Friday, February 3, 2012

Study Fantasy Series by Maria Snyder: A Review

Stella Atrium

Ideas for story elements are like grapes.  We can devour them off the vine for the sweet pop in the mouth and feel pleasure.  Of course, we need to consume several to feel satisfied.  We can allow ideas to grow wrinkly and discolored and devour them later as raisins that provide pleasure and also are longer lasting – in storage and in nourishment.  We can allow story ideas to ferment tangent to other ingredients and age in a dark cool place, and use them up later as wine when they provide long lasting pleasure and also maybe a giggle or two.

I’m in favor of the wine.

I have been reading the Study Series by Maria Snyder and have enjoyed following the antics of Yelena Lliana Zaltana.  I didn’t think I would ever make this next statement, but there’s too much magic in the stories. 

Everybody has magic, even the leader of the district that killed all the magicians. The two seemingly untalented characters, who only study plants for derivatives and distill perfume, are parents to the most powerful apprentices.  How is that possible since it was established that magic follows the bloodlines?  Also these parents are introduced in a domestic environment, but later are referred to as king and queen of the clan that only has clan leaders, not royalty.

The stories are bad guy driven, but the bad guys are wholly craven and unrelenting.  The good guys are wholly loyal and hiding a secret heart of love.  Oh-hum.

My real complaint, though, is that the writer got tired of her story and her otherworld. The third story is weighed with exposition explaining past events, and the plot line jumps from one fire to another – literally. Action scenes are related after the fact, and some secrets are held but only until the next chapter. Preventing death at the hands of the bad guys is all-consuming – almost a substitute for character development. There’s no breath for festival days or growth with age or mentoring sisters.

And everybody has magic, even the horses – like a cloying dessert (with raisins) that makes you reach for a cool glass of water.

I enjoy these books and sat up late at night reading them, the true test for the fantasy genre.  I regret the writer lost patience, rushed through intriguing scene set-ups, and used and dropped characters.  What happened to Fisk and his street urchin army? How did he know clan legacy taught in the schools? Was he a latent magician too?

What happened to Captain Star? Will she appear in the next installment as a confidant to Valek? I wanted wine and I got raisins.

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