The books so far consist of three trilogies:
The "Study" series, narrated by Yelena:
- Poison Study
- Magic Study
- Fire Study
The "Glass" series, narrated by Opal:
- Storm Glass
- Sea Glass
- Spy Glass
The third trilogy, narrated mostly by Yelena:
- Shadow Study
- Night Study
- Dawn Study
In Poison Study, Boxed Crook Yelena is offered the job of the Commander's food taster. She accepts it and is trained by The Spymaster Valek in the identification of poisons. She also picks up some self-defense skills and sneakiness, makes some friends, discovers the Commander's deepest secret, falls in love with Valek, and eventually finds out that she can do magic and was originally kidnapped from neighboring Sitia. At the end of the book, she flees to Sitia, where she later studies magic and learns how to use her skills as an Soulfinder. She eventually becomes the liasion between the two countries.
The "Glass" series picks up four years after the end of Fire Study with Opal Cowan, the glassmaker from that book. She's studying at the Keep in Sitia, but is known as a "one-trick wonder" because the only magic she can do is to insert magic into her glass creations. This talent turns out to be bigger and more useful than she knows.
The third trilogy continues Yelena and Valek's story.
These books provide examples of:
- Aristocrats Are Evil: The reason why the Commander slaughtered the royal family and took over Ixia in the first place.
- The Artful Dodger: Heck, those kids start their own guild of this.
- Ascended Extra: Opal.
- Assassin Outclassin': Ambrose and Valek met when the previously-unbeatable Valek was contracted to kill him. Ambrose won the fight, carved the letter C into Valek's chest, and declared that Valek now worked for him. Valek promised to work for him if Ambrose got him close enough to assassinate the king.
- Valek tells Yelena at one point in Magic Study that Commander Ambrose remains the only person capable of defeating him in a knife fight.
- Badass Normal: Valek, at least most of the time. He undergoes Badass Decay when he begins to act as Yelena's sidekick.
- Big Book of War: The Commander lives by a personal code and requires everyone in Ixia to do so as well. It could best be described as "tough but fair."
- Blow You Away: The Stormdancers.
- The Clan: There are eleven of them in Sitia.
- Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes Opal about Ulrick and Devlen switching
- Cliffhanger: At the end of Shadow Study Yelena still doesn't have her magic back...and then realizes that she's pregnant.
- Cold-Blooded Torture
- Crapsack Only by Comparison: The majority of people consider their country to be a much better place to live. It is strongly hinted that a lot of people are allowed to escape from one to the other if the other country will suit them better.
- Cruel to Be Kind: Valek. It is strongly hinted that he cultivates a reputation of brutally murdering all magically-gifted children so that their parents will get them smuggled out of the country before someone else does.
- Curse Escape Clause: The dying king attempted to curse Valek, which didn't work because Valek is immune to magic. It landed on his knife instead, leaving it permanently bloody. "Makes a nice trophy, though."
- Cynicism Catalyst: Opal and Kade both have one (Tula and Kaya) hanging over their psyches.
- Dark and Troubled Past
- The Empath: Leif.
- Energy Absorption: Turns out Opal can do this to someone else and drain their magic entirely if (a) they throw their entire power at her during an attack, and (b) she's defending herself using glass by taking control of their Summon Magic creatures.
- Failed a Spot Check: Opal; she notices that Ulrick has become (a) more amorous, and (b) refuses to blow any glass, yet somehow completely ignores that both of these actions are out of character for him. See example below for why.
- For the Love of Many: The Bloodrose clan is polygamous, in the "creepy old dude marries every female and impregnates her" way.
- Freaky Friday: Devlen and Ulrick.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Ari and Janco
- Idiot Ball: Opal, so very, very much. She notices when something is wrong and then promptly continues to ignore it and head straight into trouble anyway. This never gets any better. If she were in a horror movie she'd be dead within the first 15 minutes.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Devlen, particularly in book 3 of Glass.
- Journal Full of Crazy Reyad had one where he wrote down every single thing Yelena had done to piss him off since they met, and how he planned to punish her for all of them. Slowly and painfully.
- Journey to the Center of the Mind
- Knowledge Broker: The local kids set up a guild of these.
- Limited Wardrobe: Everyone in Ixia has to wear a uniform denoting their station.
- Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Yelena and Valek occasionally like to get it on in places such as a prison cell (while hiding from soldiers who are searching for them, no less) and the war room of the Commander's castle.
- Master of Disguise: Devlen.
- And Valek, though Yelena usually recognises him.
- A Match Made in Stockholm: Opal ends up with Devlen, the guy who possessed her boyfriend, kidnapped and tortured her. What the hell?!
- Mildly Military: Ixian culture post-Commander.
- Mind Rape: First Magician Roze Featherstone is frighteningly adept at this.
- Mistaken for Gay: Valek by Dilana the seamstress, of the "married to the job" variety.
- More Than Mind Control: Done on the Commander via Criollo.
- No-Sell: Valek is immune to magic.
- Orphanage of Fear: Where Yelena grew up.
- Parental Abandonment: Averted.
- Perfect Poison: Averted.
- Playing with Fire: Yelena can't do this. Others can. It's a problem.
- Poison-and-Cure Gambit: Valek poisons Yelena with Butterfly's Dust, a poison that will kill her within 48 hours if she doesn't get daily doses of the antidote. He's lying, any symptoms of the poison come from her addiction to the "cure".
- The Power of Blood: Used by Warpers.
- Professional Killer: Valek's former profession, and arguably still his job after the Commander's takeover of Ixia. Killing isn't his only job as he also serves as The Spymaster, but it is something he's called upon to do quite a bit.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: In Poison Study, Yelena is beset on all sides by people who dislike her for one reason or another (mostly because they're evil, though - everyone good quickly becomes a friend, even though she's a convicted murderer). Every single one of these people (provided they're male) will at one point attempt to rape her. Even the two random Mooks who chase her through the castle and never get close enough to touch her are overheard discussing how much they'll enjoy drawing out her rape so they can savor her terror.
- Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Yelena personifies this trope. She dismisses the other girls at the beginning of Magic Study as being silly for wearing flowery Sitian clothing, and won't even trade in her uniform for more comfortable and practical skirts (in Sitia skirts are more practical because its so hot and humid there). She says that her hair — after a (forced) makeover — makes her look "soft," and she even finds Cahil's compliments to her insulting.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Commander Ambrose comes off as a horribly strict, evil man for killing the royal family, calling for the execution of magic users, forcing everyone into uniforms and rigid roles, etc. However, the Commander isn't 100% unreasonable, and has some darned good reasons for doing what he does AND being against magic.
- Secret Keeper: Yelena knows the Commander's (see spoiler space below).
- Serial Killer: Ferde.
- Show, Don't Tell: Maria V. Snyder's style is occasionally a bit awkward, and sometimes veers into this.
- Shown Their Work: Maria V. Snyder learned how to make glass objects for Fire Study and then later based an entire trilogy off her glassblower character, who can solve various problems with her glassmaking ability/knowledge. Naturally, this requires a major problem where only a glassmaker could solve it.
- Sibling Rivalry: Yelena and Leif.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Yelena, especially to her horse Kiki.
- Succession Crisis: Cahil.
- Surprise Pregnancy: Yelena discovers she's pregnant at the end of Shadow Study after realizing she forgot to take her birth control potion.
- Those Two Guys: Ari and Janco.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Only Valek is allowed to kill people in Ixia. Even those who kill in self-defense are supposed to be sentenced to death.
- Torture Cellar
- Transgender: Commander Ambrose. Added complication: it turns out not so much that he's a man in a woman's body so much as Two Siblings In One. His mother's spirit entered his body when she died/he was born, and both of them live on in him.
- The Un-Favourite: Ulrick.
- Willfully Weak: Valek and the Commander most likely could have had magical ability, but both chose to suppress the hell out of it. Later, Opal does the same thing.
- Wrong Context Magic: Yelena is a kind of mage not seen for centuries. Not surprisingly, people are confused when, for example, her attempt to push someone over in a lesson causes them to simply lay down.