Author: Maria V. Snyder
Publication Date: December 20, 2011
Series: Healer #1
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
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....
Avry is an awesome character. Aside from having healing powers (!!!), she is brave, clever, and strong-willed. Her magical abilities force her to be self-sacrificing, but she isn't so selfless that she doesn't also value her own worth. Kerrick is also pretty great, though he does have a couple of low moments. These moments make him human. And he experiences some growth in the book as far as his demeanor is concerned. There is also an amazing cast of secondary characters. Belen is my favorite, but I love them all. Their enemies are a range of types, from mercenaries to political opposition to demented assholes. Tohon is particularly vile. He's great if you love (or love to hate) villains that give you the skeevies.
The plot involves travel, but isn't hampered by lulls in pacing the way that books containing a great deal of traveling sometimes are. Snyder includes a number of things that keep the protagonists' trip quite interesting, and they're usually being hunted so there is a pressing sense of urgency throughout the journey. The pacing is steady, and it is one of those books that I just didn't want to put down. I had to force myself to stop reading in order to get some sleep. The setting is done well. It is easy for the reader to fall into this world and get a sense of its landscapes and the politics and turmoils that have befallen it. There are some things that make it distinctly unique, such as lilies that eat people and some dangerous beasts. The magic system isn't anything particularly new, but it is solid and pretty detailed.
There are some similarities between Touch of Power and Poison Study, but it doesn't feel like a reboot or anything because Touch of Power is still very different than Poison Study as well. There is the whole guy needs girl to help his friend thing. Avry is educated in some useful skills, which is something that I always like to see in a story - learning. Some of the characters do share some traits with those from Poison Study, but not in a way that makes them carbon copies. There's nobody who can effectively take the place of Janco, but there are moments when the group takes part in some banter that reminded me of Janco and made me miss him. So I think that is a good thing. Also, it made me want to reread the Study series and continue on with all of her other books, most of which I have but have yet to read.
I really loved this book. There are some things that are perhaps not perfect, but it is wholly enjoyable and unputdownable. If you like Maria V. Snyder's other stuff, then I think that you will love this one as well. I'd recommend it to fans of her other works and anyone who likes high fantasy, healers, and ya/adult crossover.