Review of FIRE STUDY by Maria V. Snyder (see her website)
STUDY, BOOK THREE
Mira, March 2008
Life should be good for Yelena. She's proven her abilities, learned that she is a Soulfinder, and has a great lover. With her powerful allies, she seems to be in a good position to kick back and relax--even though ordinary magic, including spells as easy as lighting a fire, remain beyond her control. But an ancient magic, long-thought extinct, is moving once more. This old magic relies on blood, sacrifice, and betrayal, and Yelena's old enemies refuse to believe the threat. Her powers are real, but what hope does she have against the man in flames?
Yelena's guide (story weaver), Moon Man, and his people long ago confronted the blood magicians. But they need Yelena's help in order to defeat them now. Unfortunately, Yelena has a lot of other issues, especially issues with the senior magician in Sitia. One of Yelena's biggest issues has nothing to do with her enemies. Everyone tells her that every Soulfinder in history has turned evil, collecting souls to take power from them. Yelena wants to do good, but she could do so much more good with more power--and she fears she'll yield to the temptation.
With her clever talking horse (it only talks to her), her sometimes angry brother, the patient Moon Man who puts up with Yelena's constant complaints, and her trusty switchblade and bow [sic], Yelena rushes off into battle. At the back of her mind, though, she knows that the conflict is certain to bring in her former home, Ixia, Sitia's traditional enemy.
Although Yelena is so powerful that even the strongest magicians fear her, blood magic allows her enemies to multiply their powers. She can't use her abilities to control them or override their will they way she's been able to do with all of her other enemies. And fire, the element she cannot control, haunts her with visions of destruction--her own figure often leading the charge.
Author Maria V. Snyder (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Snyder) continues her 'Study' series with an action-filled fantasy. With much less focus on the romance between Yelena and love interest Valek than in the earlier novels, we get to see Yelena (and her horse) as they deal with danger and enemies. This time, though, the biggest danger is Yelena herself. With her uncertainty about her own motives and her impatience with those who could actually teach her something, Yelena puts herself into danger before she is ready to face it, and ignores the obvious solution to her problem until almost too late.
There's a lot going on in FIRE STUDY and Snyder almost pulls it together. I thought Snyder missed some opportunties--by having important events happen off-stage and the resolution of the long-standing conflict between Yelena and Roze seemed a bit empty to me. Also, the incident that sent Yelena into motion, the escape of the evil Ferde, sort of vanished over the course of the story. I anticipated a more compelling plot point here. Still, the intriguing and conflicted character of Yelena, the wonderful character of Moon Man, and the conflicted Commander all add up to enjoyable story-telling.
Note: I reviewed the first two novels in this series under romance. FIRE STUDY has sufficiently few romantic elements that I'm reviewing this under Fantasy.
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
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