I’ve been a Maria V. Snyder fan ever since I stumbled upon Poison Study while perusing Barnes & Noble (I have a book-buying problem; it’s beautiful and awful. I should open a library). I’ve since read everything she’s written and loved it all. In fact, because of her I’ve been playing with the idea of doing an author spotlight. Anyway, I just reread her three books in the Healer series, and instead of reviewing each one separately, I decided to do them all together, a sort of look at the overarching storyline.
Avry is the only remaining healer and the heroine. She wants to help others and return The Fifteen Realms to prosperity, but is hunted for her powers.
Kerrick is a prince on the side of good. He’s in love with Avry and loyal to Ryne, possibly the only person who can stop the encroaching evil.
Belen is Kerrick’s right hand and a big fan of Avry’s.
Ryne is a prince who spends much of the first book in stasis due to having the plague. Upon being healed, he uses his brilliant tactical mind to fight Tohon.
Tohon is evil. He brings corpses to life to fight battles for dominion. Although he’s handsome and charming, he’s also selfish, immature, and narcissistic. And possibly crazy.
Estrid is the high priestess of a state religion. She’s conquering other realms in the guise of bringing peace and prosperity. But innocents under her rule are forced to fight, and the smallest sins (public laughter, for instance) are punished with brutality.
The Skeleton King and his people survived the plague and ensuing shortage of food by cannibalism. He’s slowly driving his armies north.
Noak is a barbarian prince from the north who has brought his people south to preserve them. At first he has an adversarial relationship with Kerrick, which changes to that of allies and friends.
The land of The Fifteen Realms is only a shadow of what it once was. A plague decimated 2/3 of the population, a plague that the Healers started, or so rumor says. As a result the entire guild of healers, people who have magically healed others by taking the wounds and sicknesses of their patients and making them their own, are hunted down and destroyed. All are wiped out, except for Avry of the realm of Kazan.
The realms are in tumult, power grabbed by evil, unscrupulous people, bandits roam unchecked, and nowhere is safe. Avry moves from place to place in secrecy, hunted by those who want to use her gift for their own gain…or just destroy her. Until Kerrick finds her. As a prince of one of the realms, he wants to bring stability back to the land, and he has a plan. Unfortunately, it’s a plan that might cost Avry her life. In fact, it will cost Avry her life because his plan is to heal an important person of the plague, a prince who can take charge once he’s awaken from his magical stasis and healed. But there’s one thing the healers could never do: heal a plague victim and survive. Avry must choose between the well-being of The Fifteen Realms or her own life.
But even if she does this, will it make a difference? King Tohon, master of the dead, conquers from the west, High Priestess Estrid comes from the east, and the Skeleton King encroaches from the South: all seek to make The Fifteen Realms their own. Plus, the barbarians from the Northern Wildlands are fighting their way south to warmer climes. Can one man turn the tide, even with the only surviving healer on his side?
Touch of Power:
Kerrick, prince of Alga, rescues Avry from certain death under terms that she heal his friend, fellow prince (from Ivdel), and tactical genius, Ryne. Avry refuses; she’s heard disturbing (and untrue) rumors about the prince. Plus, if she heals him she dies. But as Kerrick and his merry men lead Avry to where the prince is hidden in a magical stasis and dodge Tohon’s army of the dead and Estrid’s army of acolytes, she starts to see the wisdom of the plan…and fall in love. But love makes the choices she has to make even harder. Plus, she has to figure out what the death and peace lilies have to do with the plague and her own healing powers, help both friends and enemies, and save some children from the grip of evil.
I loved this book. The developing love story between Avry and Kerrick is beautiful and a bit heart-breaking; there’s something to say about the love-hate romance theme (I think of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy every time). Avry is a strong character: passionate, tempestuous, stubborn, and empathetic. She makes some bad choices, but she always makes them with a good heart and good logic (at least to her at the time). Kerrick comes into the story cold and hard; he has one job, to find a healer for Ryne, and he will do what it takes regardless of who he hurts. He perhaps changes the most, softening as he gets to know (and is aggravated) by Avry. In the end, he has to rethink his assumption that sacrificing the one for the many is the only option.
Scent of Magic:
Avry survived healing Ryne, a plague victims, thanks to the peace lilies, but her trials are only starting. She goes undercover in Estrid’s army, while Ryne and Kerrick head north to mobilize their armies and prepare for war with Tohon. While Estrid considers allying with Ryne in order to stop Tohon, the abomination, Tohon has plans of his own. Plans that might be too much for Estrid. If she gets out of the war and draws her armies back into her home realm, a vacuum will be created that Tohon is sure to take advantage of. But Ryne and Kerrick aren’t out of the fight, even if the southern barbarians are dividing their forces and creating chaos.
I didn’t like that Avry and Kerrick were at separate ends of The Fifteen Realms for the majority of this book, or that Avry was under the impression that Kerrick was dead. On the other hand, I did like that a chapter from Kerrick’s point of view followed a chapter from Avry’s. As middle books in a series go, it wasn’t the best of the three, but it did move the plot along and had some emotional and action-packed scenes. Plus, the ending was a surprise, and that’s always nice (especially when you think—cynically—that you’ve seen it all and can guess what’s happening…and then Avry surprises you). I should mention that I find myself wishing that Avry would be a little more trusting in Ryne and not quite so impetuous.
Taste of Darkness:
Tohon’s temporarily out of action with a life-threatening wound, but that hasn’t stopped his armies under his second-in-command from advancing. More concerning, though, is the evidence that the plague is returning…or somebody’s making it return. If this wasn’t enough, the Skeleton King is advancing and seems to be in cahoots with Tohon’s armies. At least the southern barbarians have agreed to support Kerrick and Ryne. On the other hand, Avry has a strange connection to Tohon (one that she does not want) that could threaten everything. But it might also be the salvation of The Fifteen Realms. If only she’s willing to sacrifice herself once again. Not that Kerrick would allow it.
I loved loved looooooved this book. Kerrick is connected to the forest, Avry is connected to Tohon, and all seems lost…but Ryne is brilliant and Avry is brave and Kerrick is madly in love. The three of them can do anything. The end of the book is especially emotional (although I won’t give it away); suffice it to say that Avry and Kerrick’s love story comes to a head. A character that first appears in Scent of Magic comes into his own: Noak of the southern barbarians. He’s a great warrior, wise, and an ally of Kerrick’s. He’s also super awesome (and hot). I love him. I would love another series focusing on just him.
I highly recommend this series to everybody. Like other books written by Maria V. Snyder, the Healer Series combines magic, love, and adventure for a good time. Avry, the heroine, is a strong character, fierce, loyal, and loving. It’s a pleasure to watch her grow (and witness her relationship with Kerrick progress).