Review of MAGIC STUDY by MARIA V. SNYDER
(second in the STUDY trilogy)
After being banished from her homeland (kind of; we’ll get to that) for having magical powers, Yelena sets off to learn how to control her magic before it takes control of her. Along the way, she reunites with her birth family. Kidnapped as a young girl and raised in another country, Yelena had her early memories magically erased by her kidnapper. So this overjoyed, welcoming family nevertheless feels composed of strangers. Not to mention that her brother hardly seems pleased about her return, going so far as to accuse her of impersonating his long lost sister. Then someone starts preying on young girls in a way all too familiar to Yelena. Her past experiences and particular skills make her the obvious choice for tracking down this sociopath, but she’s far from ready for a challenge of this magnitude.
Snyder does an incredible job “filling” every corner of her story. Many books lag in the middle, and many trilogies have an entire middle book less interesting than the first and last books. Not Snyder. From the every day details of Yelena’s lifestyle to her developing relationships to the higher action and drama, Snyder makes every page worth reading.
This trilogy may be one of the few cases where I actually like the books more upon a second read. From my first read, I recall enjoying the series with some harsh criticisms, but upon a second read those criticisms seem much exaggerated in my memory. I’ve written about how expectations affect our final opinion and in this case I suppose knowing already what I consider the book’s drawbacks allowed me to simply enjoy the story to the fullest. And with a weaving, layered plot lush with interesting characters, there’s plenty to enjoy.
My main remaining criticism is that Yelena presents as a typical Mary Sue trope. Power beyond what anyone knew possible. Defies traditional rules, without the traditional consequences. Perfect in many people’s eyes, either the love of their life or the greatest friend they ever expect to have. Pursued by multiple of this world’s most intriguing bachelors. Detested by the villains to the point of single-minded obsession. As one particular example of her greater-than-thou qualities, there are several instances in the book where Yelena meets someone and has a very strong first impression of whether they are a good or bad person. Now based on the interaction alone, I as the reader cannot understand why she has this impression. However, she’s always right, eventually and at least partially. This makes me feel a little left out as the reader, because her ability to anticipate people’s true trustworthiness seems more like some all powerful magical sense than anything logical I too can detect from subtle descriptive clues.
I forgot, though, how much Snyder’s books suck me into the story. I cannot wait to re-read the last in this trilogy. I cannot recall at all how she wraps everything up, but I trust she will make every page along the way a good read.