Welcome to another edition of Maria V. Snyder Wednesdays! These weekly features will henceforth continue for the next six weeks, as I plan on covering many more Maria V. Snyder books beyond the Study Trilogy. As such, you will see new reviews of titles from the Glass Trilogy and Inside Out Trilogy. The reason for the continuation of this blog feature has to do with a renewed interest in exploring all of Maria V. Snyder’s writing, and more importantly, her writing helps educate me, as an aspiring writer, on the best techniques of writing dialogue and writing in a way that is effectively minimalist.
The first thing I noticed, when reading this book, was that some of the clumsy writing of Poison Study had vanished, and I feel the structure and flow of this novel is much more smooth, mature, and it is probably my favorite of the Study Trilogy thus far. When it comes to formulating your opinions about any book, you sorta have to tune out the obnoxious white noise of other people’s reviews and expectations, and form your own. Some people have considered this book to be the moment, when the downward spiral of sorts begins for this series, as though every Maria V. Snyder trilogy, in degrees of quality, can be described as the slow plummet. Incredulously, this formula is recurrent in many reviews of any of her trilogies, and I find the “formula” to be a fascinating one. I surmised, from reading many reviews on Magic Study, that people felt that the diminished appearance of Valek in the book to be the real reason for people’s disappointment with this book, when it is compared almost too directly to Poison Study.
Fortunately, Magic Study is much more complicated, and there are countless subplots that emerge in this book, which will not effectively be resolved till the next entry in the series Fire Study. But, the book never feels long-winded or overwrought in any way, even when combining new world-building elements, more subplots, more characters. The world grows bigger in Magic Study,but that expansive feeling, thankfully, does not somehow cause Maria V. Snyder to neglect Yelena’s character development. The world grows subtly, while Maria V. Snyder deftly develops Yelena’s own inner struggles with her emerging powers the implications of these powers, for not just herself, but the larger world without.
Some series can become bogged down in needless explanations of the mechanics of magic or the various nuances of the history, but none of this information about Sitia or their methodology on viewing magical potential in people, ever becomes cumbersome to read. This book is very carefully written, and I really enjoyed it a lot more, then based on my memory of the series. I can recall feeling let down that there was less Ari & Janco, less Valek, etc. By reading the novel a second time through, I was able to discern past my own preconceived reader expectations, and rely more effectively on letting Maria V. Snyder skillfully tell a very different type of tale that has a much more wider scope than anyone could have ever envisaged, while reading Poison Study for the first time.
Another thing that really struck me was how maturely and sensitively Maria V. Snyder dealt with the complexities and even darkness of sexual violence. During many sequences in the novel, you get really rich intimations of the tumult of certain character’s struggles with the trauma of their past, related to a very painful incident of sexual violence. Rape can become just another lazy plot device that overlooks the trauma of the victim, and instead focuses on just moving the plot forward, in an unconscionably stoic way, that completely derides the pain, the trauma of that person’s abusive past. For anyone that has watched Game of Thrones, you know that there was a certain divisive scene that played out differently from the book, where there was a rape scene that the writers denied was “a rape scene,” and then decided to never deal with the lasting psychological toll that this scene would have on the character. It was very disappointing, indeed, for the mature viewer to have to see this kind of deeply sensitive material being vacuously used for cheap thrills and sensationalism. Magic Study does something that is really, really hard to accomplish, and that is that it deals with this issue in a way that shows Maria V. Snyder is not just throwing these things in haphazardly for dramatic effect, but utilizes it to show the real issues that are present in the lives of not just women, but men,and how this type of violence can severely damage a person’s self-identity. Many of Maria V. Snyder’s characters are always victims temporarily, until they learn to grow and find strength from their painful experience. Maria V. Snyder uses this deeply disempowering situation, and shows the realistic tumultuous toll it has on a person’s psyche, but she also shows what we, as a society, should be doing in reaction to facing the reality that sexual violence exists in our society, and we need to give as much care, compassion, and above all, empowering messages to any and all that have faced this ineffably painful experience in their lives.
With the rich development of Yelena’s continued maturation into a full-fledged magician with impressive, unorthodox powers, Magic Study is really a step-up from Poison Study. Both are exemplary examples of fantasy fiction with a great dosage of well-utilized banter and comedy, sensitively developed drama, and skillfully written action sequences. All these elements and more make Magic Study a very deep, engrossing 425 page read that unfailingly immerses you into a wonderful world of both malevolent menace, but edifying goodness as well.
**This is the true last post, where I will ask for questions that anyone has for the author Maria V. Snyder. I will be emailing these this coming Sunday, so leave any questions you have about anything related to her works and more below in the comment area**
Next week, we dive into Fire Study, and see if it continues to be as highly entertaining and well-written, as I remember it being at the time of reading it nearly five years ago.