Touch of Power (Healer, #1) by Maria V. Snyder
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...
So, what's Touch of Power about, you ask?
It's the story about a girl, a talented healer called Avry of Kazan who was an apprentice at the Healer's Guild. After the plague ravished their realms, the people were angry and wanted to hold someone responsible. Finally, they resorted to blaming the healers for spreading the disease, and healers were hunted down and mercilessly killed. Avry was forced into hiding and has since been separated from her family.
Until one day, she couldn't bear not to save a sick child and decided to risk her own discovery by curing the little girl and assuming the sickness onto herself. She was turned in to the authorities by the girl's father and was sentenced to death at a guillotine the next day, but she never regretted her actions.
Fortunately, luck was on her side as Kerrick and his men were looking for a healer and saved her from a gruesome death. But their help comes with a price - she has to heal the sick Prince Ryne, who was held in stasis.
Avry is a notable heroine and she really deserves some commendation for her selfless spirit. She's a healer, but that doesn't mean that she can cure patients with just a touch. Alright, technically, she can, but in the process of healing her patients, she is actually transferring the sickness onto her own body and thus becomes the patient. I'm sure very few people are willing to sacrifice themselves for someone they barely know like what Avry is doing. To be honest, I myself am not sure if I'm willing to do that. It takes great courage and a kind heart to perform Avry's kind of healing.
As quoted from the book itself, Kerrick is a cold-hearted bastard at first. He cares about nothing but his mission - to find a healer to heal Prince Ryne. He saves Avry because she's the last healer alive, but when she refuses to heal Prince Ryne, he starves her, manacles her to a tree and leaves her in the cold at night. There is not an ounce of gentleman in him. Sometimes, I feel like giving the rude and ruthless jerk a good slap - he totally deserves it.
However, after traveling together with Avry for some time, he learns to care for her genuinely and soon falls in love with her, though he keeps that a secret from everyone in their group. I don't really like him, although there is a change in behaviour in him during the latter parts of the novel. He just pisses me off most of the times.
Belen is the one in the group whom I really like; he reminds me of Ari and Janco from the Study series. Nicknamed Poppa Bear by Avry, he's exactly what you'd call a gentle bear - if you're nice, then he's nice. However, if you intend to harm his cub, he will rip your shoulders out from its socket without a second thought. In this case, his cub is Avry, whom he considers a good friend after she healed his wounds.
I noticed some repetition in the storyline, where someone is kidnapped, then the others will hatch a plan to rescue the kidnapped person. This seems unavoidable in almost all of Maria's previous books. This, in a way, makes the story a little predictable and less exciting. Some parts of the story dragged a little, but it's no big deal considering Maria's excellent writing.
To shorten long sentences, Touch of Power is a solid start to the Healer series. Though I'm not really satisfied with the open ending, I won't utter a single complain, because I know Avry's journey has just started. There are two more books to come. Just the thought of this makes me smile. :)
Instilled with danger, betrayal and intrigue, Touch of Power is a book you wouldn't want to miss.
If you're fan of Maria's Healer series, run over to Brodie's blog to check out her amazing character interview with Avry and Kerrick from Touch of Power!