Fire Study

By: Maria V. Snyder

To my parents, James and Vincenza, for your constant support

and encouragement in all my endeavors. You sparked the fire.


By this time you all should know how wonderful my husband, Rodney, can be. After all, I have thanked him and listed the many ways he supports me in the acknowledgments of my first two books. However, the writing wouldn’t get done and the holes in plot logic wouldn’t get filled without him. So once again, thanks go to him, because I don’t ever want to take him for granted. And thanks also go to my two little sparks who fire my imagination—my children, Luke and Jenna.

One of the best decisions I’ve made is to attend Seton Hill University’s graduate writing program. Through this program I’ve learned so much and met a talented group of writers. Thanks to them all, and special thanks go to my critique partners, Diana Botsford, Kimberley Howe and Jason Jack Miller, who helped me with this book. Kim, I hope this reads better than the ingredients on a frozen dinner! I would also like to thank my Seton Hill mentor, David Bischoff.

First drafts of novels can be pretty rough, but my editor, Mary-Theresa Hussey, has the knowledge and experience to wade in and guide me to calmer waters. Thanks, Matrice, for all your hard work and the smiley faces on my manuscript. They keep me going!

Thanks go to my excellent agent, Robert Mecoy, who has taught me so much about the publishing business and about how important it is to have a knowledgeable agent on your side. Many thanks to Erin Craig, who turned up the heat for this beautiful cover.

Researching for a book is always fun, and this time I enrolled in a glassblowing class. My appreciation for glass art rose considerably as I struggled to craft simple items from molten glass. Thanks go to my teacher and glass artist Helen Tegeler, whose patient instruction not only added to my knowledge of glass for this book, but made the experience a blast.


“THAT’S PATHETIC, YELENA,” Dax complained. “An all-powerful Soulfinder who isn’t all-powerful. Where’s the fun in that?” He threw up his long thin arms in mock frustration.

“Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not the one who attached the ‘all-powerful’ to the title.” I pulled a black strand of hair from my eyes. Dax and I had been working on expanding my magical abilities without success. As we practiced on the ground floor of Irys’s Keep tower—well, mine too, since she has given me three floors to use—I tried not to let my own aggravation interfere with the lessons.

Dax was attempting to teach me how to move objects with magic. He had rearranged the furniture, lined up the plush armchairs in neat rows and turned the couch over on its side with his power. My efforts to restore Irys’s cozy layout and to stop an end table from chasing me failed. Though not from lack of trying—my shirt clung to my sweaty skin.

A sudden chill shook me. Despite a small fire in the hearth, the rugs and the closed shutters, the living room was icy. The white marble walls, while wonderful during the hot season, sucked all the heat from the air throughout the cold season. I imagined the room’s warmth following the stone’s green veins and escaping outside.

Dax Greenblade, my friend, tugged his tunic down. Tall and lean, his physique matched a typical Greenblade Clan member. He reminded me of a blade of grass, including a sharp edge—his tongue.

“Obviously you have no ability to move objects, so let’s try fire. Even a baby can light a fire!” Dax placed a candle on the table.

“A baby? Now you’re really exaggerating. Again.” A person’s ability to access the power source and perform magic manifested at puberty.

“Details. Details.” Dax waved a hand as if shooing a fly. “Now concentrate on lighting this candle.”

I cocked an eyebrow at him. So far, all my efforts on inanimate items were for naught. I could heal my friend’s body, hear his thoughts and even see his soul, but when I reached for a thread of magic and tried to use it to move a chair, nothing happened.

Dax held up three tan fingers. “Three reasons why you should be able to do this. One, you’re powerful. Two, you’re tenacious. And three, you’ve beat Ferde, the Soulstealer.”