Magic Study is a fantasy novel and the second book in the Study trilogy.
In book 1, Yelena, our protagonist and narrator, is a woman imprisoned for murder who was given the choice between death or being the poison taster for the Commander of Ixia. Yelena chooses to become a poison taster, learns a lot about poison, and soon becomes involved with the political intriuge around her. The story was gripping because to keep Yelena in check, Valek, the Commander's assassin and spy-master has poisoned her. Yelena and must take a daily dose of the antidote to stay alive. In Magic Study Yelena has been freed and sent to Sitia to meet her family and to learn to control her magic.
I found Poison Study so compelling because of Yelena being on the edge of death every day while dealing with the intruige and the growing romance with Valek. It was difficult not to compare Magic Study to the previous book, and while it was still well written and compelling, it didn't seem to be on the same level as Poison Study (I'm not sure it COULD be, because the same situations that made Poison Study such a page-turner can't really be repeated again in a second book). On the other hand there were relationships which were interesting (when she meets her brother for the first time, he hates her on sight and is sure she is a spy), and a magical serial killer on the loose, and Yelena is still learning her magic so there are enough things going on to keep me reading. It just didn't feel the same. Maybe because I wanted there to be more of Yelena learning her magic than running headlong into trouble and trying to save people, and there sure was a lot of disastrous situations happening one after another – it started to feel manufactured that as soon as one thing is dealt with, something else happens. The plot felt like a string of Yelena solving everyone's problems, and that made the story as a whole suffer, despite it being well written. I think taking out one or two "Yelena runs into trouble and figures out some new thing with her magic to save herself/someone else" scenes and adding some more character depth scenes (like the resolution with her problems with her brother needed more than what it got), I would have been happier with the story. In any case, the fact that there are grey characters that had competing views they had of the same situation and their attitudes change as they grow is something I liked. This still is a keeper for me.
Side note – Opal, Cowen a glassmaker who has a small part in this book is getting her own series starting with Storm Glass which comes out in 2009.