I’m not really sure where I first heard about the Study series, but Poison Study came across my radar at some point and has been languishing on the the TBR for eons. I finally got around to requesting it from the library. I like to get the first book from a series, and if I like it, then I request the rest. I reserved the rest of the series about three chapters into Poison Study.
According to Goodreads, this is a series of six books, followed by the Glass series, and there are several short stories interspersed throughout. Since I decided to read the shorts, I happened to actually be on Snyder’s website, where I found out that Goodreads really has the order wrong: Snyder wrote the first three Study books, then the three Glass books, and finally the three Soulfinder books, which, because they have the same main character as the Study series, have now been lumped in with those first three books, despite the fact that the Glass books fall in between, both in publishing order and chronologically within the series.
Since one of my few obsessions in life is reading all the books in a series in the order they were meant to be read, I was pretty tickled that I discovered this after finishing the third of the Study books, allowing me to jump right into the Glass trilogy on schedule, even though it did mean that I had to check them out as Kindle books instead of getting the hard copies like I prefer.
This is a lot of digression. The point is – I am really enjoying these books. And what this post is SUPPOSED to be about is the first three Study books: Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study.
The trilogy focuses on Yelena, a young woman who, at the beginning of the tale, is in prison awaiting execution. But she is presented with a choice: die as scheduled, or die… later. In the meantime, if she chooses, she can become the Commander’s new food taster. Yelena accepts the position, and soon is in training by the Commander’s second-in-command, Valek.
Snyder paces this book quite well, and does an excellent job with world-building. I was completely drawn into the story, mostly because I actually really liked Yelena. So often in YA, female protagonists (who are all the rage) are quite obnoxious. I found Yelena to be refreshing. She was intelligent and athletic, but not at the expense of being a girl. Throughout Snyder’s world, women are in positions of power, and there is no real fuss made over it, which I really liked! I’m quite tired of heavy-handed attempts to ‘rebel against the patriarchy’ within YA (especially fantasy), wherein authors create worlds in which women have no rights, and then spend the entire time complaining about. I much, MUCH prefer this method, where a world has been created where women and men work equally, side by side, and individuals are chosen by whether they are best for the position, not whether they are male or female. In the next two books, which take place mostly in the neighboring country where there is magic, there are multiple clans of people – but again, instead of creating a world with different races and lots of racism and then griping about it, Snyder has created a world with several clans of people (with different physical aspects, cultures, and skills) – who actually all work together and treat one another as equals. Delightful!
I also loved the complete absence of a love triangle! Yelena falls in love in the first book, but is separated from her heart-mate (such a lovely term) in the second book. Towards the beginning, she runs into this other guy, and I was super scared that he was going to become this other love interest, but in a refreshing twist, Yelena stays true to her original love and completely sees through the second guy’s act. Fabulous.
These books aren’t perfect. At times they felt rushed and a bit chaotic, but overall I found the pacing to be good and the characters felt real and reasonable. I’m kind of in love with Valek, and I’m sooo excited that Yelena and her brother start working together, because sibling teams are one of my favorite things. I really liked watching Yelena grow, especially as she learns about her magical powers and how to wield them. She was a bit obnoxiously independent at times, which got a little old, but on the other hand, I felt like it fit with her background.
I think these are probably considered YA, but Yelena is a bit older than the traditional YA protagonist, being around 19-22 throughout the course of the books. I much preferred this and found everything far more believable at this age. It also meant that even though there is some sex in these books (100% off-screen, hurrah!), while I wasn’t exactly okay with it, I was way more okay with it than I am when it’s a couple of 16-year-olds pledging their undying love.
However, I will say that I feel like Snyder really uses the whole kidnapping/rape scenario a bit too freely. I kept remembering that viral video from a while back – ‘Hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife, cuz they rapin’ ever’body up in here!’ Legit, like how many people can get kidnapped and raped in a three-book period of time…???
My other big beef with these books is none of the covers are very good. There’s so much potential for some really fabulous cover art with these, and they are all super bleh.
Overall, 4/5 for the trilogy. I’m almost done with the third Glass book – I haven’t liked that trilogy quite as well, but it’s been alright. I’m looking forward to rejoining Yelena, though!
Also, I’m having a bit of a personal dilemma. A couple of weeks ago, puppy Paisley rooted through my library book basket while I was gone and completely destroyed a paperback, so I had to pay for it and it was all quite embarrassing. Now, would you believe that she swiped Poison Study OFF THE COUNTER while I was at work the other day, and destroyed that one, too!? It is at least still readable (which was a good thing, because I wasn’t actually done reading it at the time), but I’m quite embarrassed to take it in and confess to yet ANOTHER dog fiasco! I’m thinking about just continuing to renew it forever….