Friday, September 10, 2010

Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder

Opal Cowan is a glass mage. Her magic works, quite literally, through the glass pieces she makes. She used to be able to absorb the magic of other magicians and trap it in the glass, but after spilling her own blood and magic in a fight with a blood mage called Hubal, she has lost all her magic, and become something of an outcast in the mage school she once trained at. Without magic, she is no longer a mage, and her only real talent left is in glass crafting, something that isn't really all that valuable to the mages. And she can no longer make her glass messengers, so some of the mages want her thrown out immediately.

Opal isn't sure what to do, but she has to stay around for now to testify at the trial of the other mages who were working with Hubal. She is also planning to wed her Sandseeker love, Kade, but first, she has to deal with the wedding of her brother, Leif, and because she's been away from her family for so long, her mother ropes her into doing a lot of work with the wedding. But even though her family tries to get her interested in working glass again, Opal can only think of her missing magic, which turned into diamonds when she drew it through her glass. She's now rich... which would be nice if it wasn't for the fact that her magic is permanently gone.

When her friend Yelena's lover Valek shows up on her doorstep, Opal is afraid that he has come to kill her. After all, he's Ixian, and Ixians have a problem with mages and magic. But he seems more to want to talk, and so Yelena goes for a ride with him, and he twigs to the fact that she has a new talent- to be completely unaffected by magic, and so he offers her a job, working for him. He wants her as his backup in watching over the Commander of Ixia, since her inability to be affected by magic would also protect his boss.

Opal is shocked by the offer, but can't take it. On the other hand, Valek gives her something to think about that she hadn't ever considered before. Like what her life will be like if she cannot be affected by magic. She won't be able to be healed with magic, because no magic can touch her- not even the kind she would want to be able to affect her. He promises that if she is injured, she can send him a message and he will send her Ixian Healers, who do not work with magic, to help her. She thanks him, and returns home. She has an idea.

She travels to where Devlen is imprisoned, in the town of Fulgor. She wants to question him about what was done to her, but she has a little problem. He's imprisoned along with the rest of his compatriots in the Maximum-security facility. Unfortunately for Opal, her guard friends can't help her with getting a job in there, but maybe Councillor Tama Moon, who she saved in her last adventure, will be able to get her in.

But when she goes to see Councillor Moon, she is stunned at her change in appearance. Since her abduction and the replacement of her body, Tama Moon has become paranoid of everyone around her and no longer trusts any of her subordinates. She even calls her own judgement into question when hiring anyone new to replace the people she no longer trusts. So Opal asks for a job as Tama's assistant, to look into their backgrounds and hire trustworthy guards and give Tama a peaceful night's sleep. Tama agrees, but not everyone is happy with Opal taking on this position, especially her mage bodyguard, Zebb, who thinks that Opal is doing this to assassinate Tama Moon. Opal manages to convince him she's on the level, but he's still suspicious of her.

Opal uses her new duties to be able to visit the Maximum Security jail and has an encounter with Devlen, the man who impersonated her ex-boyfriend, Ulrick. Devlen claims to have reformed after being released from his addiction to blood magic by Opal draining him of his magical powers and ability. Yelena searched his soul and believed him, supporting him to the Council. While the other blood magicians, including Ulrick, are sentenced to death or eternal imprisonment, he is only sentenced to a fairly light period of imprisonment.

However, when she finally does get in to see him, he tells her that not all of her blood was used up. Some of it still exists, and it is possible that it could be used to bring back her magical power and abilities. He wants to help her find it and regain her power, but not for her own sake- he thinks it will make her happy to have her magic back and he's still in love with her and just wants her to be happy. He would take her powerless if she decided to be with him.

And Opal also discovers a new power in her seeming magiclessness. Before, when she cast glass, her glass animals could be used to send messages between magicians, and even through other people. But now the glass she casts flashes in the presence of magic. She isn't sure if this is a new magical power or just some weird byproduct of no longer having her magic, but she still wants her old magic back, even if this new power is also magically useful to the Council. But to get back her blood, and maybe her magic, she will have to confront old friends and old enemies, and make some new ones of both in the process, for her blood is held by a family cult that she will have to marry into if she wants to get it back, and that would be a true fate worse than death. But can she escape the family with her blood and her magic *and* her life? Because there is no sure way to leave with all three. And will she ever have her happy ending with Kade? Or will life lead her in a far different direction?

I loved the "Study" series, and this is an offshoot of that, focussing on Opal Cowan. Unlike Yelena, who formed a bond with Valek in the very first book, Yelena has been pulled in different directions when it comes to love and relationships. From Ulrick, her lover from the school of mages, to Kade the Sea and Storm magician, and then Devlen, who for a long time she believed was Ulrick, and now finally Devlen in his own body, Opal is pulled in many directions, like storm tides at sea.

But that is really appropriate, for Opal's life has undergone similar ups and downs, seeming very much like a rollercoaster at times. I mean the sheer number of times she is in peril of her life in just one book is quite amazing, and would make pretty much anyone long for a safer, more settled life. Indeed, that is why one of her lovers abandons her- he just can't take how much trouble she gets into during the course of the books and how long he has known her.

Because Opal goes through such extremes, it makes her character question what and who she really wants pretty much all the time, and by the end of this book, she is conflicted enough that she worries about making the right choice- and the choice is abruptly ripped from her by the ending. But it aligns with the choice she was already ready to make, and that made me happy, because Opal is often indecisive, and yet, when she finally chooses who she wants to be with, it's not a second best- it's what and who she really wants, and it shows that she has finally grown into an adult, able to step out of indecisiveness and be really herself.

To be honest, I'd still like to see more books set in this world, but I'd also like to see something different from Ms. Snyder for her next series. Something set somewhere else, or make it characters who have no connection to Opal or Yelena for her next book. Surely, there must be other characters out there to write about- ones not so closely connected to the ones we have already seen. Okay, yes, I am looking for something written with the same verve and zest and yet different in terms of new characters to grow acquainted with and admire. So yeah, the same, but different. And I'd rather it not be someone from that abusive family. I ended this book wanting to drop-kick them off the end of a pier. None of them really had my sympathy.

I really enjoyed reading this book and Opal's growth into a real adult who knew what she wanted and went for it rather than an indecisive older than teenager. In the end, she's where she wants to be, with whom she wants to be with, and it was a welcome change. The growth of her character across the series and her ultimate forgiveness at the end were wonderful to read, but the journey to get there was fairly harrowing. Recommended.

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