Once upon a time, I never left a book unfinished, no matter how unsatisfactory. It was a point of pride to me that I wouldn’t just stop halfway through a story. Unfortunately, those days are long gone, and now I’ll sometimes find myself stopping in the middle of a good book, just because I don’t have the time to finish it. Luckily, Dawn Study forced its way into my busy life, and although I might have taken longer to read it than usual, not finishing never even crossed my mind.
Part of the reason this book was so compelling was that I’ve been invested in its characters for quite a long time. Dawn Study is the final book in Ms. Snyder’s second trilogy concerning Valek and Yelena, favorites from one of her previous series. Given that the story opens in the middle of the action, expecting readers to already understand the ongoing political war and personal dynamics of the characters, I would advise against picking it up if you haven’t at least read the two books immediately preceding it.
Those two books – Night Study and Shadow Study – show the build-up and development of the cold war between the nations of Ixia and Sitia. No weapons have been discharged yet, but magician Owen Moon, and some political allies have cooked up a plot to set the two countries at each other’s throats. Using a plant called Theobroma, which leaves the mind of anyone who regularly consumes it susceptible to magical influence, this cartel has gained control over both the Commander of Ixia, and most of Sitia’s governing council. A pregnant Yelena (who has consequently lost her magical abilities), Valek (who has newly come into magic of his own), and an assortment of their close family and friends are now all that stands in the way of outright war between the two countries.
It’s hard to say too much else about the plot, both because it would give things away, and because every detail would require a paragraph of explanations of events from previous books. Suffice it to say that the focus is very much on the action in Dawn Study, such that each chapter turns to a different character for a new look at the rebellion.
That’s not to say that Yelena and Valek don’t get their share of attention, though. One of the reasons I’ve followed Ms. Snyder’s work for so long is that I love the world she has designed and the characters she has filled it with. Yelena and Valek are two strong people dedicated to their countries, but also to each other. Those allegiances are put under increased pressure here as Yelena’s pregnancy advances, and we see the couple struggle with the question of how much Yelena can really do for the resistance without endangering their child. In spite of all the time we’ve already spent with them, Ms. Snyder manages to address new sides of Yelena and Valek’s characters with each book. Here, that new twist very clearly comes in the form of parenthood.
Thinking it over, I can’t say I have many major criticisms of Dawn Study. Although it is a bit longer than her other books, Ms. Snyder manages a fairly even pace throughout. It hits all my marks for a good adventure book – danger, romance, and enough humor sprinkled around that it doesn’t feel overly dark. This has been Ms. Snyder’s approach since Poison Study, her first book set in this world, and it has served her well.
Yelena and Valek have taken up a considerable amount of reading time when you add all the books together and I’m proud to say I stuck with them until the end – in spite of an increasingly busy schedule. It’s well worth the time and effort and I’d definitely advise anyone looking for a new adventure series to pick up in the Study series, Poison Study, right away.