Written by: Maria V. Snyder
Published by: Mira
Fire Study is the third book in Maria Snyder’s interesting “Study” fantasy series. The first book introduced the characters and began building the world, giving us the tale of Yelena’s training as a poison-taster and poisoner, while the second book upped the stakes and introduced the true depths of evil Yelena must face to gain acceptance in her world and control over her terrifying power as a Soulfinder.
Our heroine has learned she has a rare power that has the potential to make her an exile: she is a Soulfinder, which means she can control people almost completely and ideally, heal broken minds even beyond death. Her mage mentor Iris may be on her side, but the First Mage of the land, Roze, is emphatically not. Set against this personal struggle is a greater war between Ixia, the land where Yelena was raised, and Sitia where she was born and now resides. There are, as always in a fantasy, forces moving behind the scenes, and Yelena must survive to reveal the truth behind the evil facing her new friends.
[ad#longpost]Readers enchanted by the tale of Yelena’s training with Valek or for more insight into the cultures of Sitia and Ixia will be disappointed. We do get some plot resolutions with Yelena’s brother, but Valek is almost completely absent (even more so than in Magic Study), but the whole purpose of being a Soulfinder isn’t important until just at the end. Some magical details, such as the use of curare, are way too common, being a deus ex machina on every other page it seems, whereas other details, such as what the master mages are doing all this time, are justâ€¦ absent.
I whole-heartedly recommend the first book of this trilogy, Poison Study, as a fantasy book in a different and exciting vein; it very effectively parallels a heroine’s personal struggles to save her own life and become something worthwhile with greater political machinations, even throwing in a very unusual and deftly handled romance along the way. But Magic Study was less, well, magical, and Fire Study even less so. Read this third book only for the scraps of sociological information and the final resolution of Yelena’s story. Poison Study can get even a jaded fantasy reader back into reading fiction, but lightning, alas, doesn’t strike twice (much less three times) for Snyder in this series.
The pity is that Snyder is obviously a truly excellent writer, who is shockingly underrated. For example, she seamlessly waves Yelena’s backstory into the beginning of Fire Study so well that readers new to the series will know all they need to know, but readers who read the earlier books won’t be irritated by the repetition. The characters are beautifully rounded, and the world is fascinating. She just doesn’t seem to do much with them in this book.