by Maria V. Snyder
I have to say I was a little disappointed in this book. As the third book in the Study series it left a lot to be desired. In Poison Study and Magic Study I really enjoyed the character of Yelena - she was strong, fierce, confident, and passionate. Often she jumped into situations without thinking them through, but she thought well on her feet. For most of Fire Study Yelena was a different person. She doubted herself at every moment, she gave up too soon, she was afraid, despairing and seemed to be in a constant state of confusion. I wanted the old Yelena back!
One particular personality trait the manifested itself in Yelena this book was an awkward sort of pacifism. Yelena, the girl who from the onset of the series was a murderer - the girl who spent half of the first book training on how to fight, the girl who always carries a knife strapped to her thigh suddenly doesn't want to harm anyone. The vilest, evil creature is right in front of her - the man who kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed at least 12 girls in the previous book - and after magically shredding his brain and essentially killing him, she feels guilty. Others seem to disapprove of her actions. Funny, I was cheering her on when she did it. Throughout most battle sequences Yelena narrates how she incapacitates one person after the next and then frets as she takes down the next that her blow might have killed the poor guy who was just trying to kill her! I don't want her to be bloodthirsty, but it just seemed weird that she was SO traumatized by the deaths of the creeps who were out torturing and killing people. Get over it girl!
In connection to this, I thought Yelena's new found reluctance to swat a fly made it hard to believe her relationship with Valek. He's supposed to be the most lethal assassin out there, who kills threats first and then asks questions and HE'S the man Yelena loves? If she's now so concerned over NOT killing people, why would she love a man who has killed so many with no apology? It just didn't make sense.
Lastly, I thought the book did not flow well. The first half of the book was rambling and confusing. It was sometimes hard to know or remember what was going on, even though the author repeatedly reminded reminded reminded the reader of what had happened in the previous book through Yelena's odd sounding paragraph-long asides to the reader. It was awkward and annoying because I had just read the previous book - I remembered what had happened well enough and didn't need to read summary after summary of what I'd read a few weeks ago.
Thankfully, on the plus side, the last third of the book did improve. The condescending remembers were fewer and Yelena started to act more like the character I remembered from the previous entries. The characters finally had a plan and a purpose. It reminded me why I liked the first books and finally added something worthwhile to the story. I just wish somebody had edited down the beginning!