So, I love Maria V. Snyder. I’m a fan of her adult fantasy series, and I am a fan of her YA sci-fi dystopia series. Needless, to say this book has been on my to-read list for a while. What made it jump about 10 places in line for me though was the glowing recommendation I got for it from my friend Christina, who didn’t like the dystopia series as much as me.
And really, this was just such a treat. I recommend it to fans of Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore. Thanks, Christina!
The book starts with immediate action (my kind of beginning). It begins with Avry healing a little girl (with her special healer abilities), and knowing immediately that she must run away. In her world, there aren’t many healers left. They’ve all been rounded up and killed for their supposed reluctance to heal plague victims. What the populace doesn’t know is that healers couldn’t help plague victims without dying themselves. One letter was misinterpreted and the whole world thinks healers banned together and just decided not save plague victims. People always need someone to blame.
The mother of the saved little girl catches on to what happened and helps to turn Avry in. Avry has been running for years, always having to leave town when she slips and saves someone (usually a child). Parents of these children are never as grateful as they should be. But more than the town’s government (which will be rewarded in gold for the capture of a healer), others take notice of Avry’s arrest. And soon everything is reversed. Avry turns from running away, hoping no one will notice her abilities, to running away from people who want to use her for her abilities.
She might be the last healer alive, and all the major kingdoms are soon to be at war for dominance of the post-plague world. They could all use Avry’s help. She’s resuced from her prison cell by a group of men (she soon starts to call monkeys), who want her to heal someone for them. She agrees, but soon learns they want her to heal a royal who has the plague. She doesn’t say what that healing will do to her, but refuses to heal the royal because of his involvement in the destruction of all healers.
She goes along with the men any way, partially because when she tries to escape, Kerrick and his earth magic and can track her down faster than she can get away. She also kind of loves the guys. She teaches them about finding plants for medicine, about cooking with spices, and even how to juggle. They in turn teach her to throw knives and how to walk quietly in the forrest. There’s a lot of hiding, fighting, healing, and laughter on this journey. Avry saves their lives and they save hers. And they all try to persuade her to save the king.
It becomes almost painfully apparent to readers how much Avry and Kerrick love each other, though they are both so stubborn that nothing happens till the end. And that’s the best romance, the kind that builds and begins with friendship. Though, technically theirs started with hatred. There’s hidden archives, underground prison cells, plenty of magic, zombies, economic downfall, family hardships, society dinners, man-eating flowers, plotting royals, and the only awesome fantasy element that was missing I think was dragons (and elves).
I loved Avry. She was just enough martyr, and just enough selfish to be truly believable. Her weakness was children because of the little sister she left behind to become a healer. She had to make a lot of decisions about who was worth saving (and running for), and who was worth giving up her life for. And the healing was awesome! She would take whatever anyone was suffering from and transfer it to herself. She would then take half as long to heal as the original person would have. And I like that it wasn’t all magic. During one of her captures, she takes charge of the enemy’s infirmary, and it’s clear that a lot of her training was also in plants, medicines, and hygiene. It’s not just about magic and the power of her touch.
Though, I wish I got more description for the magic part. It was always very brief, sometimes too brief. When she heals a friend toward the end, she just touches him for a second and that’s it…I feel like that was almost too easy and anti-climatic. I want to know what it feels like to heal someone like that. I see how Avry suffers every time she heals someone, but I’m more interested in the healing itself. I also wish I got to know some of the monkeys better. I got to know about two of them, but the others were sort of just names, and I wanted more character development for them.
I loved the politics, all the double-crossing, the strategy, etc. And I really love the death lilies and learning about the plague that killed so many people. I found the story very believable. A sequel is in the works and I’m glad because I want to learn more about the plague, about what happened to Avry at the end, about the death lilies, and about he future of Avry’s people (aka: who will win this war?). I give this one a 10/10. I loved it!