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Saturday, February 27, 2016

"Night Study: Soulfinders Series 2" by Maria V. Snyder (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Maria V. Snyder's Official Website here
Read FBC's review of Shadow Study here

OVERVIEW: Ever since being kidnapped from the Illiais Jungle as a child, Yelena Zaltana's has been fraught with peril. But the recent loss of her Soulfinding abilities has endangered her more than ever before. As she desperately searches for a way to reclaim her magic, her enemies are closing in, and neither Ixia nor Sitia are safe for her anymore. Especially since the growing discord between the two countries and the possibility of a war threatens everything Yelena holds dear.

Valek is determined to protect Yelena, but he's quickly running out of options. The Commander suspects that his loyalties are divided, and he's been keeping secrets from Valek...secrets that put him, Yelena and all their friends in terrible danger. As they uncover the various layers of the Commander's mysterious plans, they realize it's far more sinister that they could have ever imagined.

FORMAT: Night Study is the second book in the Soulfinder Series. It is the fifth Book in the Study Series and is considered the eighth book in the Chronicles of Ixia.

Night Study is a YA fantasy romance. Night Study stands at 444 pages and was released January 26, 2016 by Mira in the US. It has a UK release date of February 25, 2016.  

ANALYSIS: Last year, Maria V. Snyder continued to tell the story of Yelena and Valek. While readers got brief glimpses of these two characters in her Glass Series, this new series focused mainly on their trials and tribulations. Unfortunately, returning to this world wasn't everything I expected it to be.

Shadow Study was by far not the strongest book from Snyder that I read. The pacing felt off, the story felt overused, and the introduction of varying POV just made the entire novel feel 'off'. It wasn't bad, but to me the other books felt smoother, faster paced, and overall more enjoyable. However, I didn't want to give up on the series and so I continued to read the second novel – Night Study.

Snyder appears to have learned from some of the mistakes that occurred in Shadow Study. First, the main POVs are between Yelena and Valek. There is an occasional chapter told by Leif and two chapters from Janco, but there weren't as many side missions/quests and varying stories from other characters. This gives the book a smoother, more polished feel to it that the first book was lacking.

It wasn't that I didn't like Janco from Shadow Study. I found him overly played out. He used cutesy nicknames and it got a bit old after a while. Leif, when he did tell his story, was more mature and likeable. Of course, this is all a personal preference. Some will love the new focus; others will wish Janco was back.

Unfortunately, even the shift of focus on POVs couldn't fix a pacing problem. The first 50% of the novel was extremely slow. There was a lot of back and forth between a personal issue Yelena was going through (I don't want to say what it is because it'd spoil the first book). This dragged down the pacing of the novel. I found I just didn't care about it one way or another so having so much focus on it made the book go by slower.

Another issue I had with the first part of Night Study was for a good 25% of the novel there is this huge sense of urgency to find these hidden greenhouses. All of a sudden, this issue was wrapped up in a quick page or two and then the focus is shifted elsewhere. So much time was spent building up this plot element and it didn't really go anywhere.

I will say the second half of the book was amazing. Snyder takes readers deeper into Valek's past, which is something I have always wondered about and wanted to know more. There were hints given throughout the previous novels, but it was nice to really see it all laid out. This part of the novel was so enjoyable and it seemed to have gone by so fast. In fact, it is this little twist and part of the novel that actually will keep me reading the series – for now.

There is one point I would like to bring up - the relationship with Valek and Yelena. Things seem to be moving way too fast. I really would have liked to see things slow down a little and really show readers their interactions. It seems to be a growing trend to break the two up and split them up – which is fine, but it leaves me with a rushed relationship feeling to it.

Overall, Night Study was about what I expected. My expectations weren't too high based on my mixed feelings from Shadow Study, but I found a few unexpected plot twists entertaining. For myself, it doesn't capture the inspiring 'love it' feeling I had with the Study Series or the Glass Series, but that is okay. I think fans of Snyder will enjoy it and love it, which is ultimately all that really matters.


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