Maria V. Snyder, Luna, 2006, 392 pages, fantasy.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
You know your life is bad when you miss your days as a poison taster...
With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she'd been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can't help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways—and her newfound friends and relatives don't think it's for the better....
Despite the turmoil, she's eager to start her magic training—especially as she's been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia's throne for a lost prince—and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians.
If that wasn't bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with all her new enemies....
I was so happy to read the second installment of this series and it certainly did not disappoint me. In fact, I probably enjoyed it as much as the first book, Poison Study (read review here). In this installment, Yelena has come into herself more, able to explore her magical side. I love how strong she is and able to take care of herself, though she grows quite a bit on the emotional level.
Again, I found Snyder's writing to be compelling and I loved the world that she created, this time in Sitia, in many ways the polar opposite to Ixia, the setting of the first book. The jungle scenes were great and I love the idea of a whole community making its home in the treetops. My favorite characters from the first book also return, Ari, Janco, and, of course, Valek.
There are also some great new characters: her family, Moon Man, and especially her horse Kiki who she has a magical connection with. Her parents and Kiki really soften Yelena's character in a nice way, rounding her out. I enjoyed the scenes when Yelena went home - they were well written and heartwrenching. I could just feel the nerveous anxiety of her mother, wanting to make up for all the years of lost time with a daughter who has been damaged and is unprepared for family life. Lief, her brother's, reaction to Yelena was also interesting - he had spent every day out in the jungle looking for her, and when she returns he rejects her. This seems confusing and out of place until we understand his own emotional turmoil.
Everyone, once again, seems to have a reason to distrust Yelena and her very powerful, but strange, magic. She makes great strides at times, then she stumbles and needs to regroup. This is a book full of adventure and tension, with a bad guy who is so creepy that he is difficult even to think about. It is obvious that the more Yelena learns to trust herself and learn about her magic, the better she will become.
The other aspect to the book that I found intersting was the discourse on different forms of government. There is a lot of tension between the military rule in Ixia and the democratic rule in Sitia. The Sitians all defend their government, even though it is cumbersome and slow, valuing their freedoms and it it means that some people starve in the streets. Yelena grew up in Ixia, where everyone has a role. Yes, freedoms are limited, but hard work, no matter where you come from or what your gender, will get you advancement. There is no hunger or material want in Ixia and everyone has a place. Ultimately, neither government comes off as better, but the exporation was fun.
If you liked Poison Study and enjoy strong heroines, then I highly recommend Magic Study. I can hardly wait to get my hands on the final book, Fire Study.