Format Read: e-book provided by publisher
Length: 390 pages
Series: Healer, #1
Release Date: December 20, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Formats Available: mass-market paperback, e-book
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Author’s Website
Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes 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 Territories, 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…
It took all of about a paragraph or two for me to be hooked by this book. The plotting of this story is very sharp in the beginning, quickly setting up elements that are intended to play out at a more leisurely pace throughout the rest of the novel.
If you’ve read Maria V. Snyder’s Study series, you may find a few similarities that float to mind while reading Touch of Power. You’ve got a strong and capable yet doomed heroine with a unique ability; an antagonistic romantic intrigue; impossible choices with life and death; uncertain truths. And yet, I myself thought back to Poison Study only once or twice. Touch of Power‘s story, world, and characters…they all commanded attention to the point that any nominal similarities ceased to matter.
This story features a woman of 20 years of age…but this is not a Young Adult / New Adult novel. If fact, it becomes almost irrelevant what age and life phase the protagonist is in, as she’s lived to see so much pain, beauty, triumph, suffering. Avry has depth and believability factor. She’s immediately likable, immediately set up as someone a reader can root for and want to protect from harm and persecution.
Once again Snyder creates a great cast of characters, starting with Avry and continuing with her band of misfits. I found that, while reading the book, I wasn’t taking character notes as I typically do; I likened it to the fact that these personas were interesting enough to consistently keep me engaged, and memorable enough to stand out from a deep first-person narrative. That likeability factor easily applies to the group of “good guys.” And for better or worse, the “bad guys” have enough charisma to keep you either mildly conflicted or deeply disturbed.
Touch of Power‘s setting, though classifiable as that of a high fantasy (deservedly so), also feels somewhat post-apocalyptic. A faded world that’s only a shadow of what it used to be. It’s a fascinating place, the Fifteen Realms; surely Snyder has more unpublished material with more detail about it; there were so many little spaces in the tale that could have branched off into enough world building to fill numerous books. The Realms, politics, religions, magics. Lots of rules and structures that make this world feel like a carefully crafted creation. Personally, I feel the best world building is not necessarily the most detail-filled, but the one in which each detail feels deliberate and crucial to something–whether it’s something grandiose or something minor the reader will never come across in the finished novel.
I’m almost loathe to discuss the romance, because part of its magic is that is creeps upon you; you might catch the hallmarks of a budding romance early on (especially if you’re a big fan of the genre), but it’s not absolutely central to the tale. No, wait…it is a crucial element, but it’s not the point of the book. Still, it’s sweet, it’s alluring, and it’s fun to watch.
I do feel like this is a springboard book; that is to say, while it has many of its own merits (see everything written above), it’s deliberately only scratching the surface of an overall arc. For some, this may translate to the book seeming incomplete, unresolved, stopgap. And in truth, I did end the book with far more questions than I thought possible. But there is so much promise that the reader will be very much interested in the resolution of these amassed questions.
In Touch of Power, you’ll find many delicious dilemmas that grab your attention and keep you emotionally involved. Snyder is all about the storytelling odyssey; the tale that prioritizes the protagonist’s growth in the context of an epic journey and world upheaval. I’m down with that…so my next steps? Read book two ASAP!
I give Touch of Power 4 Stars
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