Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Disclaimer: I've received Touch of Power as an eARC from Netgalley

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
published by Mira (Harlequin) in December 2011

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….
Genre: Fantasy romance
Series: Healer series, Book #1

The Story: Avry of Kazan is the last healer in the Fifteen Realms. However, this status isn't as prestigious as it sounds... Not when it is believed that the healers were the source of the plague that killed two thirds of the population. Now, healers are hated and a bounty has been placed for every healer caught and executed. As a result, Avry has spent the last three years in hiding, but she's growing tired of it and when she is captured after healing a child, Avry is ready to give up. But when she is rescued by a band of rogues and given a choice between life and death; to her surprise, her will to live is still very strong...

Unfortunately for Avry, being rescued came with a price. The leader of the band, Kerrick of Alga, wants her to heal someone from the plague: Prince Ryne of Ivdel... The same prince who held contempt for healers, the one who started the accusations against them! Avry is determined not to heal the prince no matter what. However, what Avry doesn't know because she spent the last three years in hiding is that the world is changing. With the Fifteen Realms decimated, three forces have emerged to unite the realms and rule over them... but only one has the well-being of the people in mind: Prince Ryne. As they make their way to where Prince Ryne's body is kept in stasis, Avry witnesses first hand the forces of  King Tohon of Sogra and High Priestess Estrid of Ozero and in the end, she has to agree with Kerrick... But unbeknownst to Kerrick, healing Prince Ryne will come with a price: Avry's life.

My Opinion: I was really looking forward to Touch of Power as it is Ms Snyder's newest release :) I fell in love with Ms Snyder's writing with Poison Study and Magic Study. Those two books were amazing and are on the all-time favorite bookshelf :) Unfortunately, her subsequent books have not measured up in my opinion. For Fire Study, I think it was a case of the expectations being too high combined with the extremely long wait for the readers. As for the Glass trilogy, the heroine just wasn't likable enough and then, there was the whole romance/relationship aspect that didn't really work out for me. With this series, set in a new world, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for Ms Snyder to start afresh :)

Overall, I liked Touch of Power and I think it was a good effort on Ms Snyder's part. The writing was solid and I definitively liked the world building. It was well developed and a very good backdrop for the fantasy aspect of the storyline. When it comes to fantasy, I always like a little political intrigue and with 15 realms and leaders or leading family, the possibilities for alliances, betrayals and intrigues are endless :) Add in the fact that most of them have been to school together and yeah, it's going to be extremely interesting. So far, I liked the players that Ms Snyder has introduced and I'm looking forward to more :) I also found the magical aspect of this world interesting. I liked that magic didn't make someone absolute, above everyone else. Sure, it is an asset, but in the end, intelligence, honesty and heart are the elements that are going to break or make someone :) Also, it seems to me that Ms Snyder has a clear idea of the magical powers in this world, she knows where she's going with it and that is promising.

Another strong element of this book was the characters. I really liked Avry. She was strong for having survived, but she was not a kick-ass heroine. The reason she survived was because she was smart and was careful. She also had principles and a lot of integrity and that made her character very interesting. I liked that she could be reasoned with, that she could see right and wrong and make her own decisions. If she was stubborn, it was because there was a reason, but she didn't clung to her beliefs when she was shown otherwise. Out of the other characters, the one I liked the most was Belen - Kerrick's bodyguard and childhood friend, because he was just so likable and friendly. Prince Ryne seemed to be a good guy and I can't wait to see him in action :) As for Kerrick, I'm still not sure about him. He's not totally hero material, swoon-worthy and I applauded  Ms Snyder for developing him this way. I think it really took guts as he is the love interest and readers usually prefer guys that oozed goodness or those who redeemed themselves. However, Kerrick is neither - he is himself. The best way I could describe him is cold on the surface as he seems to only care about achieving his goals and he can be ruthless sometimes, but deep inside, he does really care. I think all in all, it made him more interesting and gave him more depth... but at the same time, it was hard to like him. Especially some of his action in the beginning of the book, they were hard to forgive.

The romance was not the focus of the book, but there was some between Avry and Kerrick. At this point, I do feel like it was a bit forced. I can understand Kerrick having feelings for Avry, but that his mission took precedence... However, I'm not absolutely certain why Avry would develop feelings for Kerrick ^_^; I mean, why not Belen who was much nicer? I do like the fact that Avry came to trust Kerrick through their hardships at the end, that part was believable... I wished Ms Snyder would have developed Avry's feelings towards Kerrick a bit more. I do hope that we'll have more interactions between them in the future books to really cement the romance.

Aside from the romance, I had two other issues with Touch of Power. The first is the pacing of the book. Touch of Power was well-written and the storyline was interesting. There was a lot of action and a lot of twists and surprises in the storyline. Unfortunately, most of these surprises and twists fell a bit flat, because of the pacing, the tone. It was a bit monotonous and lacking in ompf. You simply couldn't feel the excitement, the thrill. Touch of Power was quite a thick book and as I said, a lot happened, but I'd say the overall tone of the book was passive and that just doesn't work when a book is full of action. My other issue with Touch of Power is that it felt like an echo of Poison Study ^_^; It seemed to me Ms Snyder based herself on Poison Study when writing the book and therefore, there was a lot of similarities: the heroine, the hero, the romance, the camaraderie and so on. Obviously, it made for a good book, but for a fan like me, well I can't help making comparison... and if I have to compare Touch of Power and Poison Study, then Poison Study definitively has the upper hand. In my opinion, it would have been preferable if Ms Snyder distanced herself of Poison Study instead and write something really original... Also, familiarity also led to predictability at times :(

In the end though, Touch of Power was still a very enjoyable book and a good start to the series. And I hope that Ms Snyder will surprise me in future books :)

My Grade: B-.