Opal is a young glassblower who can infuse small glass statues with a spark of magic, allowing other magic users all over her homeland of Sitia to communicate with each other over long distances. As long as someone with magical abilities holds a glass animal she made, they can talk to another magic user holding another. Despite years of lessons at the magic academy, however, Opal doesn't appear to have any other powers whatsoever, and this causes other students to tease her and avoid her. Her role in helping Yelena Saldana (the heroine of Snyder's first trilogy) save the country from rogue evil magicians is well known, but she is disappointed that she seems unable to do more with magic than make communicator devices for mages.
Opal is charged by the academy's Master magicians to go to the Stormdancer clan and discover what is breaking their glass orbs and killing their dancers. The Stormdancer magicians can control the weather, and channel the energy from storms into special glass orbs that are then used as a type of battery. But if one of the orbs break, the dancer using it will die instantly. So far, two have died, and Opal and the youngest of the Masters, Sitara, have to figure out what is causing the orbs to break before more Stormdancers die and the storms in their area of Sitia run out of control.
Despite being doubtful of her abilities to help, Opal solves the mystery of the brittle glass and earns the respect of the Stormdancers, including the brooding Kade, whose sister was one of the dancers killed when an orb broke. On their way back from the Stormdancer clan, Opal is kidnapped. A group of renegades want to learn the Stormdancer secrets and are prepared to torture her to get them. She manages to escape, and discovers that she can channel another magic user's power into an empty glass orb while she is fleeing a magical attack.
Back at the Academy, the Masters are very interested in studying Opal's new powers. It is quite obvious that she is not the "one trick pony" the other students have been accusing her of being. But she is still in danger since she is one of the few who know the Stormdancer glass secrets, and she has to figure out her feelings towards two men, Kade the Stormdancer, and Ulrick, a young man from her home village who's come to the Acedemy to see if he too has magical abilities connected with glass.
I was a big fan of Maria V. Snyder's Study trilogy, especially the first novel, Poison Study. The other two books in the trilogy were neither as exciting or gripping, but Snyder created a fascinating cast of characters, especially Yelena and Valek, and the books were entertaining enough. Opal is a supporting character from the first series, and unfortunately, she is not as engaging a heroine as Yelena. She survived a pretty horrible ordeal in the previous series, and this has obviously affected her, but she seems rather stuck up and self pitying, and instead of being grateful for the magical abilities she does have, keeps wanting more and being sulky. She is also a bit of a pushover, and too easily led by others.
This does change a bit during the course of the book, but she still has a lot of growing to do as a a a character to stop being annoying. The vague love triangle in the book just did not hold my attention at all. Kade is interesting enough, tortured and broody, and with some very cool powers. But Ulrick was clearly just a whiny jerk, who while he'd been treated badly by his family was not really sympathetic at all, but overbearing, controlling and like a walking list of danger signs in a potential boyfriend. Even Opal doesn't really fancy him, just seems to settle on him because Kade isn't available to her.
Some of the supporting cast are good, but others are frankly as annoying as Opal's non-romance with Ulrick. Her sister Mara, in whose shadow Opal has always grown up, is supposedly pretty and talented and someone admired by everyone, but she just irritated me, and some of her advice to Opal was dreadful. The youngest Master Magician was promising as a supporting character, and I'm hoping that Opal may be developing a few friendships that can go good places, so that there is more of an appealing supporting cast in the sequels. Opal does discover some pretty cool powers, but the set up for the next book (which will be all about Ulrick the douche) didn't exactly fill me with excitement. Still, I bought the whole trilogy in a 3 for 2 sale, so will read them all. But probably not right away.