Strong Start, Commercial Continuation

Strong Start, Commercial Continuation

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Poison Study by Maria Snyder is an essential medieval-fantasy with perhaps the most creative premise of its time. Rather than the usual knights and dragons theme of the genre, Poison Study depicts a young woman who is enlisted as the food taster for the nation’s ruler as an alternative to being hung for murder. In contrast, the sequel, Magic Study, is far more generic in nature. The split between the engaging first book and the lackluster second speaks to the state of YA fiction and fantasy today.

A large portion of Magic Study is spent on flashbacks, most of which are unnecessary. I can only imagine how much time is spent on recaps in the third book. While there are several intriguing scenes, the story is largely padded out by its references to its prequel, and this detracts from the overall quality. Anyone who read Poison Study would find the every-other-chapter references annoying and superfluous. Additionally, the stretches of story in-between were far inferior to that of the book’s predecessor. This leads me to believe that the series was continued not for the enjoyment of writing, but for the money that comes with it.

However, Poison Study itself was an excellent read. Aside from the unique occupation of the main character, there was plenty of tension and just enough surprises to keep the reader hooked without confusing them. Additionally, the author included a very tastefully-written transgender character, whose identity I will not spoil. Overall, Poison Study is definitely a must read for anyone attached to the fantasy genre.

Given the choice, though, I would leave the sequel on the shelf.