aspects of the sacred dragon Spiratu – as they come together to prepare for the Rite of Transcendence. The art is beautiful, and the story intriguing, if a little confusing at the beginning. It suffers, however, from a rather overcrowded cast: There are five main characters, as well as a few other important supporting characters, and they and the main villain are all introduced in reasonably quick succession, without being developed much (though they all seem fairly likeable – villain excepted!). The setting is similarly flawed, as the characters seem to jump rapidly from place to place, without ever exploring or explaining the culture of their world much. It does show some promise, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this story is going.3 starsMaria V. Snyder//Poison StudyPoison Study by Maria V. Snyder. The first book in the Study trilogy, which makes up the first part of the Chronicles of Ixia high fantasy series. This book follows Yelena, who’s been imprisoned for murder, but on the day that she’s due to be executed, she is instead offered the chance to become the Commander’s (the leader of Ixia’s military dictatorship) new food taster. I loved this story so much: The characters were wonderful, the plot was gripping, and I was fascinated by Ixia’s social structure – which could very easily have had a dystopian bent, except for the fact that it was actually stable and functional. Given that this is a YA (or at least YA-ish) novel, I also spent a lot of time waiting for Obvious-Love-Interest-Anon to show up, but I was really pleasantly surprised with the romance that Snyder decided on, and with the way that it played out. Would definitely recommend. 😀5 starsFrances Hardinge//Cuckoo SongCuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge. My Library Scavenger Hunt pick for this month; a mystery/horror story that follows a young girl who crawls out of a river one day with no memory of how she came to be in it in the first place, and finds that she’s no longer the person she remembers being before. I really enjoyed this book, and have written a mini-review of it here, for your reading pleasure~ 😉4 starsMaria V. Snyder//Magic StudyMagic Study by Maria V. Snyder. The sequel to Poison Study, in which Yelena finds herself in Sitia. Still very enjoyable, though not quite so much as the first book, which is a shame. The social contrast between Ixia and Sitia was really interesting, and there were several cool new characters who were introduced in this book – I really liked Yelena’s relationships with both Leif and Cahil, though I felt that Cahil’s character development took a serious turn for the worse towards the end… The book’s only major flaw was that Sitia is such a big place, with lots of different cultures and traditions – the magicians of the Magician’s Keep, the jungle-dwelling Zaltanas, and the Sandseeds of the Avibian Plains, as well as various other breakaway groups – and they were all introduced in such rapid succession that it was difficult to really get a feel for them, or to get attached to any of the new characters.3 stars

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone illustrated Robin Hobb//Assassin's Apprentice Jandy Nelson//I'll Give You the Sun

At this point in the month, the Anti-Bullying Readathon came around. It lasted a full week, during which I managed to read three books that featured bullying: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (illustrated edition) by J.K. RowlingAssassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb, and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. You can see my thoughts on each of those books by looking at my #AntiBullyReads wrap up.

5 stars 5 stars 4 stars

Maria V. Snyder//Fire StudyFire Study by Maria V. Snyder. The third book in the Chronicles of Ixia series, and the conclusion to the Study trilogy, wherein Yelena has to confront the Daviians, and negotiate a peace between Ixia and Sitia. The beginning of this book was quite frustrating, in much the same way that Magic Study was, but thankfully it picked up towards the middle of the book, and the story ended on a high point. Definitely an improvement on Magic Study, though still lacking the spark that made Poison Study so fantastic. I posted a full review of this trilogy (and the two related novellas) yesterday, which you can read here.4 starsMaria V. Snyder//Assassin StudyAssassin Study by Maria V. Snyder. A short story set between Poison Study and Magic Study, which follows Valek as he hunts down an assassin who’s after Yelena. This was a fun, quick read, and it was interesting to see Valek’s perspective, but not really a necessary addition to the main story.3 starsMaria V. Snyder//Power StudyPower Study by Maria V. Snyder. Another novella, this time following Ari and Janco after the events of Fire Study, when they return to Ixia and are faced with a talented but suspicious new recruit. I liked this one a bit better than the last, and Ari and Janco’s banter was very entertaining. Both of these stories can be read for free on Snyder’s website.3 stars

Series Review: The Chronicles of Ixia: Study Trilogy by Maria V. Snyder (Spoiler-Free)

 POISON STUDY / MAGIC STUDY / FIRE STUDY4 stars

Maria V. Snyder//Poison StudySUMMARY

Having been locked up in the Commander’s (the leader of the Ixian military dictatorship) dungeon for murder for the last year, Yelena is awaiting her execution, when she’s approached with an intriguing opportunity: The chance to become the Commander’s food taster instead. Of course, she accepts. But what follows is more than just an exercise of tasting and identifying poisons – because Ixia’s capital is packed full of secrets and plots, and there may even be a war brewing with Sitia.

The Chronicles of Ixia is made up of three trilogies, of which the Study trilogy is the first. It comprises three novels and two additional novellas: Poison Study (#1), Assassin Study (#1.5), Magic Study (#2), Fire Study (#3) and Power Study (#3.5).

Maria V. Snyder//Magic StudySTORY [3/5]

The story is something of a mixed bag: Poison Study is incredible, and follows Yelena as she learns to navigate the Commander’s court and all the political manoeuvring that’s going on within it, while at the same time coming to terms with her crime, and the events that drove her to commit it. It’s fast-paced (but not too fast-paced) and fascinating, and makes for an incredibly engrossing read.

On the other hand, Magic Study brings several new story threads into play, and while they’re all quite interesting individually, the quick pacing of the story means that they’re frequently tangled up, and I often found it quite difficult to follow everything that was going on. This problem was fixed towards the end of Fire Study, but it still impacted my enjoyment of the series as a whole quite a bit.

Maria V. Snyder//Fire StudyCHARACTERS [4/5]

Yelena has all the hallmarks of my favourite kind of protagonist: She’s sympathetic and relatable; suspicious of kindness or good fortune; yet still loyal, and driven by a desire to do what she believes is right, regardless of the cost. This last trait is also a major flaw in her character, though, because she’s also very convinced that her way is the only right way of doing things (even though they’re clearly not), which often lands her in huge trouble… and which could, at times, be rather irritating.

Of the secondary characters, the most important is Valek, the Commander’s chief of security (a.k.a. personal assassin) and Yelena’s teacher. He’s definitely one of the more interesting characters in the series, as he maintains an air of mystery for much of it – it’s always difficult to tell what’s going on in his head – and because (as seen through Yelena’s eyes) he often seems infallible, it’s always a bit of a shock when he shows a more human side.

Maria V. Snyder//Assassin Study

Other characters include: Ari and Janco, two guards that Yelena befriends, and who have a really great dynamic both with her and with each other – the novella Power Study is told from their perspective, and makes for a fun aside to the main story. In the first book there’s also Rand, the Commander’s cook, who befriends Yelena early on in the story for reasons of his own; and later on we’re also introduced to Irys, a mysterious Sitian magician who has snuck into Ixia.

In Magic Study, there’s a whole slew of new characters introduced, but only a few of them really stood out: Leif, who started off really annoying, but grew on me as the story went on; and Cahil, who was the opposite – he initially seemed as if he was going to be really interesting, but as the series went on, his characterisation became shallower and shallower, until he had about the depth of a puddle. Lastly, there was Moon Man, a Sandseed magician (called a Story Weaver) who took it upon himself to teach Yelena, but mostly tried to do this in the form of cryptic remarks that he refused to explain. I never quite managed to figure out Moon Man’s character, but I did find myself liking him, and the relationship that he shared with Yelena.

Maria V. Snyder//Power StudyROMANCE [4/5]

Given that this is a YA series, I was expecting a romance of some kind (maybe even a love triangle!) and I therefore spent much of my time while reading Poison Study waiting for Stereotypical Love Interest to show his face. So I was pleasantly surprised when he didn’t – or, at least, not in the way that I had expected.

There is a romance, of course (or I wouldn’t have bothered including a romance section in this review), but it’s built-up very slowly, and the love interest in question (who I won’t name for spoilery reasons) was masterfully chosen. I’ve (again) knocked one star off this section because of Magic Study, where Yelena and Love Interest’s relationship seemed to stagnate rather (there was very little development at all), but that issue (as with many of my problems with that book) was thankfully fixed in Fire Study.

WORLD-BUILDING [4/5]

Ixia fascinates me – it’s one of the most interesting literary settings I’ve ever come across. It’s essentially a military dictatorship, and it was seized by force from the now-extinct royal family many years before Poison Study starts (but still well within living memory). Citizens are required to wear uniforms at all times that reveal their occupation and place of origin; they need to get permission from the General of whichever Military District they live in if they want to move, or get married; and various other liberties are restricted. Bearing that in mind, it would seem almost natural for the story to have major dystopian themes – and yet, Ixian society actually works. A certain amount of corruption exists within the ranks of the Commander’s Generals, but because the Commander himself is not corrupt, he is able to keep it in check, and the Ixian people don’t appear to feel oppressed at all.

Sitia – the neighbouring country where the majority of Magic Study and Fire Study takes place – provides an interesting contrast to Ixia. Because Ixia is all that Yelena knows, she sees Sitia as an alien place, and all its customs are foreign to her – even though its society is much closer to something you’d expect to find in the real world. Sitia is vast, however, and Yelena spends much of her time there travelling, so the different areas (and they are all very different) are never really fleshed out in the way that Ixia was in Poison Study. Because of this, I felt that I could only give four stars for world-building, rather than the five that I would give to Poison Study individually.

WRITING [3/5]

The writing is mostly solid, but nothing special. As I’ve already said, I had significant issues with the pacing in the second and third books, which brought the ranking down a star, and Snyder also occasionally slipped into a bizarre style that seemed to be summarising the story rather than actually telling it – though thankfully this wasn’t something that happened very often.

OVERALL IMPRESSION [4/5]

A fantastic debut novel with a sadly weak follow-up, though the story does pick up in the second half of Fire Study, and ends on a definite high note. Poison Study on its own is a five-star read, or close to it, but the two sequels (and Magic Study in particular) drag the overall rating down a little. As regards the two novellas… they’re fun but not essential, and I wouldn’t recommend bothering with them unless you’re particularly invested in the characters of either Valek (Assassin Study), or Ari and Janco (Power Study).

RECOMMENDED FOR…

Fans of Tamora Pierce’s work, particularly the Beka Cooper trilogy, and readers who liked Vin in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy will probably also like Yelena. Poison Study will also appeal to fans of dystopian literature for its setting, though its sequels may not.