Touch of Power
Maria V Snyder
Rating: 1 star
A lot of the reviews that I have done so far have been for books that I have rated very highly. This is largely because I’ve been reviewing books I have bought myself because I am familiar with the author’s work or books that have been highly recommended to me that I’ve been waiting to get a copy of. I’m onto my library books now, so there’ll be more books where I don’t know what to expect or I’ve decided to give a chance and I believe the ratings will be more varied.
This is one such book. Unfortunately Touch of Power receives only one star and a Did Not Finish from me. I stopped reading after 100 pages, although I did skim a bit to the end to see if it was worth carrying on with. It wasn’t.
I’ve tried to read Maria V Snyder before; I got a cheap copy of Storm Glass for £1 from Book Clearance Centre a couple of years ago (I really mourn the loss of this shop – it’s where I bought a lot of Australian Fantasy for dirt cheap). I was really pleased and excited about discovering a new author with such a large back catalogue. But I was hugely disappointed when I read it. I can’t really remember why I was so disappointed in it, but I don’t think I got beyond 40 pages, which is a really low drop off point for me. I’ll normally give a book the benefit of the doubt for about a hundred or so as I’m quite a quick reader.,
However, recently I’d seen quite a few good reviews for Snyder’s more recent work Touch of Power. I like books that deal with healers, possibly as a result of coming from an NHS family, the concept intrigued me and I thought I’d give her a go. So I tracked a copy down through Lancashire Libraries and gave it a whirl.
I had a feeling from the first page that this was not going to go well. I’m a big fan of interesting narration and a strong believer that if you’re going to go down the road of a first person narrative, you have to have a very interesting protagonist to keep my attention. Unfortunately, Avry just wasn’t very interesting and neither was the plot. Part of this is because she is not a particularly active character, the only time she appears to do anything is when she gets moved about like a chess piece by the opposing factions of the book. This is in part because Avry herself appears to be the ‘Macguffin’ of the piece, everyone is after her – the healer – whilst Avry herself seems to be lacking in any sort of motivation and is mostly just along for the ride.
In fact, her only form of rebellion seemed to be healing someone. This could have been really interesting, it had the potential the be a very different sort of defiance – healing instead of violence. But it never seemed to go anywhere and from the start it was clear that the Prince wasn’t actually going to be evil, that she would heal him as they all wanted and then nearly die. I suppose that was another problem with it – I never really felt like her life was in danger, so I never really cared. Also, the manner in which Avry ultimately cheats death was a complete and utter let down – honestly, ‘Peace Lillies’ vs. ‘Death Lilies’? You couldn’t be more obvious unless you put a sign up.
Plot-wise there was something of the horror movie about it. Not that it was in any way scary or creepy – but you could see who was going to live and who was going to die right from the start. Characters frequently act against any aspect of common sense, withhold information that would resolve things much earlier and are generally very, very bland. There was also an annoying tendency to sit around engaging in friendly bonding and gentle banter when everyone really should be running for their lives.
When it comes to the other characters there’s not much hope there either. Her love interest is, quite frankly, annoying and there was no way I was going to start rooting for them to be a couple after he hits her within the first few chapters. No matter how much ‘stress’ he’s meant to be under. The rest of his gang all started to blend into one for me as the story progressed, apart from the young naïve one who Avry befriends and whose death you can see coming from a mile away. The villain was quite obvious and his aims were not particularly inspiring either.
All in all, I do have a better idea of what I disliked about this one. There was a lot of potential in the concept but it didn’t feel like it was ever realised. I’m afraid I won’t be giving Snyder a third try.