Book Review

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

C+

Title: Touch of Power
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Publication Info: Mira Books 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7783-1307-6
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Book Touch of Power As a fantasy novel in general, Touch of Power is great.  As a romance, or even as a fantasy novel with romantic elements, it goes horribly wrong.

Touch of Power is the story of Avery.  She is a Healer, a woman who is able to heal people by touching them.  When she does this, her own body takes on the illness or wounds of the sick or injured person, but because Healers are able to recover at a much faster rate than other people, they are usually (but not always) able to survive the process. 

When a plague struck the Fifteen Realms, killing millions of people, the Healers were unable to treat it without dying.  They were blamed for the plague, hunted down, and killed.  To the best of her knowledge, Avery is the last surviving Healer.

Avery is rescued/kidnapped by a group of people who want her to heal their Prince, who is dying of the plague.  Avery has her own reasons to want the Prince dead and she and the band's leader, Kerrick, have a battle of wills over the prince's fate as they make the long journey to where he is being kept in stasis.  During this time, Avery begins to trust and be trusted by most of the band but is both enraged by and drawn to the domineering and mysterious Kerrick.

This is a compelling fantasy novel.  The world building is solid and the characters are fun to read about.  Avery has such a strong sense of ethics that she borders on being a little too saintly, but she has enough flaws to keep her interesting.  She's smart, she's determined, and she's very clear about what she will and won't do in terms of self-sacrifice versus survival.  The plot is exciting.  There's a lot of time during which the merry band is travelling…and travelling…and travelling, but that gives the characters time to get to know each other, so that Avery's transformation from prisoner to accepted member of the group is realistic.  I really am excited about reading the next book despite the scathing things I am about to say about Kerrick, because I care about Avery, her friends, and the fate of the Fifteen Realms.  There weren't a ton of surprises, but it was an inventive setting with people and politics that I felt invested in.

The biggest problem with the book is that we are supposed to root for Avery and Kerrick to get together, and I…didn't.  Frankly, I probably never would have gone for Kerrick.  I generally dislike alpha males who are brooding and mysterious and who never talk, and Kerrick is as broody and alpha as possible.  Kerrick does various awful things to Avery (ties her to a tree at night, for instance) but these things didn't offend my tender sensibilities because I understood his motivation.  She's a prisoner; his prince's life depends on her staying a prisoner, that's just how it goes. 

Still, I just couldn't connect to Kerrick.  Part of this is that he's taciturn, so I never got a feel for what he thinks or how he feels.

The real deal breaker happens early in the book when Kerrick “loses his temper” and punches Avery in the face for saying something hostile about the prince.  He punches her so hard that he knocks her down and her face is bruised for days despite her accelerated healing rate.  Kerrick himself admits that he doesn't do it for strategic reasons, he just “loses his temper”.  Even though this happens early in the book, and he never does it again, I could not get beyond the image of her bruise as it “swelled, turned red, and faded to a mere smudge of greenish-black”.  I could feel empathy for Kerrick, and interest in him as a character, but I had no desire for him to become Avery's romantic partner.  The whole scene is bizarre because there's no indication of Kerrick being generally abusive or particularly violent.  It's out of character, it's not a major part of the book, and yet it totally defined Kerrick for me from that point onward.

I found Touch of Power in the Romance section of the bookstore, but it's being marketed as fantasy elsewhere, so perhaps it's more accurate to refer to it as a “fantasy with romantic elements”.  Additionally, this is the first book in a trilogy, so I expect we'll see more development of the romance as the series progresses.  In this case, that doesn't affect my perception of the book.  I'm fine with the romance not being the main focus, and the resolution is actually pretty solid.  My problem is that whether there's a lot of romance or a little, Avery is having it with the wrong guy so that romantic of the book, no matter how minor it may be, does not work.

At this point in this review I have written and deleted three different paragraphs about why you should not date a guy who punches you.  I wrote the paragraphs because this concept is important to me.  I deleted them because it really isn't the focus of the book I'm reviewing.  Also, I can't help but hope that anyone who calls themselves a Smart Bitch will please, please already know that the guy who punches you is not a winner.  If you are with a guy who subjects you to physical or emotional abuse, I am begging you to seek your happy ending elsewhere.  The National Domestic Hotline phone number is 1-800-799-SAFE.

If you can just sort of skip over the awful couple of pages in which this whole punching thing happens, you'll probably really like Touch of Power as a solid fantasy novel.  It's just a shame that this completely unnecessary element was inserted, almost at random, into the book, because I was never quite able to overlook it and it's really not what the book it about.  If I'm very lucky, maybe there will be an amazing twist and Avery will dump Kerrick for Belen, a great supporting character who protects her and teaches her how to protect herself.  It's wildly unlikely, but I can dream.  The other characters and the world-building and the plot deserve better than Kerrick and his temper problem.


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Ann says:

    If it bothered you, then it’s important enough to say.  And I’m glad you did.  And you are absolutely right that if your partner hits you, you should find your Happily Ever After somewhere else.  Well said CarrieS, well said.

  2. 2
    Keri says:

    I hate-read Snyder’s books at this point, because I really enjoyed her first one (Poison Study, though it had some elements of wtf), and then the second started the downhill trend. With Touch of Power, I read it primarily as a fantasy and a romance second – and I thought the romance was completely unnecessary to the plot and didn’t make any sense and was shoved in to make the book fit into the MIRA imprint better. I don’t think I even clued in to the romance until well after the scene you describe here, and that was probably me just being hopeful, because I didn’t think Kerrick was a suitable romantic hero at all, even if he did have all the hallmarks.

    In my review on LibraryThing, I said [Snyder] relies too much on certain types of violence to make the worlds dangerous for her characters, but it’s a brute sort of violence that comes across as haphazard attempts to be “grimdark”. The villain in this book was very cardboard to me, with this over the top sexual villainy that I couldn’t even take seriously, even as he’s threatening to rape Avery or using his magic to compel her to kiss him as a lead-up to rape (which never actually happens, if anyone is worried about that).

    Snyder seems to like that kind of hero and villain. I’ve seen it come up several times in her series (though I’ve avoided the Glass one because all the reviews say the first villain turns into the romantic hero, gross). I wouldn’t have read Touch of Power at all, except that she does create interesting settings and I’m always interested to learn how the different kinds of magic works in those settings. The plots, though, are completely transparent and the romance in the first-book-of-the-series always feels tacked on. So I never read for that.

    My own review of this book had a D score, because I was interested enough to finish (it’s short, only took a couple afternoons), but it was a hate-read and I bitched about it the entire time.

  3. 3
    LongStrider says:

    Snyder has repeated issues with weird violence.  It’s been too long since I read it for me to remember the details, but Storm Glass had issues with it as well (‘casual’ rape of a prisoner is what I’m remembering but I could TOTALLY be misremembering)

    Very interesting magic and world building (I really was intrigued, but my To Read list is so long I haven’t been back.)  As others have said, if you can get past the violence that sticks out weirdly there’s interesting fantasy stuff there.

  4. 4
    Katrina says:

    I really love Poison Study (Snyder’s first book), er, except for some of the end romantic bits.  Despite those highly questionable moments, I highly recommend it! Poisons! Assassins! A military dictatorship! Tree climbing and switchblades!  However, do not be tempted to read the others in the series.  Honestly, they were terribly disappointing.

  5. 5
    Vicki says:

    I read Poison Study quickly and eagerly because I did love the world building, the poisons, assassins, etc. However, the relationship screamed “Stockholm syndrome” to me and I find that to be a poor foundation for an ongoing HEA.

  6. 6
    MissE says:

    I enjoyed her first book, Poison Study, but after that Snyder’s stories are not great. It’s a lot of kidnap the heroine, rape/torture her, she escapes, lather, rinse, repeat. And if you think the punching in this book was bad, one of her other trilogies has the heroine end up with the guy who raped and tortured her in an earlier book. It was disturbing especially as these are sometimes categorized as YA.

  7. 7
    staplegun says:

    I guess I’m the oddball out here, but I love M. Snyder’s books. I think the worlds are fascinating, and I like the resourcefulness of her female leads. She has great secondary characters, and she also shows that a female can be friends with males other than the hero (Yelena with Ari and Janco) (Avry with Belen, Flea, the monkeys). Which you don’t always see in romance novels or even fantasy novels.

    I would have preferred Avry to get together with Belen, but Avry and Kerrick do have that magic interaction going on and he does save her from certain death at least twice, and tries to rescue her sister, etc So :/

    Just figured I’d give my 2cents since everyone seemed to be bashing on her :)

  8. 8
    Sam says:

    I read this book and I was very disappointed about the romance part. I hope she does not end up with kerrick, I think hes a prick. I liked Belen very much, and I agree with you Carrie, I dont think they will end up together, but one can hope.

  9. 9
    blodeuedd says:

    I never rooted for them either, cos then the punching scene came and I was all 0_0 Not cool. This is turning into those horrid 80s rapetastic books.

    But I did find it lacking as a fantasy book too. Worldbuilding sucked

  10. 10
    clumsygrace says:

    I have to agree with the other reviewers on here about her previous Glass series, I actually didn’t read the last 1 or 2 because it disgusted me that she would even be considering that guy.  Even though the world was familiar (it’s the same one as in Poison Study), it is also different.  I do enjoy Maria’s writing, but Poison series felt very stretched to me and I worry about that happening with the current series as well. 

    This book was very good, I enjoyed it and honestly didn’t even notice the punch, probably because I considered that action to be guard/prisoner action and not part of the romantic love interest that develops later.  (This could also be a reflection of my life, not having been involved in domestic violence.)  For all the reasons she listed (world building, etc) I would recommend the read and I also loved Belen.

  11. 11
    rudi_bee says:

    I completely agree. I read this last year and was really disturbed by that scene. I think what adds to the sinister nature of it all is that from this point onwards Avery starts to develop an attraction to Kerrick.

    Also, in Australia at least, this book is marketed towards teens. It’s part of HarlequinTeen, which is their young adult line.

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