Thursday, January 05, 2012

"Touch of Power" by Maria V. Snyder-- Fun but Simplistic

Avry of Kazan has lived the last three years in hiding thanks to the belief that healers like herself are responsible for the plague that has ravaged the Fifteen Kingdoms. With her healing talent comes a compulsion to heal the sick and Avry has barely been able to stay ahead of those who would collect the bounty for her capture as she fights an irresistible urge to heal sick children wherever she goes.

But Avry faces an unexpected fate when she is kidnapped so she can heal a plague stricken prince-- one that Avry fears will destroy the fragile peace that currently exists within the Kingdoms.

Avry soon finds she is trapped between two unattractive options. She can either agree to heal the prince, and die in the effort, or she can try to stay ahead of the band of mercenaries that are now on her trail. Avry's choice becomes increasingly complicated as she learns more about the political machinations that led to her capture and her feelings grow for the leader of the group of men who hold her captive.

Touch of Power is an exceptionally readable book. It zips along at a brisk pace with a good mix of adventure and inventiveness to keep it interesting. But I have to admit to being a little disappointed overall. I haven't read a book by Snyder in awhile, the last being "Poison Study," but I remember enjoying the story and thinking it had a well developed mythology. And in some respects "Touch of Power" has some of the same elements but only in a sketchy fashion.

Avry is the only character that is given any kind of a substantial history-- even her love interest is more of a set of characteristics than a well developed person with a fully realized history. Mostly the characters are presented in quips of dialog that make them likable but rarely elevates them beyond the roles they are meant to fulfill. Avry comes to love and respect her companions and there are plenty of sweet moments along the way, but I never felt a real personality was assigned to more than one or two characters.

But the most curious thing to me was the lack of detail to the world presented in "Touch of Power." Much of the story takes place in the forest but the sense of atmosphere that seems inherent to the setting is lacking. The descriptions consist of little more than the occasional pile of leaves or rocks. As the book progressed I found myself paying attention to how much detail was present and realized that I couldn't visualize the setting. On the whole I felt like there was a pervasive feeling of superficiality to the book that kept me from really connecting to the story.

Yet.. For all my critiques "Touch of Power" is a very entertaining book. It's clear that Snyder's strength lies in her ability to hit the right emotional chords to move the story. There's conflict-- but not in excruciating abundance-- and the resolutions follow a satisfying, if predictable, path. There are some bits of mystery and a nice dose of magic that give it a sense of originality. I feel like it's structured to appeal to female readers who can tap into the emotional content while leaving out the logic and detail that would draw in a wider audience-- which left me with a sense of enjoyment, but not fulfillment.

3 out of 5 stars.


animewookie said...

The cover is very pretty. I would definitely pick this up. Wonderful review :D

Charles Gramlich said...

Something about that cover is very compelling.

Linds said...

The covers for her books are usually quite pretty. I tried to read one of her other books, one of the glass series, and was never able to get into it enough to finish it. It came off to me a bit like 'meh'.

Giselle San Miguel said...

Great review!! I'm glad you were entertained minus the lack of the details. Sometimes I get so confused if there aren't any details. lol

Jamie (Mithril Wisdom) said...

The lack of detail is a bit of a deal breaker for me. I like to have a lot of atmosphere in the settings of the books I read. Thanks for the review!