I received this book for free from HarlequinTeen Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Yelena, Valek, Janco and the gang return in this fast-paced, action-oriented fantasy novel as Yelena struggles to find out what caused her magic to disappear and who is attempting to murder her, Valek deals with a cocky new assassin after his job, and Janco must find out who is smuggling illegal goods into and out of Ixia.
The worldbuilding is given even more oomph in this novel as we travel in flashback to Valek’s youth where he trained as an assassin, and the rules of magic are defined even further as more anti-magician technology evolves and magicians themselves learn their limits or overcome their loss of power in other ways.
The powerhouse trio of Yelena, Valek and Janco all serve as great characters to read about this adventure. While Yelena’s lost her magic, she has to rely on other methods to continue kicking ass, and Valek’s point of view is heavy on the flashbacks as we view his training as an assassin, meeting the Commander, and eventual murder of the tyrannical king of Ixia. I’m still surprised we get Janco’s POV: sure, he’s a great character, and interesting, and funny, and as annoying as ever, but I feel like he’s being favourited over Ari who is in fact my own favourite of the pair. I understand why we don’t get Ari’s point of view: he’s too similar to Valek.
The newest character addition makes me wonder why almost every named female character in this series suffers from some kind of traumatic sexual history. I understand that the men in the series hold a lot of power and although Ixia is a pretty fair country, it’s far from a feminist ideal, but I am beginning to tire of sexual violence and wonder if there is some other kind of trauma for these female characters to suffer from rather than immediately going to rape.
Yelena and Valek have been together for years by this point, and while Lief’s gotten married and it appears Opal has some kind of commitment (not quite sure if married or not), our favourite couple haven’t committed to each other. For some reason I really enjoyed the romance aspect of this novel though, and I think it’s because Yelena and Valek were forced to spend so much time apart, and all they wanted to do was get back together, which showed in their thoughts and actions. Although I’m kind of lukewarm about Yelena and Valek, in this book I suddenly became a shipper.
An absolutely fantastic start to a new spin-off series and a continuation of an old one, Shadow Study is an absolute must to anyone who’s enjoyed Snyder’s work in the past or who enjoys character-driven action fantasies with strong, competent women and sexy, brooding assassins.