As The Fifteen Realms braces for war, alliances crumble and new ones form in Maria V. Snyder's second Healer book, Scent of Magic.
Note: Scent of Magic is the sequel to Touch of Power. You can read the review for Touch of Power here. Otherwise, read on!
Touch of Magic set forth a plague-ravaged and war-torn world. She introduces us to Avry, the healer travelling in hiding, with a bounty on her head and the death of her family on her conscious. We meet Kerrick, searching for a healer to save his childhood friend and prince. We have insane priestesses, power-crazy rulers and the menagerie that is Kerrick's allies.
In this second book, the consequences of Avry's actions come back to haunt her. All the promises she made to different rulers and warlords now have to be fulfilled, one way or another. And with the advent of Tohon's armies of the dead, at least it's clear who absolutely must not be victorious.
To be honest, at times I cared quite a bit more what would become of some of the side characters than about Avry and Kerrick themselves. Danny and Zila the two children Avry rescued from Tohon's compound are charming, and Danny really comes into his own later in the book. Kerrick's monkeys are a perennial favorite, and some of the reunions involving them are happier moments than any of the near-misses that our two main characters go through.
It also seems like Avry has had a bit of a personality change from the first book. Where before she was brave and headstrong, now she seems reckless and unthinking in her actions. Where before she was worried about her sister for her own sake, now it seems like she wants her forgiveness just to prove a point. Where before she put the good of the land first, now she's become much more selfish, and wants Kerrick to succeed because that's what's best for her and Kerrick, not so much because that's what's best for the people.
It's a testament to Snyder's writing, therefore, that even with the muddy characterization that I still anticipate the next book. I wonder if this book mainly suffers from the problems that middle books often do. There's so many characters at this point that it's hard to keep track of who is on what side. Especially when, as in this story, there are double-crosses at each turn, it can be very confusing. And yet, having read the first book in the series, I have every faith that somehow all of the storylines here will somehow be brought back together into some sort of cohesive ending.
Though with how cruel this author has shown herself to be to her characters, I wouldn't wager on anyone coming out of this intact.
Highs: Avry's sister's response to her reappearance was perhaps the most realistic emotional reaction in this book.
Lows: Does every book where a female has to teach a group of soldiers something have to include a pissing contest of some sort?
Verdict: If you really enjoyed Touch of Power, give this one a try if for no other reason than to get ready for the next book.
Further Reading: Elantris, Daughter of the Forest