Title: Taste of Darkness (Healer #3)
Author: Maria V Snyder
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Release Date: 1st January 2014
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Romance
Page Count: 464
Avry’s preparing for the last stages of the war against Tohon and his allies, but Kerrick has gone missing. Avry has duties she must attend to and mysteries to solve, but the most important one is: will she and Kerrick be able to stay together after everything happening to tear them apart?
I read Touch of Power close to the release date and was lucky enough to snag Scent of Magic as an advanced reader’s copy, so it’s been three long years I’ve been invested in this story. I didn’t manage to re-read the previous books before diving into this one, so I was terribly afraid I’d be confused with all the details and the large cast of characters – and at first I was. However, Snyder was skilful enough to use her narrator Avry to remind me of important plot points and details and although I feel like I’d be more secure if I re-read the books, I caught on and was okay through this one.
I really like Avry. To me, she is very similar to Yelena from Poison Study, which is great, because basically I want more. I love her intelligence and her stubbornness, because it’s not a stupid kind of stubborn we so often read about in Young Adult literature, where the girl is stubborn because it’s some kind of character flaw and it often revolves around not communicating with her designated love interest. Avry’s stubborn has to do with her strong sense of right and wrong and doing what is best for the world. I love her need to be nurturing and how it balances with her ability to kick ass. I love how she weighs her options and deliberates and thinks about things before taking action, and even though she often puts her own body on the line, she generally won’t heal any (minor) character whose injuries might end up killing her, or putting her out of action when she’s needed.
Likewise I also like Kerrick. He was a bit different to how I expected him to be in this novel. I remember that he’s older than Avery, but to me he vacillated between being lethargic due to his new magical bond, and being a horny teenage boy when he was around Avry. I didn’t feel their deep bond so much, which I found a little disappointing. Also, I was confused at how Tohon’s bond grew stronger with Avry than Kerrick’s, because she was spending rather a lot of time with the latter and sharing a lot of magic, which is what strengthens bonds. If it was because Kerrick’s connection to the forest got in the way, then I don’t see how Avry still had a bond. I think I’ll have to re-read it to make more sense of that. Otherwise I loved how Avry didn’t dissolve into a puddle of goo when Kerrick went missing, and kept searching even when everyone else had given up.
Likewise the plot was a little confusing at times. All the names and places casually dropped in, the names of cities as well as realms, served to confuse me. I really could have used a map, and also a cast of characters list, to help remind me of everything. Something Avry thought later in the book really summed up my own feelings:
“Spies, double-crosses, ambushes and strategic military positioning: how did anyone keep it all straight?”
I wish we could have learned more about the different types of magic. I found the worldbuilding to be decent in terms of cultures and beliefs but not so much in world history. I would have liked to know more about the world before the plague, but it all seemed to revolve around Avry and her little group. I know we saw some cultures from the north in the previous book, but I still feel a little bit like the world is underdeveloped. I know that the plague wiped out two-thirds of the population, but I don’t know what the world was like before that. Were there any wars? I have no idea how fifteen realms came to be, and unlike the separate Districts in The Hunger Games, for example, I also don’t know how each realm supports its population.
Snyder is one of the few authors who can pull off modern language and jargon in a strong fantasy novel. Many fantasy novels attempt to sound archaic, replacing random words such as ‘maybe’ with ‘mayhap’ and nothing else, or not using contractions. For some reason, Snyder’s use of language works in this novel. Perhaps it is Avry’s thoroughly modern voice, so when other characters say “Yep” and “okeydokey” it doesn’t seem strange at all. It just works.
Also, I feel like the book’s supposed to be a romance because it’s published by Harlequin, the world’s leading romance publisher, but I never feel like the romance is front and central, which I like. Sure, I get Avry and Kerrick feels, but in my opinion there’s not quite enough to call this a romance novel.
Overall I really enjoyed the last book in the Healer series. It wrapped up lots of those plot points and details leftover from the previous two books whilst also being its own adventure. I love Avry and Kerrick, and although I wish the world building could have gone a little deeper, heaps of action made up for that.
Thanks to HarlequinTeen Australia for providing this review copy for an honest review.