I continue to be confounded by Maria V. Snyder's books because I remember Poison Study being SO GOOD and the rest just...aren't. I remember thinking that Magic Study and Fire Study weren't as good as Poison, but I also don't remember them skittering from place to place and dropping plot threads and introducing terrible ideas all the time like her other books do, and that must them very frustrating reads.
Sea Glass continues the story of Opal Cowan, who first appeared in the Study series and then starred in Storm Glass. Sea picks up where Storm left off, with Opal traveling back from Ixia with Janco and some other guards and Devlen, who is in Ulrick's body. Devlen is by far the worst part of this series, not because of who he is as a character (really nasty characters can be really good characters to read, even if you'd never want to actually encounter them in real life) but because of what Snyder continues to try to do with him. Namely, she continues to try to make him a viable love interest for Opal, a counterpoint to the ever-awesome Kade. The problem with this, of course, is that Devlen is evil. He insists he's not, that he's changed our ways, and Snyder tries to convince us of this in several different manners, but the fact of the matter is that he tortured Opal, repeatedly, and not because someone else made him and he had to do it to save her life or anything. No, he did it of his own volition, and there's really no coming back from that to be a "good guy."
Opal herself is the second worst part, because she continues to be a weak character in pretty much every manner. She is literally only useful at like two points in this book; she keeps blundering into trouble and traps and setting herself up for failure and needing to be rescued, but suddenly at the climax, BAM! SHE IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN SAVE THEM. Considering how the rest of the book went, with Opal pretty much being a screwup, I found that really hard to believe. She doesn't trust anyone, despite having plenty of reasons to do so, and when something doesn't go the way she'd planned--you know, maybe because she went rogue for a while or something like that--she immediately assumes she's being persecuted and that no one cares about her, blah blah blah. When she (slightly) comes to her senses later, at various points, she goes, "Oh, well maybe it's because they didn't consider x," but then never actually tells them x so that they can consider it. She creates all of her own problems, and while watching a character struggle is supposed to be one of the joys of reading because struggles can make characters grow so much, I really just wanted to slap Opal upside the head or across the face for most of the book because she is so stupid.
And then there are the plot lines. The central plot of this series seems to be with Opal's glass magic and Devlen & Co.'s blood magic, all of which make things difficult for everyone. But Snyder keeps throwing in other plot lines, like the actual sea glass plot in this book, which lasted for about two chapters and then was completely dropped without any sort of conclusion. Someone making sea glass that drives people crazy, and who lives in a weird oyster-harvesting cult? Cool! This must be the central plot, considering the book is called Sea Glass! Let's go investigate! Oh, never mind, it turned out to be nothing and now we're just chasing our tails around again... The rubies in glass animals, Opal's experiments with her diamonds, and her search for other glass magicians can also be included in the category of "things that could have been promising plot points but never actually developed into anything." I think Snyder has an interesting world here, and she is aware of it--but she tries to do too much at once and ends up dropping most of it along the way, which means that the story isn't as tightly-knit as it could or should be, and instead ends up reading as very scattered.
For now, I'm going to keep going with Snyder's books; I only have one more Glass book left, and I have the fourth Yelena book, Shadow Study from the library. But I've put in a request for Poison Study, too, so that I can re-read it and hopefully determine if Snyder's first novel really was better, and that there might be hope for the future, or if I'm just looking on it with nostalgia and should just give up.
2 stars out of 5.
This book also fulfilled my "A book with a blue cover" category for my 2016 reading challenge.