Series: Study #4
Once, only her own life hung in the balance…
When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She 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, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job—and his life—are in danger.
As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked.And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive.
4 Drink Me Potions
Oh, Yelena, I didn’t think it was possible, but I had forgotten just how much I adore your adventures.
Shadow Study was the novel that fans like me have been waiting for since the conclusion of Fire Study several years ago. With the crazy antics Yelena and her friends just seem to be drawn into, this novel is both reminiscent of her old adventures as well as introduces some new ones.
First off, it’s not totally necessary to have read the previous Study books or Glass books by Maria. However, with the huge amount of characters from both those series showing up in all sorts of roles in this book, it’s definitely a bigger treat for you to read if you knew who they were. It still makes sense even without that context as Snyder worked hard to make it understandable for first time readers, so no worries if you don’t wanna read all of that in one go.
Written with 3 POVs (I know, what a treat, right?), the story quickly develops from all different angles. Yelena is just a magnet for trouble, which starts literally from the first page. Her adventures in Sitia are constantly threaded with suspense as some unknown danger is out stalking her (once again cause honestly, when is she NOT in danger?).
Her and Valek, oh dear Valek, are separated (that’s not a surprise there, either, huh?), but it doesn’t feel so bad as with Magic Study or Fire Study because we get to see what he’s up to in his own POV. Back in Ixia, something iffy is going on up there with the Commander. There are just subtle hints but you can totally tell something bad is brewing up in this country. Meanwhile, we finally get more than a glimpse into Valek’s backstory. Oh my, how he became an assassin and how’d he met Ambrose. Oh, and how’d he fulfilled his duty as the King Killer. Fangirling here.
With all this intensity from both those POVs, good ol’ Janco gets his own POV as well. I suppose out of the power twins, Janco is the funnier friend and so he makes for great comic relief. Snyder’s characteristic sarcastic humour was at its highest with him, although the others also had their own moments.
Favourite cameos and secondary characters pop up throughout. My personal favourites were Yelena’s brother Leif (he surprisingly has a very similar humour going for him as Janco) and the Sandseed Story Weavers. Those who loved the Glass series (unfortunately, not me) would appreciate the appearance of major characters like Opal and Devlen.
So with a fulfilling adventure in both Sitia and Ixia (back in Valek’s memories), as-expected crazy action scenes, loveable characters and a sense of nostalgia, Shadow Study provided a great start to a new line of danger Yelena the Soulfinder has to face. It’s no wonder I can’t help but use Maria V. Snyder’s works as my gold standard for fantasy adventures. They suck you in until you never quite want to leave it, and for good reason too. I’d say this made for a wonderful installment in the series, especially after so many years.
Shadow Study is the book that all you diehard Study fans are wishing for. It lives up to this claim, as even I, a long time fan, can’t help but relive the wonders of being in the land of Ixia and Sitia. Yelena’s adventures are just as crazy and dangerous, but good thing her good friends are always around to have her back. The characters still leap to life and the world building is familiar and well-developed. For first time fans, it’s not completely necessary to read other books before it, but it definitely amplifies the experience by a lot. I definitely recommend you read this, especially if you loved the first three Study books. It’s worth the wait after all these years.