- Poison Study
- Assassin Study
- Magic Study
- Fire Study
- Power Study
- Storm Glass
- Sea Glass
- Spy Glass
- Ice Study
- Shadow Study
- Night Study
- Shattered Glass
- Dawn Study
I first read these books a few years ago and really enjoyed them, so I was pretty excited to use some Christmas money to purchase the whole series in paperback this past year. With piles of books awaiting my attention, I probably shouldn’t have picked up Poison Study, but I just felt like it was what I wanted to read, and I did! And honestly, although this series is nine books long (plus short stories) and clocks in over 4000 pages altogether, I can’t really regret delving back into it, because these were exactly the books I was looking for.
One aside before I really get into this review – these books were originally published as three separate trilogies (Study, Glass, Soulfinder). You could probably skip the Glass trilogy if you wanted to and still get what is happening overall, but the books really do build on each other. All of the short stories, except for Shattered Glass, are found on the author’s website for free and do add fun backgrounds to different things. However, you basically have to read Ice Study, which genuinely should have been included at the beginning of Shadow Study – it’s really a prologue/introduction for that book with some fairly vital information in it. ANYWAY
The first three books are narrated by Yelena, a young woman who is imprisoned, for murder, in the country of Ixia. We gradually learn that several years ago the king/royal family of Ixia were deposed and assassinated and the country is now run by a man known as The Commander, who has a very strict code of conduct to which everyone must adhere. There aren’t a lot of personal freedoms in Ixia – you need permission to do basically everything – but people have jobs and homes and aren’t being ruled by a despotic magician, so there’s that. The Commander is particularly strict about magic – if you have it, you’re killed, end of story. Magicians, according to the Commander, cannot be trusted ever.
Which makes relations with the neighboring country to the south, Sitia, a little exciting at times, since that country is ruled by a small group of Master Magicians and a council composed of one representative from each clan in the country. Many people in Sitia have magic, and it’s used for all sorts of things.
The story begins with Yelena being taken from the dungeon to meet with the Commander’s right-hand man/assassin Valek. There are a lot of stories about Valek, how he personally killed the king and his family, how Valek slaughters every magician born in Ixia, and how he knows all and sees all. Valek offers Yelena a chance at life: she is next in line on death row, but if she wants she can instead take on the job as taste-tester for the Commander. If she’s good at it she might live for a while longer. Yelena takes the job, and that’s when things get interesting.
I really like these books because I really like Yelena. She’s intelligent and determined, and rarely makes stupid decisions for the sake of making the story more dramatic.
Another things I was realizing when I was reading these books – there isn’t even a hint of the fantasy tropes that really get on my nerves, namely the whole “she wasn’t like the other girls because she was into fighting” especially combined with “she must overcome the patriarchy to earn even a smidge of respect!!!” Instead, Snyder gives us a world where men and women are equals, without a lot of fuss. Men and women do the same jobs, without a lot of fuss, in both Ixia and Sitia. At one point in the series, a military officer in Ixia is demoted and punished because it’s discovered that he hasn’t been treating women equally. But all of this is done without a lot of drama or fanfare. I’ve always felt that stories about sexism being overcome in fantasy worlds are kind of dumb – if you’re making up a fantasy world, why don’t you just go ahead and make one up that looks like what you want?? And Snyder has done just that. I can’t remember a single time in the story that Yelena (or the narrator of the Glass series, Opal) is told that she can’t do something because she’s a girl, and I just find that quite refreshing as I find plots about women overcoming the patriarchy to be SO. BORING.
The middle trilogy, the Glass books, are narrated by a different character, Opal. Sadly, I don’t like Opal nearly as well as Yelena. She tends to whine a lot. She’s kind of rude and unfriendly, and complains a lot about not having friends without recognizing how unfriendly she is. The Glass books are also longer than the others for some reason and it felt like they were never going to end. Honestly, the next time I read this series I’ll probably skip these three because Opal just isn’t worth my time. A lot happens in those books that is kind of important to the overall plot, so I think they are worth reading once in the context of the series, but while the rest of the books all got 4 and 4.5 stars from me, Opals were 3* – just sort of there. I also don’t really care for the way Opal’s love story unwinds, which is definitely part of my ambivalence towards those three books.
The final three books are non-stop action, and while I enjoyed them, it does get A Bit Much at times. Snyder has a habit throughout the entire series of having people get kidnapped – I kind of wish I had started counting how many times it happened – it’s basically her favorite plot twist, and it happens a LOT in these three books as well. Instead of a straight first-person narration like we had in the other books, the final three books also have some chapters of third-person narration from the perspectives of other characters. Overall I liked it and it meant that the action was able to keep going because the reader could always be where something was happening, but it also meant that sometimes the story felt a little choppy, as we were constantly hopping back and forth between characters. It wasn’t as big of a deal when there were only two or three threads, but sometimes there are more than that and I found myself almost forgetting what was happening five characters ago.
All in all, if you enjoy fantasy, I think you’ll find a lot to like about these books. Yelena is such an engaging, resourceful character. The world-building is done well and is completely absorbing. While Snyder definitely relies a little too heavily on having people kidnapped to move her plot along, overall the stories move well. I would totally read more books set in this universe – maybe ones about the next generation??
Like I said, this is my second time reading this series, so if you’re interested in my original thoughts, you can find them here.