About five years ago, I vaguely remember greatly enjoying myself, after divesting my mind completely of the very polarized reviews of the novel that I read both on Amazon and Good-reads. That is why it is important that you always read reviews, even my own reviews, with a very discerning mind. In the end, reviews leave you with a good, generalized impression of what lies in store for reading a book, but it can never foresee your own reaction to the novel. Keeping this in mind, I stay away from having a haughty tone, when writing my opinion of a book, as much as possible. It’s hard, when you get into the thick of your criticisms, to not begin wanting to become didactic when expressing your opinion of a book, to the extent where you wish to also preach to your readers about why or why they shouldn’t buy the book. In effect, this betrays the overall goal of your review, which is to focus on your own subjective response and feelings to a book.
How does that paragraph have any relevancy to your retrospective review of Fire Study? Well, I found Fire Study to be a very deep, probing character study, of the growth and progressive evolution of the novel’s main heroine, Yelena, and one of the critical factors in her success is learning balance the advice and clashing perceptions of others, with her own insecurities, in an attempt to fully embrace the unique magic power that is not just intrinsic to her well-being, but quite literally, important to the stabilization of the world itself. Weirdly enough, the book echoed my own struggle, in a sense, as a book reviewer, someone aspiring to work in some professional capacity in the publishing industry. It educated me, or reproached me, on the prudent way to approach adversary, challenges of embracing your own potential, and actualizing that potential, to face baffling odds that sometimes feel excessively stacked against you, at some point within your life. This book’s main conflict resonates deeply with readers, because Maria V. Snyder never obstructs, or intervenes, or contrives on the natural flow and development of Yelena’s growth as a character. The challenges and conflicts she faces are never overwrought, in any way, and they all seem to really be logically executed with great flair and talent.
Another successful element of this majestic ending to a very empowering, well-written series is that nearly all the subplots, from the first novel, even the smallest, unnoticed nuances of certain characters or political situations are really resolved very well, in a way I find to not just be moderately satisfying. Rather, the subplots actually tie into the main plot,not in a convoluted way, but in a way that allows the main story arch to maintain a sharp degree of stability, and intrigue for the reader. There is never torture, or melodrama, for the sake of contriving the drama to be ramped up. The only issue I found with this book was the rushed nature of the ending, and the fact I felt like some elements of the Yelena and Valek relationship were not as satisfactorily developed, in a way that I myself wanted. Yet, these elements never obtrusively destroyed the flow and overall mastery of the novel’s way of tying everything up in such a impeccable way.
Also, Fire Study is really quite unique, stylistically-speaking, when compared with the other novels. There are much more deep political struggles, going on, between the embattled governmental forces of Sitia and Ixia. I really enjoyed reading the nuances of the political struggles of the Sitia’s council, and the way that the slight note of corruption in the second novel really became center-stage in this novel. The way Maria V. Snyder tackled many deep, somewhat somber elements of violence, hubris, and sexual violence were done maturely, and never in a gratuitous way. She continues to deal with these issues very sensitively, and the telepathic abilities of Yelena are very well dealt with, as her abilities never become something that just makes her “the master of all elements,” rather she does continue to be stricken with conflicts between other characters, doubts about the darker, more subversive potential of her growing awareness surrounding her Soulfinder powers.
Another really erudite element of the series (an element that certifies Maria V. Snyder’s place in the Erudite Faction in a Divergent world) is the way Maria V. Snyder’s entire series works as a very impressive metaphorical portrayal of Plato’s Cave. Now, I do not want to explain the ways Yelena’s overall journey, and final scene of edifying triumph somehow relates very closely to the core message and ethical implications of the Plato Cave myth. But, Maria V. Snyder’s Fire Study, at least in my view, cements my view that the whole Study trilogy definitely has many of the same deeper methods of fantasy storytelling, which was inevitable for a series that really has such a rich psychological core, much like the Hunger Games trilogy or even the Divergent trilogy. There are much deeper things, underpinning the deceptively simple construction of this story, and the ending really clarified my own subjective feelings that Fire Study,and all the novels are another rich re-telling of Plato’s Cave allegory, even if the series is not explicitly an allegory of any kind. Really,the way Plato’s Cave allegory acts in modern fantasy is less allegorical, and more lightly metaphorical, meaning that the elements of edification and catharsis, which underpin the fabric of any rich, emotional fantasy or speculative fiction story, are going to unconsciously work their way into the mold of a story, even if an author didn’t intend for those elements to crop up in any way.
For the careful reader, Fire Study remains a rich, fertile story, with wonderfully developed characters, rich diversity of cultures and political intrigue, with a wonderful dash of well-executed comedy, and many moments of very tense drama. All these things make this a novel that really rewards the reader with catharsis, for the more than satisfying conclusion to Yelena’s evolution as a character, and this world that our minds irresistibly, without any reluctance, entered in Poison Study, is very, very hard to leave by the close of Fire Study. I don’t think this novel lacks any of substance and energy of the previous novels. Yes, this novel’s style and approach is different than Magic Study and Poison Study,but the fact that each is different in style and plot, to me, is the crucial element that keeps readers not just interested in the books, but deeply invested in them.
** In two weeks, I’ll be reviewing Storm Glass,and starting the next trilogy, that takes place in one of my all-time favorite fantasy universes. I will continue to focus on the continued study of the moral ambiguity and different political nuances of the Sitia government (one of my favorite elements of this series), and also I cannot wait to discuss certain controversial features of the last two books of the Glass Trilogy,particularly the very divisive ending to Spy Glass, in a way that hopefully will encourage some to read and discuss these books in a sensitive, intelligent manner. I really love the Glass Trilogy, because Maria V. Snyder takes her characters to subversive areas. I remember being mildly shocked by the turn in the series, but also, I felt I began to really enjoy the novels even more, since Maria V. Snyder is not afraid whatsoever to shake things up, and go beyond terrain that is not always explored in other series.
Contrary to what I posted for the last two weeks, the questions have still not been sent in to Maria V. Snyder. I am giving everyone one last week to post any questions they have for Maria V. Snyder. Maria V. Snyder Wednesdays will continue two weeks from now, and it will continue for five weeks, with new reviews of Storm Glass, Sea Glass, Spy Glass, Inside Out, and Outside In!!! So, get your dog-eared Maria V. Snyder books out, because I encourage everyone, reading this post, to read the books, right along with me, as we discuss some elements of these books that I find really interesting, and worthy of discussing further!!