I’ve yet to read all of Ms Snyder’s work, but I’m starting to wonder if she’ll ever be able to surpass her first novel, Poison Study. Like many of her readers, I can’t help but compare her later fantasy books with her first one. And in the case of Touch of Power, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d read it before. Characters, relationships, the basic storyline, even specific scenes, were all very familiar. Touch of Power is a bit like reading an early version of Poison Study, one that’s nowhere near as well written or developed.
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…
Touch of Power definitely has an intriguing set up: fifteen kingdoms decimated by a plague. A Healer’s Guild that has been completely destroyed, its Healers hunted down and executed, a school where future leaders are sent to hone their skills in diplomacy and manipulation, magicians, death eating plants (a subplot I still don’t quite understand). What’s disappointing is that we learn little else beyond this. Touch of Power is the first book in a trilogy, so I wish more time had been set aside to allow the reader to actually experience some of these places instead of learning of them through a brief character conversation. The world building in this book is pretty vague and light on detail.
A lack of interest in any of the characters also prevented this from being a memorable read. Too many of them read like pale imitations from the author’s previous work, but even someone new to Snyder’s writing would likely find them fairly nondescript.
Avry in particular felt undeveloped and unrealistic. Avry isn’t what I would describe as a closed off character, yet she never seems to react to anything. She accepts her sentenced execution in the opening chapters without a fight. She shows no hurt or disbelief after being betrayed by people she trusts, or little regret over her strained relationship with her sister. Even more concerning is how she never expresses any real anger, fear or sense of violation over Tohan’s treatment of her.
Avry can heal people, but only by taking on their disease or injuries herself. Here we have a heroine who is perfectly willing to sacrifice her health, not to mention her life, time and time again for everyone else. She’s never once resentful about this. Why does she heal people who would recover perfectly well on their own in time or with medicine? Avry is an extremely self-sacrificing character, to the point where she shows little concern or thought for her own life. While there are characters that care for her, everyone finds it perfectly natural that she should spend her life taking on other people’s pain and suffering. I wanted Touch Of Power to explore at least a little some of the emotional impact all this would have had on Avry. I wanted a little selfishness of Avry’s part, for her to question if being a healer is all she wants from life. She claims healing is her choice, but the description of her magic contradicts that. If anything, she seems to have little control over the rise of whenever anyone nearby is hurt.
So much about Touch of Power suggests this is a fantasy aimed at young readers – the light world building, the lack of character depth, the fairly basic, predictable storyline, the simple narrative and often childish, modern dialogue at odds with the setting (‘Yippee’. ‘Kill. Me. Now’ etc). But a twenty-year-old protagonist and certain content suggests this book is intended for a more mature reader.
I don’t know. Touch of Power has enough action and adventure to make it an entertaining read, (I read it in one sitting) but it’s missing the emotion – the soul, to make it a fantastic story. Even the problematic romance was dry for me. I’m not really inclined to revisit these characters, despite having the second book for review on NetGalley. It’s alright if you enjoy light fantasy, but I could certainly point you in the direction of far more sophisticated and satisfying books within the genre.