Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Touch Of Power by Maria V. Snyder


Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Series: Healer (#1)
Pages: 394
Publisher: Harlequin Teen Australia
Published: January 2012
IBSN: 9781921796494

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...

The healers were renowned for their ability to relieve injuries and illnesses, until the plague broke out and it was rumoured to have started with them. Now they're being hunted down and executed and healer apprentice Avry is on the run. Her attempts to flee after using her gift to cure a child are thwarted, though, but a team of men who need her help reviving the prince that could reunite the realms.

Avry is the token Snyder fantasy protagonist. She has a coveted gift and is preternaturally good at everything she tries (how quickly she picked up fighting skills to match people who'd trained their whole lives!). The predicament of being used and targeted for her gift combined with the character's familiar voice made me constantly forget that I wasn't rereading the Study series.

The Maria V. Snyder charm is wearing off for me, with the conclusion that she has just one character, and the one journey the one character takes -- to learn it's okay to need others. That one character has the same romantic interest in each new book, the belligerent male with whom she shares no chemistry and shows no interest in her until they're both under duress.

Maria's writing style is simple and straight-forward, unembellished. This serves her well through action sequences, but less so for world-building. Descriptions are plain and too uninteresting to discourage skimming in search of the next piece of dialogue. The world-building is weak and a vivid setting -- as important as plot and characters in fantasy -- was not created. Certain elements of the setting, such as the lilies, had so much potential to be fascinating if the imagery surrounding them was stronger.

To my dismay, I couldn't even get lost in an exciting plot. Touch Of Power was a slow beginning to the Healers series, the frustrating kind of travelling fantasy where half the time is spent walking. The banter between Avry and her companions on the journey, presumably intended to make the transition scenes more engaging, was again too familiar, like a scenes lifted from the Study series only with different character names. Subplots were constantly arising, distracting the characters from the actually intriguing main story line, and then proving to have little consequence after all.

I can see the appeal this generally well-received novel has, but it is ultimately too similar to the author's previous fantasy novels for me to be at all impressed.

So the beginning to Maria V. Snyder's new series should satisfy her devout and slightly biased fans (particularly of the Study series), but more involved fantasy readers will be unimpressed with the lack of depth in world-building and a story that isn't unique to Snyder's others.