Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Finished: November 24, 2011

Series: Healer (#1)

Synopsis: 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…

Read Chapter 1 of Touch of Power at Maria’s website here.

Thoughts: Touch of Power is a magical new fantasy novel sure to delight readers of Snyder’s previous books… so long as they don’t expect it to be Snyder’s previous books. Like many others, I fell in love with Snyder’s writing during the first pages of Poison Study, the first book in her Study series. I loved the mystery, the grittiness of the story, the mix of medieval and magic. While all of that can also be found in this story, it’s true that the story of Yelena Zaltana is hard to top, and I see many reviews that say that this book can’t hope to match up to the books Snyder has previously written. Personally, I don’t think that it needs to. I think this book can stand on it’s own and be appreciated for its own weaknesses and strengths. Maybe we are too quick to compare books to their predecessors – in this way it feels as though people treat Poison Study as Touch of Power’s big sister – instead of viewing them individually. I think that is a mistake, because it prevents people from seeing the parts of this story that do shine, even if they don’t shine quite as bright as moments from the older series.

Touch of Power is the story of Avry of Kazan. Avry’s world is one touched by a plague so severe, that even she and her fellow Healers could not stop the spread. Avry is on the run, because she is living in a world where Healers are blamed for the plague, and hunted. Avry’s kindness toward others is her weakness, and she is soon captured and awaits her execution, but healers are hard to find, and her story isn’t quite over yet. Avry sets out on a brand new adventure – not quite one of her own choosing – with the character Kerrick and his group of loveable misfits.

The characters in this novel are well developed. Avry’s voice was sarcastic but kind, which is something I love and relate to in a heroine, and this made it easy to see the world through her eyes. Her friendships with Flea, Belen, Vinn and Quian were sweet, playful and believable. I enjoyed Flea and Belen’s stories in particular. I also found the “bad guy” in this novel to be an interesting character – though I wish we could delve a little deeper into why he is the way he is. Perhaps that is to come.

I really enjoyed the world building, even if I felt it was a little slowly done. Initially I was confused, the history was given too slowly, and I felt that it would have suited the novel better to have more explanations come toward the beginning. Despite that, I was very interested in this plague riddled world that Snyder created, and turned the pages quickly. There are many mysteries surrounding the plague that I am very eager to see unravel as the series continues.

Another wonderful thing about this novel was the multiple types of magic. The magicians can be of eleven different types– forest, earth, water, fire, air, life, rock, death, moon, sun and healing. I enjoyed Kerrick’s forest magic the most. I also thought the contrast of Life/Death magics was very interesting. They are so very similar – and yet so completely different at the same time – that it is fascinating.

Now that I’ve talked about what I enjoyed, I think it’s time to discuss the one part of this novel I found problematic. This is the part that kept me from loving the book as I might have otherwise; it’s the romance. While I’ll be the first to tell you that InstaLove is not my cup of tea, it’s certainly preferable to InstaAbuse. I don’t think that a man hitting a woman is acceptable under any conditions – no matter how stressful. It made me uncomfortable that Avry seemed to be making excuses for his temper throughout the story…

“He had such good control, no wonder when he lost his temper, he exploded.”

I don’t like the “hero” being the guy who starts the story by tying the girl to a tree because she refuses to do what he wants. That’s not a leading man that I can root for. It makes little sense that she would choose to so easily love and trust someone who has hit her and tied her to a tree night after night, without at least reflecting upon the circumstances or consequences of these specific acts, and not just casting them aside as part of his personality.

Another disturbing turn of events involves another magician in the story, who is able to use his magic to affect Avry’s emotions, so that when he is touching her she is helpless to stop him from doing anything he desires, and while under the influence of the magic she even wants him in return. What’s worse is that as Avry comes out of these magical stupors where she loses control of her emotions and body, she doesn’t seem to even feel violated, or have any emotional pain connected to the acts. As a woman, this does not feel realistic to me at all. Women are still fighting for full control of their bodies to this day, and it makes no sense that the character would not feel at least slightly traumatized after these incidents, where the magician’s hands and lips have been all over her.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book with a few warnings attached regarding the sexual and physical violence that occurs. I will say that the violence/romance is such a small part of the story that, for me, it didn’t keep me from enjoying the rest of the book. If you are looking for for a book that includes a medieval magical setting, deeply flawed but still loveable characters, and an intriguing magical system, and you’re willing to overlook smaller parts of the story that may be hard to stomach, then Avry’s world may be for you.


Touch of Power will be released December 20, 2011. You can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository and other retailers.

I received an egalley of this title from the Publisher (Harlequin) via Netgalley. This has in no way affected or influenced my review. I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to provide an early review of this release.

Extras: Want to check out some other perspectives on Touch of Power? Find other early reviews at Girl about Books and All of Everything

Looking for other books similar to this one? You might also like Poison Study, Graceling or Fire.


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