Shadow Study (Soulfinders #1) by Maria V Snyder
Published Year: 2015
Genre: YA Fantasy
A Chronicles of Ixia Novel
"Once, only her own life hung in the balance…
When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She 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, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job—and his life—are in danger.
As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked.And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive."
In Shadow Study, we've got the return of Yelena and Valek (obviously), but we've also got Ari, Janco, Opal, Devlen, Mara, Leif, Reema, Kiki and an assortment of new characters. MVS is so good at making you connect with her characters, even the secondary characters. I was so happy to know that all of my favorites were coming back. I didn't want to part with a single one of them.
MVS didn't disappoint with this first book in the Soulfinders series. It picks up after the Glass series books (here's the series order), and intertwines the characters from the previous two series. I was a little skeptical that she would be able to fully engage so many characters, but she switched viewpoints between Janco, Valek and Yelena. If you haven't read the other two series, this novel would be very difficult to follow because it jumps all over the place between the changing viewpoints, the changing locations, and the flashbacks. Also, Janco and Valek's point of views are third person, while Yelena remains first person. This can be a bit jarring to switch back and forth between. I sometimes forgot whose chapter I was reading.
MVS does her classic work with intrigue and plot twists appropriate to main characters that are a one-of-a-kind magician and the King Killer assassin. (Particularly the end of chapter 29 and the ending had me literally screaming out loud, so watch out for those!). But I really enjoyed getting more of Valek's past. I was able to understand him better and by extension, his relationship with Yelena. Basically I fell more in love with the two of them together!
Janco and Ari were, of course, another of my favorite parts. Unfortunately, like with Yelena and Valek, they were actually separated for most of this novel, so I did not get my favorite bros together anymore than I got Yelena and Valek. Trying to loop so many characters together across time and space in this novel, I think MVS had to sacrifice a couple story lines (that had better be picked up in books two and three). For example, the whole deal with Maren was underdeveloped and only minimally explained. Also, Onora, the new assassin on the block, was very mysterious and poorly explained. The very little about her background was rushed into and then glossed over, like MVS needed to put the information in but didn't have time to flesh it out. I would've definitely appreciated some more color for Onora, but there's still hope for more from books two and three!
All in all, I was not disappointed--even with my high expectations--for this return to the study series. I continue to enjoy MVS's writing style, characters and plots and am very excited that we get at least two more books! Yes, I'm in denial for how long I must inevitably wait for them.
4 out of 5 stars.