Title: Magic Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Published: 2006, Luna
Y'all know how much I was looking forward to this book. After reading Poison Study and loving it, I was completely impatient to start this one. But I tried to keep cool, because I'm always wary of sequels, and especially wary of middle books of trilogies. Strange in-between stories that are so often unsatisfying. And there's nothing worse than being disappointed by a book that didn't live up to your high expectations. But I'm happy to report, that I loved this one just as much as the first. YAY!
At the end of Poison Study, Yelena is exiled from Ixia due to her burgeoning magical abilities. With her magical mentor Irys, Yelena heads south to Sitia to be reunited with the family that she was kidnapped from 14 years previously. She meets her parents and brother, as well as the rest of her clan, who all live in treehouses. [Cool!] The reunion is marred however, by the reactions of her brother, Leif, who is resentful and hostile toward Yelena for reasons she doesn't really understand. Soon Yelena leaves her family and travels to the Citadel, the capital of Sitia, to start her magical training. On the way, she is attacked by a man named Cahil, who claims to be the last living member of the old royal family of Ixia. He thinks Yelena is an Ixian spy and is determined to use Yelena in his quest to retake Ixia.
The plot tears off from there at a high pace, and a lot happens. The action is really nonstop. Yelena must deal with all the strange Sitian customs, her magical training, the distrust of most everyone, and a rogue magician who is killing young girls. It takes all of Yelena's ingenuity, strength and magical abilities to make it through it all. She does has some help from a certain someone who appears with an Ixian diplomatic envoy. The yummy Valek.
Where to start with why I liked this book? Yelena, who was a tough chick in the first book, gets even ass-kickier. She is so independent, and even though she now has friends and family, she still goes her own way and takes charge of any situation. But I do love the way that she and Valek are somehow magically connected and he is able to help her from afar when she needs it. Valek knows how strong she is and lets her take what risks she needs to, but he's always there watching, ready to help.
I thought Yelena's reunion with her family was well done. The varying reactions of everyone seemed very genuine. Yelena's anxiety at meeting them, her parents' relief and wonder, and her brother's guilt and confusion all rang very true to me. I love all the secondary characters--the new ones: Cahil, Moon Man, Esau and Perl, the master magicians, and the horses. And old friends who return from the first book, especially Ari and Janco.
This is the kind of book that as I was reading I made myself read slowly, so that I could savor each page. You know you've got a good book when that happens. :) It's a world that I will enjoy returning to on future re-reads.
And now I can't wait for the third book in the trilogy, Fire Study. It's out sometime next year. *sigh*