Review: Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder

Sunday, November 25, 2012
Title: Scent of Magic
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: fantasy
Series: Avry of Kazan #2/Healer #2
Pages: 416 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected December 18 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2.75/5

Hunted, Killed—Survived?

As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avry of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of her friends and foes alike, she no longer exists. Despite her need to prevent the megalomanical King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avry is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. And she must do it alone, as Kerrick, her partner and sole confident, returns to Alga to summon his country into battle.

Though she should be in hiding, Avry will do whatever she can to support Tohon’s opponents. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and figuring out how to stop Tohon’s most horrible creations yet; an army of the walking dead—human and animal alike and nearly impossible to defeat.

War is coming and Avry is alone. Unless she figures out how to do the impossible ... again.

A swing and a miss for veteran fantasy author Maria V. Snyder. The first novel, Touch of Power, was a great introduction to the newest series by this prolific writer, but much like what happened for me with her Study series, the sequel left a lot to be desired. It took me a while to sort out how I felt about this novel after finishing it, especially deciding on the rating. 3 stars? 2.5? I just split the difference and settled with 2/75. What I have decided is that this is a far cry from its action-packed predecessor. All the key elements are here - Avry, Kerrick, their chemistry [for the 30ish pages they're together...], the monkeys, the new spin  on magic. Where Scent of Magic fell apart for me was the slower pace, and the complete and utter lack of any actual plot momentum. I was bored for a lot of this read - and for a novel that clocks in at a hefty 416 pages, that's a lot of time to be bored.

I had to sit and think on this, but I seem to see a pattern with Snyder's inability to follow-up awesome first novels. It's a shame, because this series, with these likeable, usually interesting characters, have a lot of potential. I was frustrated with so much of what doesn't happen over the duration of the book. There's a lot of Kerrick missing/worrying about Avry, and her the same about him. EVERY CHAPTER, it must be stated how worried one is about the other - give me a break. It feels like filler, and it doesn't help that in the first 120 pages, nothing important happened. I distinctly remember thinking, "C'mon, Snyder, you're better than this." Another irk for me was the POV shifts from Avry's first-person to Kerrick's third person. They go their separate ways early on, and while I can see why Snyder's used multiple POVs to show the larger story at play, I will never be a fan of such rapid, and vastly different POV styles.

For all the POV headjumping, all the trekking around from one place to another, the endless woods-traininf and all the hidden identities and secrets and foul play, not much of note happens in Scent of Magic. While the characters can pick up some of the slack, there isn't a whole lot of evolution going on for them, either. It's unfortunate, but it doesn't seem like Avry or Kerrick or anyone else really grew or changed from the version shown of them in the first novel. Avry is well-written and a strong female character in a fantasy world (which are few and far in between), but her trials and tribulations seem small - except in the case of her sister. Kerrick, whom I loved in the first book, was somewhat..... wooden and flat in this. He had moments of brilliance and interest, but I didn't invest in him the same way I had before.  Sequel syndrome struck with a vengeance here, for both plot, characters, pace, and momentum. It's a shame, because this series (still) has the potential to be awesome. I'll hold out hope for book three - Taste of Death - but not my breath.

I always want to like Maria V. Snyder's novels, but I can't help but see patterns and similarities the more of them I read. Even characters can read reminiscently of ones from before (like the "monkeys" from this series and Ari and Janco from the Study series, or Valek/Kerrick). Snyder really seems to struggle and end up disappointing with sequels after a promising first novel (see also: the Study series rapid decline from awesome to blah to baaaad). With so much potential and so many plotlines to engage with, it's a shame that Scent of Magic fails to live up to it's predecessor and fails to advance the plot in any meaningful way. So - 2 stars for fun, interesting - if stagnant - characters, and .75 for all the mess rest.


  1. Too bad -- I've heard good things about her ... Poison Study books?

  2. Yes, THIS. I pretty much agree with your entire review. And I am always jealous that you are able to articulate it so much better than me. Ha.

    The one area we disagree on is the story in this one. I mean, I really liked it. I know that not much happens, but I still kept flipping the pages anyway. But I fully realize that the plot in this one was totally a bridge to the next book. I guess I just enjoyed getting to know the characters better because I had a lack of connection with them after the first book.

    But her stories do seem to have a running pattern, don't they? Particularly this one and Poison Study.
    I noticed that especially in the Monkeys v. Ari and Janco. And then Kerrick goes missing in book two just like Valek did in Magic Study. I think she does this to build tension but it's way too similar to the other series.

    I can see how someone would have been bored by this book though. It definitely wasn't as exciting as the first. My issues lie mostly in the writing but I also gave it a 3 star rating. I really am looking forward to the next one, but if it follows the pattern of the Study series, book 3 will be even worse. Fire Study was my least favorite. Sigh.

    Fabulous review, Jessie.

  3. It's a shame this one was a disappointment, Jessie. I don't think I'll pick up this series after all - after The Study Trilogy, it seems as if none of Snyder's works can compare. Wonderful review though, dear! :)


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