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)


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.