Sara's Reviews > Shadow Study

Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder
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really liked it
bookshelves: action-packed, fantasy, female-protagonists, multiple-povs, young-adult

Confession: I hugged my copy of Shadow Study when it arrived in the mail. Yes, I was that excited to read it. Then again, Poison Study was one of my favorite reads of last year, and I devoured Magic Study and Fire Study a couple months later solely so I could stay on top of this series starting with the fourth book. So here it is, the newest adventures of former poison taster and current magician-diplomat Yelena Zaltana, and I'm thrilled with how it turned out.

Shadow Study takes place about 6 years after the original conclusion of the Study trilogy. Yelena is acting as political liaison between the countries of Ixia and Sitia and has fully embraced her role as a Soulfinder. She's also still with Valek, her soulmate and the famed Ixian spy-assassin. No sooner does the couple reunite in Chapter 1 that crisis strikes - literally. Valek is ordered home by Ixia's Commander to address the country's growing smuggler network and is confronted by a young, hot-shot assassin who wants Valek's job. Yelena remains in Sitia to investigate a past enemy's escape from prison - and is grappling with the sudden loss of her magic. Given how many enemies Yelena has, she's in great danger if they find out how vulnerable she is.

Like Snyder's other novels, Shadow Study is impossible to put down thanks to its suspenseful chapter endings and urgent prose. Also, the first bit of conflict pops up within the first couple pages, so Snyder gives us reasons right away to worry about Yelena and the other characters. I was also fascinated by how interwoven the conflict threads became as the story went along. Each chapter drops hints that widen the overall scope. Once I put the pieces together, my mouth dropped open. And for the record, I'm not much of a plot-twist guesser, but there were two in particular that I guessed correctly - and both will have a HUGE impact on the next two Study books.

One welcome change between the three older Study novels and Shadow Study is the POV narration style. From Poison Study to Fire Study, it was from Yelena's first-person perspective. With Shadow Study, Snyder alternates between Yelena (first person), Valek (third person), and Valek's assistant and Yelena's friend Janco (third person). While Yelena's the one who drew me into this series, Valek's sections steal the show here. Readers finally learn more about his past, from his early days as an assassin-in-training at the School Of Night And Shadow, to the moment where he enacts his ultimate revenge. It's a fascinating trip down memory lane that explains Valek's unique and lethal brew of logic, meticulousness, and cunning. Readers also get to see the beating heart beneath, and feel for Valek as his loyalties become entangled.

Janco's POV, on the other hand... Sometimes he was so funny that I'd burst out laughing. Other times, he was downright annoying, and I wanted to smack him. Janco's perspective is necessary, though, since he's in a number of important scenes where Yelena and Valek aren't present. But at the same time, I feel like I learned very little about Janco, especially in comparison to what I learned about Valek.

A couple other things about Shadow Study threw me off. First, there were times where the timing for one character's POV wasn't synchronized with the timing for another character's sections. I'm not sure why this caught my attention. It hasn't for other multiple POV books like George R.R. Martin's A Song Of Fire And Ice novels. But for some reason, I noticed it more with Shadow Study, and it jarred me a little. Also, Yelena's independent streak drives me nuts sometimes. It's not a complete drawback; I like that Yelena is decisive and follows her instincts, but she rarely asks for help. So when she strikes out on her own, I always know something bad is going to happen.

I could say so much more about Shadow Study, including the characters who returned from the previous Study novels (and also the Glass trilogy), and the new characters we meet. But the point is, Shadow Study is a fantastic new installment to the Yelena Zaltana saga. It's tightly written, packed with tension and action, and full of new reasons to love its memorable characters. I'm still reeling a bit from the bombshell ending ("cliffhanger" doesn't quite fit for this one - trust me) and the other revelations that emerge - but that just means lots of crucial choices and juicy conflict for Night Study and Dawn Study. And I can't wait to see how it all unfolds from here!
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Reading Progress

October 9, 2014 – Shelved
October 9, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
February 6, 2015 – Started Reading
February 6, 2015 –
page 21
5.47% "And back to Ixia and Sitia we go! :D"
February 7, 2015 –
page 86
22.4% "Already flying through this one! Maria's novels usually have that "unputdownable" quality, though. :)"
February 7, 2015 –
page 129
33.59% "Really enjoying Valek's POV scenes and learning more about his pre-Study past. Liking Janco's, too, but WOW, now I know how much of a pain in the ass he can be sometimes. *lol*"
February 8, 2015 –
page 155
40.36% "Valek is a legend. Nuff said. :D"
February 11, 2015 –
page 214
55.73% "Why do I have the feeling that a) something else (not the poison) has blocked Yelena's magic, and b) Commander Ambrose is hiding something from Valek?"
February 12, 2015 –
page 270
70.31% "It drives me nuts when Yelena goes off on her own because she doesn't want help. Yes, she might not want the people she cares about to get hurt - but you know something bad's going to happen to her every time. Grrrrrr."
February 12, 2015 –
page 334
86.98% "Annnnnnd she did it again, folks. *shakes her head* Btw, doesn't Goodreads know this book is over 400 pages long, not 384?"
February 14, 2015 – Finished Reading
February 19, 2015 – Shelved as: action-packed
February 19, 2015 – Shelved as: female-protagonists
February 19, 2015 – Shelved as: fantasy
February 19, 2015 – Shelved as: multiple-povs
February 19, 2015 – Shelved as: young-adult

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