"Once, only her own life hung in the balance…
When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She 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, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job—and his life—are in danger.
As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked.And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive.
A CHRONICLES OF IXIA NOVEL
‘A compelling new fantasy series’ – Rhianna Pratchett, SFX on Poison Study"
Wow, I can't believe Poison Study has been released so long ago. Almost a decade ago, in fact. (Specifically, October 2015.) In the world of Shadow Study, the story follows Valek and Yelena with old and new characters. It has been many years since the events of Poison Study. Still, it seems just like yesterday when Valek was the mysterious and cold spymaster and Yelena, the next to dead prisoner. She narrowly avoided being executed by becoming a poison taster, but then everything becomes complicated throughout the years and Valek and Yelena can't seem to catch a decent break. There is always someone out to kill, murder, torture, hurt the two. Shadow Study is no exception to the rule.
Our heroes are grown up, but that still makes them the reader's darlings. Valek is deep in the mystery of how some smart smugglers are getting their (illegal) goods into Ixia with a frightening ease. Yelena is powerless, and her magic is completely gone after being attacked by an unknown assassin. She has to fall back to her original training with a bow and rely on someone else's magic to protect herself. They are facing their deadliest enemies yet, and both possesses great weaknesses. Worst of all, time is not on their side. The suspense is killing, and the duo are constantly in danger of dying.
On a minor note, it is amazing how Yelena is now twenty-seven years old which makes Valek very, very old.
The book brings back a few familiar villains, and Snyder somehow manages to make them not only interesting but also a real threat to the entire world. Who they are will probably be a surprise to most readers (assuming they didn't read spoilers off of summaries or heard them from talkative, speedreading friends), but the main villains aren't the only person(s) who Valek and Yelena have to be worried about. There is a deep mystery, that isn't solved (not completely) by the end of the book. The last, possible, and hidden villain could mean the unraveling of not only Sitia but also Ixia.
The plot is fast-paced, and I'm welcomed by Maria V. Snyder's familiar writing style. The book is split in many POVs that are surprisingly easy to understand. POVs are usually annoying, but Snyder nails it perfectly. In Valek's perspective, he is in the past and also in the present. The details of his career as a young assassin are finally revealed, and Valek grows even more fascinating as a character.
In conclusion, Shadow Study is the latest installment the continues the adventures of Valek and Yelena. Though they are getting old, they do have sharp and powerful moments that makes the book feel new.
Rating: Four out of Five