I really enjoyed Poison Study, the first book in this series, so I had high hopes for Maria V. Snyder’s Magic Study. Unfortunately, I found Magic Study to be a disappointment. It failed to entertain and engage me, and felt at once both too broad and too narrow.
At the end of Poison Study, Yelena had essentially been exiled to Sitia and had planned to go there anyway in order to learn more about her magic. In Magic Study, she finds her family in Sitia, but her time with them is fleeting as she must go to the Magicians’ Keep to learn more about her magic. Of course, Yelena can never stay away from drama for too long, and she becomes involved with a man who has claims to the Ixian throne as well as a darker plot involving rogue magicians.
As I mentioned, Magic Study felt both very broad and very narrow to me. The breadth came in terms of the plot: we essentially see the development of two or three plotlines in this story. There is the introduction of Cahil Ixia, the supposed nephew of the former King of Ixia; then we have the Ixian ambassador’s visit to Sitia and the tensions related to that; and finally we have the real main plot, involving disappearing magicians and threats of a dark magic.
For a book of only about 400 pages, there is a lot going on, and the story as a whole suffers because of it. The magician plot ends up feeling a lot like the plot of Poison Study, and Yelena spends so much time traveling from place to place that we don’t really get to learn much more of the world or the new characters in it even though we get to see a lot of different places and characters. This is where the narrowness comes in. For all the breadth of settings and characters that we see, the only character that we get to know more of is Yelena. The supporting characters are underdeveloped and don’t have much depth, which makes it less tragic when they are captured or tortured or die. Former favorites from Poison Study make cameos but barely have a presence. Which would be fine except that it stole “screen time” (or page time) from the development of new characters.
Like a lot of second books in trilogies, Magic Study felt like a lot of transition and set-up for a finale of a third book. I hope that the final installment, Fire Study, is everything it is set up to be.