Series: Study Series #2
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Pages: 419 (paperback)
Published: May 16th 2008 (first published 2006)
Published by: MIRA Books
You know your life is bad when you miss your days as a poison taster...
With an execution order on her head, Yelena has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of her birth. With only a year to master her magic - or face death - Yelena must begin her apprenticeship and travels to the Four Towers of the Magician's Keep.
But nothing in Sitia is familiar. Not the family to whom she is a stranger. Not the unsettling new facets of her magic. Nor the brother who resents her return. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her rare powers, a rogue magician emerges - and Yelena catches his eye.
Suddenly she is embroiled in battle of good against evil. And once again it will be her magical abilities that will either save her life...or be her downfall.
When we left Yelena in Poison Study she was on her way to returning to her home country of Sitia. Escaping a death warrant in the process, but also leaving behind her friends Ari and Janco and her soul mate. But this move is supposed to be a good thing. She hopes to be reunited with the family she doesn't remember and also to finally have the chance to learn about her magic rather than just fearing it and trying to hide it from those around her. Unfortunately, not everything goes to plan. Her brother is less than welcoming, and it isn't long until Yelena finds herself in trouble once more, though at least it wasn't her fault this time. Now she and the other Magicians of Sitia have just a few weeks to track down a serial killer bent on becoming an unbeatable magician through stealing the magic of others.
This book pretty much sticks to the same formula as the last one. Yelena is thrust into a new situation and everyone hates her, for one reason or another. She ignores this and gets on with what she has to do, gradually winning people to her side while working on the solving a mystery. And hey, it worked last time round - don't fix what isn't broken and all that. There is more depth this time though - not only is she missing those back in Ixia, but the people who don't like her are (or rather, should be) closer to her and the bad guys she's dealing with are a lot more dangerous.
Yelena really is a great leading lady, though. She's strong willed, knows what she wants and isn't afraid of doing in, no matter what others say. She softens some in this book; between meeting her family and her vulnerability when it comes to Valek there are more things that can hurt her, and more people she's trying to look out for.
There are a whole bunch of new characters introduced, and while the bad guys are a step up from Poison Study, most of the new friends Yelena (eventually) makes don't have a patch on Ari and Janco. Luckily, we are not deprived of their presence for the entirety of the book, and we get more of Ari's big-brother-over-protectiveness and Janco's rhymes and the banter between the two of them, and Yelena.
Of the new people she meets, most of them just seem like tide-overs. People for her to interact with (and get help and information from) until her Ixian posse show up. The one notable exception in my mind is Fisk - a beggar boy whom Yelena befriends and helps. He's clever and quick and is one of my favourite new characters. Yelena's brother Leif is another interesting character, and getting to know him and see and understand his behaviour and motivations is a nice aside to the central story. He hates Yelena, mistrusting her from the off, and is one of the fiercest believers in her status as an Ixian spy. It was nice that not everyone instantly welcomed her back with open arms and provided a nice counter-point to all the people who were quite easily won over.
When it comes to the story, there's quite a lot of wending around before things really get going. There are plenty of double-blinds, which made it less easy to guess what was coming but also a little frustrating. Even for me at a third read, I'd forgotten most of what happened in the years since I last read it and I didn't remember most of the major plot points - and twists.
This is a book which keeps you guessing, with some pretty good bad guys. The best characters are (for the most part) those brought forward from the first book, but I still enjoyed this book overall.