Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

UK book cover for Touch of Power by Maria V Snyder

My review for Touch of Power isn’t actually next-in-line to be posted – I have another couple that really should be written up first – but I finished it half an hour or so ago and just needed to write about it. Seriously, I have two pages of my Panda Notebook full of scribbles about this book. It even got to the point where I had to write vertically down the margins just to fit it all in. I only wish it was all positive…

Plot summary – Avry’s power to heal the
sick should earn her respect in the plague-torn land of Kazan. Instead
she is feared. Her kind are blamed for the horrifying disease that has
taken hold of the nation. When Avry uses her forbidden magic to save a
dying child, she faces the guillotine. Until a dark, mysterious man
rescues her from her prison cell. His people need Avry’s magic to save
their dying prince. The very prince who first unleashed the plague on

Saving the prince is certain to kill Avry – yet she
already faces a violent death. Now she must choose – use her healing
touch to show the ultimate mercy or die a martyr to a lost cause?

Touch of Power has a beyond awesome concept – healers are one of my two ultimate favourite fantasy novel topics (the other? Assassins. Hey, I never claimed to be consistent!) and Maria V. Snyder utilizes it perfectly in this book. Instead of just touching the infirm and healing them with a swoosh of fluffy magic, Avry has to absorb the sickness and injury into herself – although she recovers faster than the victim would, she still has to suffer through the pain and illness, and she has the scars to prove it.

So yes, wonderful idea. Genuinely. But I can’t help but think this could have been so much more with a few tweaks to the writing. It got to the point where I was starting to wonder if I was looking for problems – you know, when you find a couple and from then on all you can see are the inconsistencies.  I’m still not sure, but it does have some redeeming points.

It just seemed a bit… clunky, I think. While the actual words used were fine for the most part – the prose flows well and the dialogue is natural – some of the plot points and  inferences of information could have been dealt with a lot better. Like random jumps from place-to-place – they can be in an Inn one minute, and the next they’re in the forest and you’re flicking back in confusion to find out when exactly that happened. There’s also strange jumps in conversation – like if there’s a piece of information that you need to know for plot development, and the dialogue between the characters isn’t headed that way… *snap* Suddenly it is! It’s like the author couldn’t work it in naturally so just shoved it in with a trowel anyway.

The romance didn’t really seem that necessary either. It’s hardly a huge focal point of the book, but it didn’t really serve any purpose. And while it isn’t what I’d call InstaLove, it does beat you on the head with those oh-so-subtle changes of feelings. Similarly, there was a little InstaFriendship – the group of men switch from not trusting Avry to giving her presents in the space of just a few pages. It felt really forced and so unnatural that I was sure they’d betray her at any second.

As a character, I actually really liked Avry. She’s well-rounded and actually has a backbone – she won’t just alter her beliefs because someone tells her to. She somehow manages to believe in the greater good without coming across as a whiny martyr, as evidenced by the need she has to heal sick children, even when she knows she’ll be persecuted for it. Thinking about it, I don’t think there was anybody I’d say was flat or badly written. They all have distinct personalities and opinions, and I liked every single one of them, from Sepp the surly Death Magician to Belen, the soft and loving giant.    

I wish Maria V. Snyder had taken a little more care in avoiding modernisms though. Quite frequently Avry talks about ‘the guys’ or talks directly to the reader by saying something like ‘Nice, huh?’ and it rips me right out of the reading flow I’ve got going on. Please just stop it.  

The next book in the series is due out sometime in 2013 – I’ll read it, but I can wait. It’s perfectly acceptable to read Touch of Power now though; there’s a clear direction for the next book, but there’s no dramatic cliff-hangery ending. Speaking of, I thought the ending to this book was a little flat and a little mushy. I know it’s a YA book, but I genuinely think it would have had more impact with a slightly sadder ending. And trust me, I never say that.

Long story short, Touch of Power doesn’t quite live up to its potential. I think perhaps it would have worked better if it had been written in a similar style to the Glass series – they always seemed a little more adult than the other books while this one is distinctly YA.It has a brilliant concept with loveable characters, but I was hit with the Plot Point Sledgehammer too many times to really connect to it.

For more favourable reviews of Touch of Power, check out  

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