Yep, i know. So far I’ve not been a big reviewer of… well, anything! But this changed over Christmas when Maria Snyder’s latest book came out. After the previous two sci-fi ones which were really not my cup of tea I’m afraid I was to say the least, a little on edge. So I thought I would share with you my thoughts on the latest of her nine books to date.
A Touch of Power (An Avry Kazan Novel) by Maria V Snyder
Having read Maria V. Snyder’s Yelana Zaltana series in 2009 and following it eagerly with her next two series as soon as they became available, I was looking forward to the latest novel with something akin to fearful apprehension. It wasn’t that the second two series hadn’t been good; it’s just that her first had set a bench mark and the rest had unfortunately fallen a little short. It was with this in mind that I started the first of the Avry Kazan novels.
In the land of the 15 Realms, A Touch of Power tells the story of healer, Avry Kazan, three years after the man-made plague has decimated the population. It has left the few remaining healers shouldering the responsibility for starting the atrocity, fearful of discovery and scattered. Avry’s story begins with her dilemma between the urge to help those who need her and her desire to survive. Choosing to help the people who condemn her, she is sentenced to death and it is only because of her rescue by the fiery Kerrick and his band of unlikely champions that Avry is saved. However, soon after the daring escape Avry is given another choice; return to her life on the run with no end in sight but that at the hands of the people who hold her responsible, or help Kerrick and his friends save a Prince from death, a man said to be able to unite the lands and save the people from the tyranny of others. Not one to draw away from duty, the choice should be simple but for two matters. Firstly Avry knows that to heal the prince she must give up her own life for his and secondly, she is also one of the only people left who knows that the prince might just be the one who condemned the worlds to the plague from the start.
From the moment I opened the pages and submerged myself into the 15 realms I found the book almost impossible to put down. The slowly building story wraps itself around you, drawing you deep into its intricate characters and beautifully described lands as a Death Lily would into its exotic and often fatal clasp. The world is complex and the lands numerous but Snyder using her flowing style and magic to introduce each new piece as a part of the elaborate whole. It is this creation of a land that not only invites the reader in, but gives them a place to be in it and see the story unfold from the very midst of the action. The characters emerging from the land add colour and vibrancy to a single story thread comprising a recipe of every individual tale. There are those who take up less back story but by the middle of the book, their individual characters are still leaving you rooting for their survival throughout the series.
Snyder’s skilful style tempers the sometimes abrasive traits of the main characters with those of supporting roles that gradually come to the fore. It is a difficult balance to achieve but she has managed this throughout the story with a balance of, not good and evil, but good intentions and intentions for the greater good.
It seems as though Snyder has used all her previous series to work out the best parts to use in this first book. There are similarities in her heroine’s traits of intelligence, skill and power behind the scenes. Of course mixed in there must be a stubborn streak and tenacity to execute the equal parts daring and dangerous plan, as well as a self-sacrificing nature. However, Avry breaks from the mould by also being susceptible to seduction in more ways than one and her capitulation at points enhances the tension of the narrative.
A speciality of all the nine books written by Maria Snyder is the development of the romance throughout the narrative, which is complimented by the appearance of the initially seen archetypal anti-hero. In addition to the classic situation of not noticing what is right before your eyes, this style of romance is the catalyst for a slowly igniting, but once lit, passionate romance that flows in harmony with the unfolding plot lines. The individuality of the characters makes this romance their own and though the similarities are definitely there, when it works this well; why on earth change it?
A Touch of Power was a long awaited return to fantasy for Snyder and this book shows why this will to my mind, always be her forte. For me, the worst part of the book is knowing it took me less than two days to finish and now I have two years to wait to read the next instalment. Which as bad points go, will by no means stop me recommending this to fantasy readers everywhere and re-reading it several times while I await 2013 for Snyder’s next offering with fearless anticipation.