All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder

on April 17, 2020

Shadow Study (Soulfinders #1)
Maria V. Snyder
Harlequin Teen
2015, 416p
Read via Scribd

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Once, only her own life hung in the balance…

Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she’d 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, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek’s job—and his life—are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret—or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is—while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.

Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous…

Maria V. Snyder left Yelena and Valek in a good spot twice, both at the end of Fire Study and also at the end of Spy Glass. Although good spot is debatable in a way. Valek is still divided by his loyalty to the Commander, which is absolute and his love for Yelena – also absolute. They spend a lot of time apart, taking care of their individual responsibilities, Valek as the Commander’s advisor and chief of security, Yelena as the liaison between Ixia and Sitia. They take time together whenever they can find it and Yelena is on her way to rendezvous with Valek for a brief snatch of time together when she’s shot by an arrow full of poison. Only her horse Kiki’s quick thinking and Yelena’s ability to push poison out and heal herself probably saves her life.

The arrow has further complications when, after Valek leaves to return to the Commander, Yelena wakes up without her magic. Was it the arrow? Something else? Stripped back down to just being ‘ordinary’ she knows it places her in an incredibly dangerous position. When people learn that the Soulfinder is vulnerable (and they will learn, magicians will realise as soon as they come into contact with her) it’ll be open season for her enemies and those that don’t trust her to attack again. After all, there’s already someone out there shooting at her with arrows and that was before she lost her magic. Along the way Yelena has collected a lot of people who view her with suspicion and the attempts that have been made on her life are numerous. She has to find out what has happened to her magic – and when she meets up with Valek again, his life and position are in danger too.

Apparently Snyder returned to Yelena and Valek by popular demand – fans wanted more. And given they were left happy but also spending more time apart than together with some changes needed in order for them to be truly together, there was obviously more that could be said of their story. Yelena and Valek are my favourites and I was really happy to return to them here. Snyder also gifts us with parts of the story from the points of view of other people – Valek’s and also Janco’s as the characters in separate places have to both impart information to the reader to construct the picture as a whole. Valek has been at the top of his game for over 20 years, a formidable assassin who has kept the Commander safe and been nothing but loyal. Now however, he finds his life in danger, someone wants his job and the Commander doesn’t seem to trust him anymore. Valek has juggled his role and relationship with Yelena for eight years but in some ways, nothing has changed. They aren’t married – he hasn’t even asked her. They spend most of their time apart and really seem to only come together when someone is trying to kill Yelena (or someone else, like Opal).

I knew someone else would have to be introduced if Valek was ever going to walk away from the Commander and resign his service. He’d never leave him without someone that he thought could do the job at least as well as Valek himself had for the past 20+ years. For possibly the first time, Valek finds himself torn between going to Yelena and being with her, especially when he learns that she has no magic and doing what the Commander tells him. The Commander definitely appears to be keeping things from him as well as deliberately making sure that he occupies himself in Ixia, rather than going to Sitia, forcing Valek to make the choice of duty or love. I found the character introduced who wants Valek’s job to be quite irritating in this one – perhaps they’ll grow on me as there’s been a few things planted that are interesting but they’re one of those clever characters that turn up out of nowhere and are immediately better than everyone else at almost everything.

Yelena without her magic was interesting. We’ve already seen Opal lose hers but in doing so, she became immune to magic. Yelena does not have immunity to it, she can’t sense it, she doesn’t have any defense after it, can no longer heal herself or others, cannot find or release souls, she cannot use it to call for Valek as she has in the past and perhaps most distressingly, she can no longer communicate telepathically with Kiki. She is incredibly upset about this, she probably didn’t realise how much it formed part of their bond and how much she relied on being able to ask Kiki things and gain information from her. Kiki would always warn her when someone was coming and if that person was friend or foe (“bad smells”) and although they still have their bond, it’s reduced to Yelena asking her things aloud and trusting in Kiki doing them. It’s lonely as well, as she no longer truly has the horse for company when she’s travelling in the same way that she’s used to – she’s been talking to horses mind to mind since she went to Sitia and I actually really missed the conversations between them as well. Kiki has her own very unique personality and her observations and snappy requests to Yelena form a gently humorous part of books that are quite often dark. Yelena has to learn to adjust to having no magic and she has to examine who and what she is without it. It’s not easy. It’s been a huge part of her, the most crucial parts of her, for nearly a decade. It’s defined her very existence.

This was so good. Probably my favourite so far….and that bombshell at the end? I knew it was coming but it still was like “whhaaattt?!” when I read it.

Onto the next one.


Book #60 of 2020



One response to “Review: Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder

  1. Marg says:

    So, I am thinking I need to read this series from the beginning again now.

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