"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R Martin

29 January 2015

Shadow Study - Maria V Snyder REVIEW

Published by Mira Ink/Harlequin

When I first heard that Maria V Snyder was releasing another Study series I squealed. I squealed high and loud full of excitement and anticipation, unashamed of my absolute love for her amazing fantasy stories (you should have heard me when I was accepted for this on Netgalley!). SHADOW STUDY was all that I hoped for and more. From the first page I comfortably immersed myself back into the magical world. It was as if I had never left. Yelaena and Valek felt like old friends and we were catching up after some time apart. And boy, what a catching up it was.

This book kicks off straight away and you're thrown into the thick of it from the word go. Yelaena is attacked whilst riding to meet with Valek for a romantic and well needed holiday together. An arrow shaft nicks her shoulder but all seems okay. Phew. But then Valek has to obey orders to return to the Commanders side (after a steamy night together!) and all hell breaks loose. Well, not as dramatic as that but Yelaena develops an extreme fever, changing from hot to cold and back again. Once she overcomes this fever, realisation hits her and smacks her full in the face; she has no magic. Her magic is GONE. She's left vulnerable and potentially weak without her magic, something she has depended on wholeheartedly over the years. And the story just flourishes from that point onward. Valek has to deal with assassination attempts, his job security and trust issues up in Ixia. He also has to deal with the Commanders orders to deal with a smuggling issue, enlisting Ari and Janco and two new characters, Onora and Gerick to sniff out the problem and unearth the smugglers. Meanwhile, Yelaena throws herself into finding answers for her blocked magic and it takes her on one hell of a journey where she meets old friends and comes face to face with old, revenge seeking foes.

I loved how easy it was to dive back in this world with this fantastic set of characters, its political intrigue and undertones of magic and danger. I devoured it in just a few days hungry for more Yelaena, Valek and their complicated but fascinating world. SHADOW STUDY was a fast paced, action packed extravaganza. A strong sense of adventure just permeated throughout. The complication - Yelaena losing her magic - was a genius idea that really added a layer of complexity and suspense to the story. The story flowed naturally and didn’t seem forced at all or as if Snyder was grasping at straws to create another story. No, it was an imaginative and compelling addition to the Study series that had a new, intriguing storyline with some magnificent character development and a spectacular world. Most importantly - SHADOW STUDY was FUN. It's full of humour. It doesn't forget to be light hearted and fun despite its dark and deadly tone.

I loved how the story kept me guessing. Seriously I'd be there making a cup of tea only to cry out "IT'S HER. SHE DID IT" or sit deep in thought trying to figure out the ins and outs of the story. SHADOW STUDY is all consuming, so entrancing and it had me hooked from the start. Now, lets talk about that ending. Talk about a cliffhanger. Those last few words just left me reeling. Having to wait until NEXT YEAR (!!!) for the second book is going to be agony. After finishing a thousand questions instantly popped into my mind; How will this effect things? What will Yelaena and Valek do? Will it have a good/bad impact on their relationship? So many questions and no answers for a year *SIGH*

I know they're fictional. I know they have magic. But the characters come across so REAL. Snyder is a pro when it comes to characerisation, creating realistic individuals that breathe life and soul into the story. They make it come alive with their fierce personalities and passionate natures. I'm so invested in their lives and stories, their problems and secrets. Every laugh, every cry I'm right there besides them experiencing it all. Yelaena and Valek are possibly my two favourite characters of hers (but then there's Avry and Kerrick from the Healer series - argh so hard to choose!) and to embark on another adventure with them was just amazing. The triple perspective was a great idea on Snyder's part. I LOVE Yelaena and her sassy voice, but to get inside Valek's head and bear witness to his thoughts and feelings was great AND then to also read from Janco's perceptive was an added treat.

Valek's chapters were so intriguing. We got to witness his past and how it's shaped and molded him into person that he is today. We get to see through his eyes the events that have made him the dangerous but fiercely loyal Valek, who killed the King and became the Commanders right hand man. We also get to witness the strong ties of his friendship with the Commander, held firm with loyalty and respect; a very, very important relationship in this book. Janco's chapters felt like the light relief of the story as his voice was undoubtedly cheery even in the deadliest of situations. I loved his strong relationship with Ari and their bickering just gave the story that comic relief it needed. Their scenes instantly dispersed any tension and instead filled the story with a light heartedness that was well appreciated. Also his interactions with Onora was hilarious as you see her struggle to contain her utter puzzlement and annoyance towards this sarcastic, cheeky guy. Onora herself was a complete mystery and a definite contender for the most fierce individual in the series (sorry Yelaena!) but I'm still unsure of where her loyalties lie. We got to see Yelaena more vulnerable in this book but it just made her even more determined to prove her worth and search even more fervently for answers. She's such a relatable protagonist and just like many of the characters, I've come to care for her dearly and I'm so excited for whatever is in store for her in the next book!

Ixia and Sitia feel like home. Diving back into this world was so easy and I instantly felt like I was there amongst the green leafy canopy of the forest, smelling the earthy scent of the trees and plants around me; feeling the warm glow of the fire whilst nestled in a chair, brandy in hand listening to the Commander and Valek talk politics; feeling a warm rush of air on horseback as the Avibian plains rushed by - everything was alive and tactile and magical. This world is so real and familiar to me despite being a fictional and fantastical place. That's how good Snyder's world-building and writing is. It's vivid and rich with detail allowing you to experience the world wholeheartedly for yourself. That's the magical part don't you think? Reading some words on pages and imagining such amazing worlds and places as if they were right in front of you. Maria V Snyder, I salute you.

So yeah this book is a strong 4.5* but there were one or two things that played on my mind. The story is engaging, full of intrigue and action but sometimes the fast paced narrative was just that - too fast paced. Don't get me wrong I love how the narrative sped along, taking me on this roller coaster ride but at times it felt like key points and revelations lacked some shock factor as they were thrown into the story without any real build up or suspense. Take the reveal of Yelaena's attacker. I nearly missed it. Seriously it was a real "SAY WHAT?" moment and I had to re-read the section to fully understand what was happening. I want an intense and suspense filled build up and a dramatic revelation that hits me out of nowhere. Although the revelation itself left me reeling. I didn't see that one coming I must say.

ANOTHER THING. Only after reading this did I realise that the Glass trilogy happened before this and it would have been a really good idea if I'd picked that up first. I didn't feel too lost and it isn't absolutely necessary to read it beforehand but I do think it would have helped me with some of the characters and situations to fully comprehend their stories and what was going on. Oh well, it's just an amazing excuse to read it from the beginning starting with the book that propelled me on this journey of magic and intrigue in the first place; Poison Study. A definite win on my part.

SHADOW STUDY was so much fun. Snyder has managed to create a satisfying addition to the previous series and I love the direction that this story has taken. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in the series although it seems like light-years away. This book had such an intoxicating and vivid world, a fantastic array of characters and a heart stopping plot. Just knowing that this book is the start of something new, a whole new series has me content for now. I'm so glad Snyder decided to continue on with these beloved characters and I can't wait to see what lies in wait for the characters in the next book. Definitely, definitely pick this book up. Fans of Throne of Glass and especially Poison Study will love this book and I 100% urge you all to give it a read. NOW. 

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