Thursday, January 5, 2012

Touch of Power (Healer #1) by Maria V. Snyder

Posted by Simcha 4:09 PM, under | 6 comments

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.


Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life...


I had loved Snyder's novel Poison Study but had been so disappointed by the two sequels that I never bothered trying out any of her other books. But then I came across Touch of Power and the synopsis sounded interesting enough that I decided to give Snyder another chance.

For a majority of the book I was glad that I made this decision. The story quickly engaged me and Avry is just the kind of heroine that I enjoy reading about. She's a strong and admirable protagonist who continues to use her healing powers on sick children, despite the deadly risks. I particularly appreciated Avey's refusal to be cowered or bullied into acting against her convictions, though she is willing to keep an open mind to the opinions of others.

It was clear early on that there would eventually be some kind of romantic relationship between Avry and Kerrick, the man who freed her from prison, and I wasn't sure how I felt about this given the harsh way Kerrick treats Avry for most of the book. Kerrick helps Avry escape from prison with the understanding that she would then heal his friend, who had contracted the plague. But once Avry discovers who exactly this friend is she withdraws her cooperation and Karrick resorts to some unpleasant measures to try to force her agreement. While I understood how Kerrick's desperation would lead him to do whatever he felt necessary this didn't help me warm up to him, or make me want to see a romance develop between him and Avry. I definitely feel that the author went too far by having him actually hit her. As Kerrick's treatment of Avry improves and we begin to see another side of him I did get to like him a bit better but I remained somewhat dubious about the developing romance between the two.

After escaping from prison, Avry, Kerrick and his crew need to travel in secrecy across the land, avoiding all the mercenary groups who are hunting for Avry. I really like stories that involve a journey as it gives characters a chance to get to know each other better, and for us to get to know them, and so this was my favorite part of the book. While Kerrick's crew loyally share his convictions they don't share his feelings towards Avry and pretty quickly Avry manages to befriend them all, especially the large but kindhearted Belen who sets himself up as Avry's protector.

During this journey we also learn a bit about this world and the political struggles that are taking place in it as various factions fight for control following the destruction left by the plague. I have to admit that I found these explanations rather confusing and never quite understood who was who and what each faction leader wanted, even after we meet several of them. There is also very little description about the world itself and the magic it contains, other than that of the healers and the poisonous, flesh-eating flowers, which come up several times in the story. So if you are a reader that enjoys rich world-building, you will be disappointed on that front.

But as I said, I was really enjoying the book and was glad that I decided to read it, until I was about ¾ through it and the story began to lose me. Avry and the guys come to the end of their journey and events take a turn towards the absurd, as many of the qualities that I liked about Avry, such as her intelligence, suddenly disappear. For example, Avry is captured by a villain who forces her to promise that she won't escape and for some reason Avry actually tries to stick to that promise. What the heck is that about?? Everybody knows that you do whatever you can to get away from the bad guy and worrying about a stupid promise is ridiculous. I was also frustrated by how helpful she was to the villain in organizing his medical unit and healing his soldiers. In addition, I felt that there was just too much going on in the end, it was too busy, and after a while I got bored waiting for the dramatic finale that I was hoping for.

But my biggest disappointment was the way that the main source of tension in this story was handled. We learn in the very beginning that curing a person from the plague takes all of a healer's ability so if Avry does heal Kerrick's friend she herself will die. At first Avry is willing to consider making this sacrifice if the sick person is worthy of it, which she soon decides he is not. Eventually, though, Avry begins to reconsider and I was really looking forward to seeing how this would play out, especially since Kerrick doesn't know about the sacrifice Avry would have to make, though Avry believes he does. Although I highly doubted Avry would actually be killed off, I was hoping for something almost as dramatic, and so the way this was resolved felt like a cop-out.

Touch of Power has a great premises and some wonderful characters and for the most part it was a very entertaining read. I would probably recommend this book to younger, less critical, readers who are unlikely to be bothered by the issues that I had with it.

6 comments:

Oh I agree... especially with the part about Kerrick. I hated him and never did fully warm to him in the end. Knew she would forgive him too easily. I think she should have went for Belen. LOVED him!

I think I could forgive her annoying worry about promises that were designed to manipulate because she was young and trying to find herself. I could also forgive the ending only because now I have to know about the lillies. They became a interesting character in itself. But you are so right about the ending. *sigh*

a lot of bloggers are always talking about how awesome maria v. snyder is but years ago i picked up one of her books and i couldn't get into it. maybe i should give her books another go. touch of power has a really pretty cover too.

Melissa: No, that promise thing really drove me crazy. She's all 'Oh wow, he's torturing small children, he's really evil. I should really leave. But I promised not to..' I just wanted to shake her. And while I did enjoy the book I don't feel any particular desire to read the sequel.

chelleyreads: Did you ready Poison Study? If not, I would recommend you give that book a try first. I liked it a bit better, even if the sequels were disappointing.

Ummm, she tries to keep her promise not to escape from her kidnapper? That and the cop out ending, in addition to some other dissatisfied reviews, are making me wary.

The whole sure I will promise not to escape was just too silly. I mean hello, run! And T was just not a bad baddie either. He would have beaten her, thrown her into a cell and raped her.

But still it was a good book

This doesn't sound like a fantasy book I would actually enjoy. I think some of the flaws you hinted at would annoy me too much.

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