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Friday, February 3, 2012

Thoughts on "Touch of Power" by Maria Snyder and "The Order of the Scales" by Stephen Deas (by Liviu Suciu)

"Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs 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 Fifteen Realms, 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" is the first volume in the new Maria Snyder "Healer" series. Like in her previous very entertaining fantasy trilogies - Study and Glass - the novel is structured as the first person narration of a youngish but tested through trials etc, so the book is not YA, heroine with special powers.

While Avry is certainly different than Yelena or Opal, the overall feel of the novel is absolutely the same and so are its page turning qualities that made me go through the book very fast as I could not put it down.

The world building is different though and it is quite intriguing - 15 kinds of magic, magical healers/scientists possibly responsible for the devastation that engulfed it, power brokers with various ambitions and lack of scruples, the mysterious Death and Peace Lilies, etc - and much remains to be explored while the book ends at a good point.

If you loved her earlier series, you will love this, if not I do not think this will change your mind either. Fun, compelling and mostly familiar and predictable but with enough "newness" to avoid boring repetition and a highly recommended book of 2011 for me.

I plan to get and read the sequels asap since - as in the other 2 adult series of the author - the voice resonates very well
, while the secondary characters - both the "heroes" and the "villains" are intriguing and I expect a few twists and turns as the story progresses.


"Having survived Jehal's betrayal, former Queen Zafir is determined to take back control of the kingdom. To that end, she seizes Jehal's wife and son as hostages. Desperate to save his queen and his heir, Jehal makes a tentative peace with the dragons of the north, and prepares to fly against his enemies.

But as politics throw the realms of men into turmoil, a far greater danger threatens. The dragons are awakening from the spells cast upon them, and returning to their native fury. They are out for revenge. And that revenge will be brutal."

The Order of the Scales is the ending -at least of some of the threads since there will definitely more in the dragons storyline - of the trilogy started in the superb The Adamantine Palace and was followed by the pretty good but more traditional The King of the Crags.

Like its two predecessors, the novel moves fast and while it ends quite conclusively the general storyline mentioned in the blurb above and dealing with the conflicts and the jockeying for power of the Dragon Kings and Queens, the powerful finale of the novel is also a beginning and hints where the storyline will go next. There are quite a few twists and turns and I kept turning the pages and generally let the novel flow so I finished it fast.

What I love about the novel and the series overall is the "take no prisoners" attitude of the author and the fast paced narration; in this book like in The Adamantine Palace, the action is almost breathless and things happen and happen and happen; at 300+ pages I would say the narrative content is equal if not higher than in books twice its size.

Now of course this has some drawbacks too since the characters flash and go and while the main ones have clear personalities, others are just place holders, the world seems only sketched at times, but overall the "magic" of suspension of disbelief and immersion in a strange universe works very well and I am in for the duration.

One of my highly recommended novels of 2011 as I read it on UK publication last year in May, The Order of the Scales appears next week on February 7 here in the US. Of course I plan to get and read The Black Mausoleum on its UK publication this May/June too!


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