Thursday, February 9, 2012

When healers can't heal, the world rebels

What if healers, with their ability to heal themselves four times faster than normal humans, could take on the injuries and diseases of others, healing in a matter of minutes or hours what would otherwise kill them?  They'd be loved by the population.  They'd have a University of their own to train youngsters with the talent how to use it.  And along with their talent, they'd learn to heal with traditional healing methods such as herbs and cleanliness.

But what if their magic fails?  What if a plague hits that's so devastating that it kills the healer every time?  When the healers refuse to take on plague victims, and people watch their loved ones die terrible deaths while the healers stand idly by, there's an uprising.  As the population of the kingdoms is decimated, a bounty is placed on the heads of those healers who have survived, and they go into hiding.

This is the world Maria V Snyder presents us with in A Touch of Power.  Avry has been running for three years.  Truly wanting to help people who are suffering, she usually blows her cover healing a sickly child or some other innocent, and then has to go on the run again.  We join her as she heals a child from a wasting disease, and even with her ability to recover, she is left incapacitated long enough to be caught by the village officials, and is set for execution the next morning.

That night, though, a band of mercenaries breaks into the jail and busts her out, as long as she agrees to heal one more person for them.

Unfortunately, that one person is a prince of the realm, who after catching the plague was put into a magical stasis while his followers searched for a healer.  And, like most rulers, he has a few detractors.  Including Avry.  Even if healing him from the plague wouldn't be a death sentence to her, she still prefers him dead.  But a jailbreak is a jailbreak, and she ends up going with the mercenaries, since no one can actually force her to use her healing powers, and she'd be facing death in the morning anyways.

As she travels with the men, still avoiding those who would turn Avry in for the bounty, and straddling the domains of two crazy warlords filling the power vacuum left when Prince Ryne was put out of commission, she gets to know more more about the men that she's traveling with.  As she becomes close to them, and as she gets to know their leader Kerrick better, she starts to ponder her staunch refusal to heal Prince Ryne.  And as she learns more and more about the other candidates to take of The 15 Realms, there's really no other option available t her.  But now that she's made her decision, will Kerrick and the boys be able to keep her alive long enough to fulfill their plans?

At its roots, it's a fairly standard travel adventure fantasy, and with the addition of some royal intrigue and a bit of a love story to round things out, this is escapist fantasy perfect as a palate cleanser between more serious books.

Highs:  The reunion between Avry and her sister doesn't go exactly as planned...

Lows:  It feels like the author wrote herself into a corner a few times and some of the weakest plot moments are her writing herself out again

Verdict:  Some interesting ideas to ponder are brought up in this book, and as long as you are able to let the weak points go, it's a fun book to relax with.

Further Reading:  SoullessElantris

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