Release Date: AU January 2012 / US December 20th 2011
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Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.For three years Avry has been on the constant move, doing her best to keep her extraordinary healing powers hidden from the world. After a plague wiped out two thirds of the population, Healers, once revered, were accused of spreading the terrible disease. So when Avry uses her powers to save a dying girl, her selfless act is rewarded by the girls parents alerting the watchman. For the act of saving a life, Avry is about to lose hers. That is, until Kerrick of Alga comes to visit her cell in the dead of the night and rescues her from execution. But not without a price. Kerrick and his group of men have been searching for a Healer for two years to heal their plague-ridden Prince. A Prince who Avry is hell-bent to let die. Can Kerrick convince her that Prince Ryne is worth saving before it's too late?
Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life....
If I had to choose one thing that absolutely nails this novel for me, it's the characters. Maria has created such an incredibly vibrant bunch of personalities that will not allow you leave without branding your heart. Sweet, caring Belen with muscles as big as his heart, the bantering 'monkeys' Vinn and Quain and the adorably youthful Flea, who I dare anyone to deny their affection for. I absolutely loved the interactions between Avry and the guys. The way their relationship grew over the course of the novel was so heartwarming. They become a family and anytime they were faced with danger or separated for a short time, it always felt like home coming back to their scenes trekking through the forest or camping overnight in a cave. Action and danger I adore, but every time an obstacle came along, I found part of myself cursing the need for plot developments because I could have read an entire novel with just Avry and the crew hanging out.
With that being said, I did thoroughly enjoy the danger and mystery and amazing worldbuilding. It was so interesting to learn about the different types of magic some people possessed within the Realms. From Healers to those who wield control over elements like earth, air, life or death. And to witness both the beautiful and the sickening capabilities of that magic was fascinating. As were the inclusion of Death Lilies and Peace Lilies, I was so intrigued to learn the mystery behind these unique plants and how exactly they affect Avry. Maria has crafted a world both captivating in it's magic, but dangerous in its power.
The romance is definitely not an all-consuming, main aspect to the novel and all the more better for it. What started off as animosity gradually grew into something electric, the sexual tension simmering beneath until you just want to shout at them to kiss already! Even if neither Avry nor Kerrick ever want to admit those feelings. Both are as stubborn as the other. Kerrick has his reasons for shutting off emotionally and considering he treated her like a jackass at the start (well, apart from the saving-her-from-execution part), Avry isn't exactly open to fawning over him.
Magic, adventure and a dash of romance, Touch of Power is an addictive novel that will leave you eager for the next installment in this thrilling new series. Fans and newcomers to Maria's work will devour this in one sitting, but be warned; you will become attached to the characters. You won't want to leave this stunning world. And it's not possible to kill the bad guys by scratching at their name on the page or throwing the book across the room because they've taken you away from your favourite scenes. I'm still working on my 'take-down-the-fictional-baddies-from-my-depressingly-mundane-reality' powers. I'll get there eventually.
4/5 Golden Apples!