Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Shadow Study - Maria V. Snyder

Series title: Chronicles of Ixia, book 4

Published: 1st March 2015, MIRA ink

Source: ebook, owned

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Set Up:

Yelena Liana Zaltana has come a long way since her troubled childhood in Ixia, all the way from food taster to Soul Finder, and now acts as the liaison between Ixia and Sitia. Of course she's made a few enemies over the last eight years. Actually it would be easier to count up the people who don't want to kill her. Still not much poses a problem for a magician as powerful as a soul finder. Then an assassin hits her with an unknown poison and Yelena finds herself more vulnerable than she has been since she first emerged from the Ixian dungeons to become the commander's poison taster. Somehow she has to figure out exactly how to fix her problem, before all her enemies start climbing over each other in a rush to kill her in her weakened state. 

Meanwhile Valek is finding himself increasingly in conflict with the commander. In his absence security has become shoddy and corruption is filtering through the ranks. Add to that a black market trade on a deadly substance and Valeks plate is full. But is his heart really in it any more?

My Review:

I'm a fan of the original Ixia trilogy (although not the appalling Opal Cowan trilogy) so I really enjoyed this. I'd suggest that readers start with Poison Study and work through the lot, this wouldn't stand on its own especially well. That said, Snyder's writing has matured and is less full of irritating asides like 'jealous? Who me?'. The voice is still there and still fresh, so this is a light, entertaining fantasy read. If you are looking for epic fantasy then this is probably not going to be meaty enough for you. But a few hours easy, entertaining reading? This is your book. 

It's told in 3rd and 1st person, divided into the the three POVs of Yelena, Janco and Valek. I came around on giving Valek a voice but I still thought Janco's POV was a waste of time when I got to the end of the book. (The three previous books were all told in single, first person POV). It was more annoying than a complete deal breaker. Janco didn't sound distinctly different to the MCs and his chapters could have been covered by them without losing anything. Otherwise the pacing was good, Yelena was the resourceful, brave and pig-headed heroine we've come to love. 

Aside from Janco's POV, my main niggles were that this book telegraphed its big reveals a mile off - seriously I don't think even one of them surprised me - and also that it's clearly set up for a big reveal at the end to enable the start of the next book. Possibly one of the clumsiest cliff-hangers I've ever seen added to which I'd worked out the ending about six pages in. It detracted from the overall enjoyment of the book for me slightly because it felt lazy. You can foreshadow without sign-posting in neon. That said I totally want to read the next book and enjoyed this almost as much as the original trilogy despite niggles. You wouldn't read Snyder's books for an all-encompassing fantasy world or for fine literature but it's definitely amongst the finer kind of pop-corn book.

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