Saturday, September 3, 2011

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Dear, dear, dear, Maria V. Snyder. We love you. Just saying. And the absolutely only reason we might be a bit hard on you at times, is because you produced a masterpiece called Poison Study. Unfortunately, because of this, anything you write that is not a spectacular work of art will be a disappointment, despite still being better than half of all the other fantasy novels put together.

Now that we've got that out of the way.

Maria V. Snyder kicked off her Ixia/Sitia universe with her Study books, a trilogy of fantasy novels about main character Yelena Zaltana. In the first book (the ever-magnificent Poison Study), Yelena is saved from execution by the law that states the next criminal to die will become the Commander's food-taster. His dies, and since Yelena is next in line for the noose, she becomes the official food-taster. Not exactly safe, but it's better than death.

In the second Study book, Magic Study, Yelena leaves Ixia and goes into neighboring country Sitia, where she starts learning magic and ends up pretty much saving the world (yahoo). This book was lacking because a main character learning magic is really nothing new, you can read about that in any fantasy novel. "Poison" was so good because no one writes about poison.

In the third Study book, Fire Study, Yelena is still (mostly) living in Sitia, but she's now studying the art of Soul finding and trying not to terrify everyone else to death (because Soul Finders are scary, ooooo). Then a plot starts up back in Ixia, so Yelena troops back over there and saves the world again (yay). This book did have a few good points, but the bottom line is, it's like all of Miss Snyder's writing talent just flew out the window. "Fire" is just bad, I'm sorry. Don't read it.

After finally abandoning Yelena as a MC, Miss Snyder started her Opal series, which also takes place in the Ixia/Sitia universe, but several years in the future. And this time, Opal Cowan is the main character. She was a minor char in "Magic" and "Fire", and I'm proud of Miss Snyder for picking her for a new MC rather than a more major char like Valek or Irys (because prequel/origin stories like that are way overrated).

And now that we have all that backstory, let's actually discuss the novel Storm Glass.

For several years now, Opal Cowan has been studying magic in Sitia, only she doesn't really have much. In fact, she's only studying at the keep because her unique magical powers helped save the world a few years back (see "Fire"). But her gift, blowing magic into glass figurines that allow magicians to communicate over vast distances, is really the only magic she can do. She can't even light a candle like all the other magicians.

But then word comes of trouble in the Stormdancer land. Stormdancers use glass orbs to harness power and control the violent storms, and without them all of Sitia would be in trouble because of the weather. But the orbs have started shattering, and they need an expert glassmaker to figure out what's wrong. Well, Opal's not really an expert, but she's good with glass, so they just send her.

Surprisingly, she figures out the problem pretty fast, but then they have to figure out who's behind it. One easily prevented disaster leads Opal and company on a wild mystery that takes them all over Sitia, and even into Ixia.

And let's not forget the charming but broody Stormdancer Kade and the puppy-like Ulrick from Opal's hometown, or Blue-Eyes, a mysterious swordsman/magician who for some reason is after Opal.

Thank God this book is good. I was really scared after "Fire" that Miss Snyder's talent had just evaporated, but I think she just needed a change of characters. Opal is nothing like Yelena. Yelena was the strong, sarcastic type who taught herself to fight and would do just about anything to survive. Opal, on the other hand, doesn't kid herself into thinking she's strong. Sure, physically she's a powerhouse because of all the work she does with glass, but she knows she hasn't got a lot of willpower. She's a well-rounded char who grows throughout the story (yay for real character growth!). Though she can be a bit stupid (*coughcough*Ulrick*coughcough*).

Miss Snyder also managed to creat new chars that were fun to meet and bring back old ones without mixing them all up. Yelena and Leif both had a few starring moments, Leif being even more fun than he was in Study. It was interesting seeing Yelena from someone else's perspective.

The plot was typical Snyder: takes a while and goes all over the place, but eventually everything comes together and it turns out every little thing that happened does have something to do with the story.

I can't say I'm dying for the next book (ugh, Ulrick), but I'm definitely going to read it. Hopefully the series won't sink lower and lower into the swamp of yuck as it continues.

If you enjoyed the Study books, I'd strongly recommend reading Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore. The worlds and writing styles are similar, not to mention that Graceling and Fire are just freakin' awesome.


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