Study like your life depended on it . . .

Today’s book review comes courtesy of my friend Jess, who gave me this lovely present – the Study Series by Maria V. Snyder. New books – yay!

The Study Series is a trilogy – Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study. I was a bit put off at first by the titles, although I’m not sure why. Using the word “study” seemed a strange way to make a series of books sound appealing, even to a hearty nerd like myself. After reading them, I understand why this was chosen, and besides, Jess had promised me that these books were worth it, so I gave it a go.

The story begins with Yelena, a young girl who is in prison for murder. She is pulled out of jail and given the option of becoming the food taster for the Commander, ruler of the land of Ixia. In order to do this, she has to learn all about poisons and how they change food (hence the name Poison Study). Ixia is very militaristic, complete with mandatory uniforms that every citizen has to wear.

One of Snyder’s strengths is her characters. Each one is complex and fully developed, which is not something I can say about every book I’ve read. Valek is the Chief of Security for Ixia and is very loyal to the Commander, but there is also a connection and concern for Yelena. Despite her prisoner status, there is a deeper relationship between them that blossoms into something beautiful. There’s also Ari and Janco, members of the Ixian military who nonetheless offer to help Yelena learn how to defend herself.

Everything about Yelena’s life is precarious. Every time she performs her “job,” she faces the possibility of a sudden, painful poisoning. She also has to hide the fact that she has magical powers, since magic has been outlawed in Ixia and every magician discovered is immediately put to death.

Snyder’s world building is also quite nice, giving us two distinctly different kingdoms. Yelena is from Sitia, which we get to see in the second book. Her family and clan actually live in harmony with nature and magic. Yelena has to learn how to control her abilities, trying to help her people while still feeling some loyalties for Valek and Ixia. A threat looms that could attack both kingdoms at Yelena is the one that has the potential to hold them both together.

I really enjoyed this series, although the third book didn’t hold my attention as much as the first two for some reason. It might have been because I had other things going on at the time, but all three books are definitely worth a read.

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