I was embarrassingly excited when I learned that Yelena and Valek would back in Maria V. Snyder’s Shadow Study! These stories are some of my favorites and I couldn’t wait to read about what happens next with these two. The former poison-taster/now Soulfinder, Yelena, and the (arguably) best assassin in the land/ the Commander’s closest confidant, Valek, are now attempting to balance a romantic relationship with their jobs in neighboring (and quarreling) countries. Of course there is a huge wrench thrown into the mix, but Yelena and Valek are not known for giving up. Get ready to watch these two in action and meet some new characters along the way.
New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she’s back with a new tale of intrigue.
Once, only her own life hung in the balance.
Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she’d survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands and protect her relationship with Valek.
Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek’s job – and his life – are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret – or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is – while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.
Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous…
Yelena is such a strong character. The previous Study books were all about her growing up and turning into the strong, fierce woman that she is now. Unfortunately, she has been targeted by an assassin and is, oddly and unexplainably, without her magic. For someone that relied heavily on magic, learning to use only survival skills and cunning puts Yelena at a significant disadvantage. She weathers the storm and proves, once again, that a person is more than the sum total of his or her parts.
Valek faces his own battle during this story. The Commander is obviously keeping something from him. Valek must determine the reason for the secrecy while also investigating the attempts on Yelena’s life. He also appears to be completely oblivious to Yelena’s desire for a commitment. I love seeing the softer side of Valek come out when he deals with or thinks of Yelena. His flashbacks detailing his transformation into trained killer and his meeting of The Commander were insightful; and, I think, a bit foreshadowing what is to come. A poor, vengeful street rat turned into the most respected assassin, but he can’t keep his job forever.
Ari and Janco, Opal and Devlen, and Reema make renewed appearances, as do Leif (Yelena’s brother) and Mara (his wife). As a reader of previous books, it was fun to see how their lives have progressed. For me, I absolutely love Janco’s humor. He is the brilliant and generally underestimated character. The introduction of Onora and Gerik wasn’t fully fleshed out in this book, so I’m looking forward to learning more about them and how Valek will choose to deal with them.
There’s something about Maria V. Snyder’s writing that grabs my attention and doesn’t let me go until the very last sentence. However, this time, I was expecting the last sentence. It was the perfect ending to this adventure while setting us up for plenty of future shenanigans. The continuation of Yelena and Valek’s love story (yes, there is action, adventure and magic, but those two are love personified) is fascinating. They are the two people that weren’t supposed to be together and, even now, their respective countries aren’t thrilled with their relationship. That coupled with the fact that both have enough enemies to take down a small army keeps things interesting.
While you don’t have to read all of the previous Study, Glass, and Healer books, I think it’s helpful to read the Study books in order to fully understand the characters and the slightly convoluted plot. I adore all of these books, so I was able to follow along. Repercussions of plots from previous books feature heavily in Shadow Study. Personally, I would say grab all of the prior books and start reading! You won’t regret it. Fantasy, action, adventure, magic, and love stories (without heavily featuring romance) provide a little bit of everything for an incredibly enjoyable read every time.