Author: Maria V Snyder
Publisher: Mira • 419 pages • £6.99
Ripped from her family as a child, tortured through her teenage years and eventually saved from the hangman’s noose by becoming a poison taster, it’s safe to say Yelena has had a pretty hard life. Now Maria V Snyder lets her protagonist’s magical abilities (which were rapidly bubbling to the surface in the first book of the Study series, Poison Study) come to the fore as our heroine packs her bags and heads for magic school.
The tale focuses on Yelena’s return to Sitia, the land of her birth, where she’s due to both reunite with her lost family and hone her magical abilities into something a bit more controllable. Only there’s a rogue magic user on the loose and whoever it is is torturing, raping and stealing the souls of young girls – a scenario that’s only too familiar to Yelena.
While the first book in the Study series was an impressive debut, Magic is a stronger, more engaging read, mainly because it steers away from some of the quite weird and woolly political climate of the first novel and roots itself in the perhaps a little more accessible politics of family, friendship and love.
Yelena’s romance with black-clad assassin Valek is still a prominent feature, although the character doesn’t appear until quite late on in the story. But Snyder has managed to weave in enough action and intrigue with her sizzle, so it never becomes schmaltzy, despite the series rather unfairly earning the “fantasy romance” tag.
There’s a lovely light touch to this series reminiscent of early Anne McCaffrey, so it’s gratifying to see that Snyder has managed to deliver the old one-two, fantasy-literature punch!