The Wolves of Midwinter

Tuesday, August 18, 2009





Sypnosis
:About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered a reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace, and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust, and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and she develops magical powers she can't control. Her life’s at stake again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear!


Not all my reviews are of books offered by either tour promotions or authors. Some as with today's review are books recently read of my own choosing. One of my friends whom I met nearly two years ago, "Lexie" has recommended this book by Maria V Snyder and it's sequels, "Fire Study" and "Magic Study." She happens to also be a book blogger and has written some great reviews over at her blog. Every week, I'm planning to post a review of one of the three books included in the series. Along with each review shall be a song that reminds me of this book.

Beginning with Poison Study, a song that reminds me of the book is "Blue Eyes," by the Dutch Symphonic Metal band "Within Temptation. Below's a video with the song and the lyrics for all those who may not be able to decipher them clearly. I'm allowing the readers of this blog to freely interpret the song with regards to the story.


Towards the beginning of the book, my first impressions of the story included empathy and extreme tension as I pored over the pages, wondering to myself as to the fate of "Yelena." Maria V. Snyder from the start stunned me with her evocative language and mastery of imagery. Every stark detail was fully realized from Yelena's tension to the hues of the world amidst her. From the beginning, I sympathized with Yelena's plight and her conflicted feelings surrounding her sentence. The tension right from the onset of the story transports the readers from their surrounding setting to Snyder's wonderfully envisioned world. And, before long, the story successfully ensnares us and we the readers clamor for more details to be divulged.

Never once did I lose interest within Yelena. Unlike many other female protagonists, she's assertive and strong willed. And her struggles of trust feel natural within the story as Snyder slowly bridges her past memories of betrayal to the present, where she seeks company with those who'll inevitably help her or thwart her efforts. We're never fully aware of what lies ahead for her as her choices are never definitive. For when more things are revealed to her, she'll be shocked to find how complex a person's motives are and how everyone hides secrets beneath their cleverly designed facade. Meaning some people Yelena trusts from the onset turn out to be unworthy of trust while some others surprise her.

Maria V. Snyder's characters are neither a complete shade of black or white. Instead they all contain varying degrees of gray. For many of these characters make choices based upon love or other cases, money. This factor adds a great deal of realism to the story as within the real world, many people's choices are driven by desire. And the way in which the dialogue works is similar to a game of chess, where each character must carefully act or talk in way to gain the trust of another character. Another wonderful feature of her story involves the fight scenes which do not seem forced but necessary in order to advance the plot. Never does she befall the trap that many of her fellow fantasy writers fall for. That is the inclusion of unnecessary fight scenes all in pursuit of having extraneous gore and carnage within the story.

And just as with the fight scenes, Maria V. Snyder carefully plots a rather predictable but believable romantic subplot. Now, I am not going to reveal whom falls in love but from the context clues provided within the story. I found the revelation to be quite expected from seeing the subtle signs, starting from the beginning of the story. But every blush or caress is passionate and even makes a guy ( such as myself) blush slightly. And who can help themselves when their romance is fully actualized and really allows for the readers to become invested with each stage of their relationship. Nothing ever feels as contrived or lacking of chemistry as with "Twilight." More importantly, the author does not include romance just so there's some "fluff" for all the self acclaimed fluff lovers to gush over. The relationship complicates the plot and makes sense within the development of story. With this, I throw my cap off to Maria V. Snyder for including romance that's not contrived and forced.

As to my overall reaction to the story, I was largely impressed and greatly enraptured by every aspect of this story. I've been in futile search of this sort of story for the past year as everything failed to impress me recently ever since discovering Angel and Buffy. But now I can attest to the fact that there are good stories outside of "Whedonverse" and the nineteenth century. And that there are writers who respect the English language and are able to understand the importantly of having authenticated characters. Thanks be to Maria V. Snyder for having me making me a giddy fanboy!! You've irrevocably hooked me to your books and now I must devour "Magic Study."

For all those interested in Maria V Snyder's books, please check here.

Next week, be prepared for my review of "Magic Study," with "Fire Study," the following week.

Bonus: After much contemplation, I thought this Within Temptation was even more appropriate, especially since it relates so closely to a certain incident within the book.

3 comments:

Lexie said...

:) I do believe your review is leagues beyond my review (though you are definitely more cerebral then I am Justin). I'm so happy you are addicted to the series as well!! We should talk about them once you're all done with the Study series!

Justin B. said...

Thanks though your blog template's far more appealing to the eyes than mine!! I'm having fun reviewing books thus far!! And I have even begun contacting some writers about possibly reviewing their books. But I'm scrounging up some cash to obtain copies of some books. So at least writers will believe I'm not exploiting them; all in the pursuit of receiving free copies.

Maria V. Snyder said...

Astounding, wonderful, thoughtful and...did I say astounding?...how about an amazing review! I believe I'm at a loss for words.

Thank you so much for taking the time to post this and to send me a link! I can't wait to read about your impressions for Magic and Fire Study. And to see what music you choose!

Lexie - did I know you have a review blog?? Guess I do know ;> Guess where I'm going next?