Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Touch of Power
Maria Snyder

I read the first few (short) chapters on Amazon, got hooked, checked the book out from the library and read it in an evening. It was a fun light read that was pretty much just what I needed to relax with. It’s one of those books that balances between being a fantasy-adventure novel with a strong romance plot line and being a romance novel with a strong fantasy-adventure plotline.

I believe this is the second fantasy universe for this author, and while the universes have distinct rules of magic and society, the character dynamics in Touch of Power were really similar to those in Poison Study (the first book in the other universe). If you like the one, you’ll probably like the other, (I certainly did) but go in expecting the same type of thing rather than anything spectacularly new or inventive.

The plot is a really common one for romance novels: There are two secretly awesome people – sometimes their awesome is secret from the world, other times their awesome is just secret from each other – who each feel that the other person has wronged them in some way. They then proceed to act either aggressively or passive aggressively at each other in response and things escalate until a final showdown reveals that they have both misunderstood the situation and wronged the other, not in the original perceived acts but in their responses. This can be written at various levels of quality, but when done well it’s a wonderfully self-indulgent bit of character drama. When done poorly, it convinces me that both characters are judgmental idiots. Snyder does one of the better jobs of writing this plot line (although no where near as good as Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice) and manages to largely avoid the pitfall of idiocy.

In this book, Healers with magical healing abilities have been blamed for the great plague that swept the land and thus they are generally killed on sight. Our heroine is a Healer and our hero is a guy who badly needs someone healed and will do whatever it takes to help his friend. Under the circumstances, you can see why they start off with the wrong impression of each other. It was a great deal of fun seeing the characters struggle to work together and waiting to see when the big reveal would happen.

I’ll discuss that  a little more under the spoiler cut, but in general, this is a fun book. I enjoyed it and I recommend it the same way I would recommend a summer blockbuster or a soap opera. It’s not high literature, but I’m rarely in the mood for high literature. It’s fun and relaxing and should be enjoyed as such.

Unfortunately the big reveal wound up being more subdued than I had hoped (having hoped for a big self-indulgent show-down at the last minute) and the climactic scene centered more around the actual bad guy who is trying to conquer the world and the magic experiments that were being done to unwilling subjects. The climax wound up largely acting as an introduction to the bigger-picture conflict that will be the focus of the series of which this is just the first book. But I found myself not all that interested in this universe’s bigger picture stuff. As fantasy universes go, it’s all fairly standard.

Since I read and enjoyed Snyder’s Poison Study but was less enthused by the later books in that series for the exact same reason of enjoying the personal character conflict but finding the world building and big-picture conflict somewhat boring, I think I’ll probably settle for having enjoyed Touch of Power, and not bother to read the rest of the books in this series, either.

2 comments on “Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

  1. Kinsey says:

    I find this whole romance/fantasy thing fascinating. I don’t really read traditional romance novels because, as you said, the plots are very predictable. But I do love urban fantasy type books, so does the fantasy trump the romance? I’ve liked Ilona Andrews’s Edge books so far, but do I want to read 10 more of the them, now that I’ve figured out the formula?

    Maybe you’re right–I only need to read one in a series.

    • Rebecca says:

      I largely mock romances with fantasy settings because so often the fantasy aspect doesn’t actually hold up to inspection. The author is just throwing in magic faeries or something because they sparkle rather than thinking through how those sparkles would effect society.

      Maria Snyder is better than that. Her system of magic doesn’t have any obvious flaws.

      On the other hand, I think the romance plot line takes precedence in this book and that plot is very predictable. I just find predictable plots relaxing sometimes when I want to read fluff with no tension. It’s like rereading a book without having read it the first time. No worries about how it comes out, just enjoying the ride getting there.

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