Shadow Study (Soulfinders #1, Study #4, The Chronicles of Ixia #7)
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Publication: February 24th, 2015
Publisher: Mira Books
Format: Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Paranormal
Read: January 2017
New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she’s back with a new tale of intrigue.
Once, only her own life hung in the balance…
Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she’d 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, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek’s job and his life are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret—or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is—while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.
Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous…
Plot – 4 out of 5 stars
It’s no surprise how much I love this series so obviously, I have an amazing time when reading. These books tend to be filled with non-stop action and drama and this book is no exception. There’s suspense and mystery and intrigue. This book is filled with dangerous situations and the characters are bombarded with problems the entire time I have to say that while this series is marketed as YA, the grand majority of the characters are adults which definitely affects the themes explored here.
Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
Unlike the previous trilogies I’ve read from this author, this book has a lot more POV’s. It was really awesome to see inside the minds of some of my favorite side characters and I love how distinct each voice felt. The writing is really fast paced, engaging and addicting. It’s detailed and descriptive and super easy to read through. The magic system is complicated and tends to have continuous holes but it’s also so freaking entertaining that I can’t complain haha.
Characters – 5 out of 5 stars
All of these characters are basically my babies and I don’t think I could think critically about them even if I tried. So forgive me while the rest of this review is basically me gushing about these guys with a few exceptions.
Yelena is my favorite character of all time and I am so incredibly happy to be back in her head in this book! She’s much more vulnerable and scared than I’ve ever seen her before, this book definitely takes her out of her comfort zone and makes her confront the way she’s lived for so long. She’s worried, protective but definitely just as reckless as she’s always been which yes, is still as frustrating as it’s always been haha. I’m looking forward to seeing how she grows throughout the rest of the series because she’s in a completely new situation now and it’s going to be challenging for her.
There’s various side characters that are becoming more prominent in this book, from hearing from their points of views for the first time or to being introduced to them for the first time. Valek is my favorite, I honestly can’t quite grasp how old he is in this book, it’s insanity. But I loved seeing inside his head and his growth though! I don’t think I’ve ever seen his explore his emotions as much before, it was great. Janco is one of my favorites in this series because he’s just so hilarious with a side of annoying. He’s that character that brings comic relief and he does it well. Finally, I’ll mention Onora who’s a brand new character who throws a wrench in the entire dynamic of the team and that was really interesting. She’s defensive and guarded so I hope to learn more about her in the next few books.
It’s no secret that this was going to be a book that I love because it’s part of my favorite series of all time, but I did have some issues with some of the choices the author made with the characters.
The plot is full of mystery. We follow Yelena, whose life has only gotten more dangerous since becoming a poison taster. She gets attacked and her magic is blocked away and she has to find out what happened without alerting her enemies of her weakness. I’m glad that there’s several POVs in this book. There’s so much going on plot wise (which is no surprise, that’s how these books are) that it would’ve been much harder to keep up with everything with that was happening. There’s various different plot lines and things that are happening simultaneously. There’s a lot of action, there’s a lot of drama, and there’s also so much more new information. One of my favorite things about this series is the fact that we get to grow with the characters. This book is sold and marketed as young adult but the grand majority of the characters (all the main ones) are adults. Even one of my favorites is in his forties. So the kinds of things happening in this book are adult in nature. The drama I mentioned s beyond what most YA books have in their books and I liked reading about these kinds of older people problems. One of them being I have acquired an entire lifetime full of enemies in my job and now I have no magic to defend myself. That’s some heavy shit haha. It brought a whole new dimension to the regular dynamic that’s always been a part of the series. These crazy impossible situations that always seem hopeless and somehow when you reach the end, things get resolved. It’s always a roller coaster ride and that’s one of the reasons I love this series. But at the same time, you get in a comfortable rhythm and yet, just when you think this world can’t get anymore complicated or complex, the author throws a wrench into the system and it does. Everything is so intense and so crazy right now that I flew through the entire book and could’ve finished it in a day if I wanted to. The ending was so unfair! It’s one of those cliffhangers that hit you deep in the feels and you don’t even know what to do with yourself. I had to start the second book immediately even though it was like two in the morning. I have no regrets though.
Yelena is one of my favorite characters of all time, but the poor girl can never catch a break. She’s always having such a hard time at it. The past few years of her life have taught her to deal with things on her own. She’s always taken obstacles in stride and tried to do the best for everyone that she can. However, this particular situation is taking her out of her comfort zone and making her vulnerable. That is terrifying for her but she’s also so used to being independent and self-sufficient that she becomes reckless which is so frustrating! She’s always been smart and brave but sometimes she throws herself into situations thinking that she knows the best way to solve the problems happening, but there’s so many people involved and it doesn’t really occur to her to ask for assistance. I love that she’s growing and that she has the space to develop more as a character.
I’ll talk briefly about some of the side characters. Valek is one of my favorites, I love Yelena and him together, they’re my favorite ship of all time. In this book, however, his hard exterior is cracking. He’s much more worried and more protective than usual. We get to learn more about his past which is something I’ve always been intrigued by and it was so amazing to read about! Janco’s point of view was kind of a surprise for me. He’s never really had that much of a voice within the plot but I loved reading from his voice. He brought a lot of humor and simplicity to what was going on which helped alleviate the feeling of tension that the general series always brings. And we also get to see that being the joker isn’t the only thing that he’s good at. He’s really observant and he’s a huge asset to the type of work Valek’s team does in this world. Also, his bromance with Ari gives me the feels and the giggles all the time haha. Lastly, I want to talk about a side character. This side character has been around for the entire big series (The Chronicles of Ixia) and he’s trans. Finding that out in the first book was one of my favorite things about this series. Apparently, there was some further explanation in the third book of the first trilogy but I didn’t really consciously take it in because I read that book so quickly. However, that explanation is reiterated in this book and… it’s so upsetting. For some unknown reason, the author felt the need to add a magical reason to this side character’s trans identity. I don’t feel like it’s necessary and it’s so beyond complicated in a way that it didn’t need to be. I would’ve loved for this powerful, confident and intelligent side character to just have his trans identity and for it to not need extra explanation. I just feel like it cheapens his identity and ruins some of his greatness. That’s my biggest issue with this series as a whole.
Overall, I loved this book but I already knew that was going to happen. The plot is fast paced, the writing style is addictive and distinct between characters. I loved seeing much more adult themes and conflicts explored in this book and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the books continue to develop the plot. I’d also like to say that this is my favorite of all time and all this gushing comes from a personal bias.
So that’s it for this post! I’ve been talking about this series and these characters since I started this blog and you should all know my love for it by now. If you haven’t given Poison Study a chance, please do so and tell me what you think! Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you on my next post!