“We’re really surprised you weren’t caught by the locals sooner,” Quain said.
“We had a list of healers,” Loren said. “But by the time we learned of their location, they’d been executed. We always heard the same gossip. That they had been caught by doing something stupid.”
“Like healing a child,” I said. My obvious weakness.
That awkward moment when you love a book despite hating almost everything in it...
Book chemistry. It is very, very real, and this book is living proof that it exists. There are so many elements of "Things Khanh Totally Fucking Hates" within this book. There is a too-stupid-to-live main character, there is deus ex fucking machina up the yin-yang, there is a motherfucking asshat of a love interest, there is an attempt at a love triangle, there is almost no relationship building (if you thought Valek and Yelena in Poison Study was out of nowhere, wait til you read this book), there is a plot that literally takes you across the entire fucking world with me scratching my head wondering...what the actual fuck is going on.
But I can't lie. I enjoyed this book, and I had a lot of fun with it. I don't even know why, I just do. I'm only human, and my brain can't help overlooking basic common sense sometimes.
The Summary: Avry of Kazan is on the run for her life.
Three years on the run. Three years of hiding. Three terrible years full of fear and loneliness. For what? My life? Yes, I live and breathe and exist. Nothing else.
She is a wanted woman. There is a bounty of gold on her head. People want her dead. Why? She is a healer. All healers are to be captured and killed for their crimes.
Five years ago, a plague spread across the land, devastating the Fifteen Realms. People died in droves. So many died that it cast the realms into chaos. Governments were destroyed. Bands of mercenaries and dictators sprung up in their place. There is litle law and no order in the land. For all this, healers were blamed. Why? Because of one false belief.
[The people] considered those times a war. A war that had been started by healers, who then spread the deadly disease, and refused to heal it.
All the healers, roughly 100 of them, were graduanlly hunted down, killed. Few remain. Among them, Avry, who has been running and hiding for years. Until, thanks to a soft heart, she healed a sick child---and is caught.
Avry is sentenced to death. She is resigned to die...until a man comes to rescue her. Kerrick has been searching for her---a healer---for years. His rescue comes at a price. Kerrick needs something from her.
"You’re worth more alive than dead.” He paused, knowing he had said the wrong thing. “I meant, I need you to heal someone for me. Once he’s better, you can go back into hiding or do whatever you’d like.”
There's just a problem, she can't, and won't heal the person Kerrick wants her to heal, for reasons of her own.
I raised my voice. “Let me make this perfectly clear. I will not heal Prince Ryne. Nothing you do or say will change my mind.”
Kerrick and his men won't let Avry go that easily. Avry has been on the run, and she hasn't stayed in one place long enough to realize what's happened. She may not like Prince Ryne, but the alternatives to his rule are far worse. Among the aspiring rules who want to take over the Fifteen Kingdom are an cult-like, fanatical queen.
The High Priestess, also known as Estrid of Ozero was intolerant of other faiths, and required her subjects to be members of her cultlike religion.
Even worse than her is an insane, seductive king. Not only is Tohon a despotic dictator.
"Tohon is not trying to help the plague survivors. He’s gathering them into an army so he can invade all those towns that have managed to reform. Towns like Jaxton. All so his army can grow. And if his forces encounter anyone who refuses to join, they kill him or her. Tohon is…mentally unstable, and for him to be king of all...would be a living nightmare."
The magic he wields is terrifying dangerous.
Pressing my hand on freezing cold flesh, I summoned my power. Nothing happened. No magic swelled in my chest. Kerrick’s comment echoed in my mind. I don’t feel them.
Horrified, I met the gaze of one of my captors. Death stared back.
As much as she hates Ryne, Avry may not have a choice but to help him. Avry and Kerrick are in for a long, dangerous journey. One way or another, Avry is sure to meet her death, because what Kerrick wants her to do will kill her.
1. The Plague: The only thing that works really well about the setting is the plague and the healing magic.
The first stage resembled a stomach bug, and once the person’s stomach and bowels were empty, the symptoms transformed into all-over aches, pains and a high fever, which was stage two. The final stage involved convulsions, delusions and large white blisters on the skin that itched at first, then burned. Many of the victims screamed nonstop in pain during the third stage. They reacted as if they were burning alive.
I love plagues. I have a soft spot for horrifying illnesses with a high mortality rate. I'm a really, really strange person, therefore, I absolutely loved the way this book described the plague and how it killed.
I love the way that the magical healing system worked in this book. Healers are magicians, there are 11 other classes of magic within the Fifteen Realms, and Healers work their magic by absorbing the sick person's illness and taking it into themselves. It works for diseases, sicknesses, as well as injuries.
I sent my magic into Belen’s wounds, flooding them.
Pain stabbed deep into my stomach, blood ran down, soaking my waistband. I made it to the small fire before I collapsed. My muscles felt as if they’d been shredded and I couldn’t breathe. The pain increased as acid leaked from my pierced stomach and burned my flesh.
Healers do not die because they heal quickly from the injuries and illnesses they absorb into themselves. There is one notable exception to this rule: the plague.
2. The Fifteen Realms: It doesn't work for me. It is a generic fantasy setting that has elements that feel oddly out of place. The dialogue feels too modern, it wouldn't be out of place in today's setting, and there are things in the book that feel they don't belong. Like hair dye.
“The reddish brown sets off your beautiful sea-green eyes better,” Mom said. “But if you choose blond, I’ll give you the dye so you can do your roots.”
“A slight chance? Let’s break out the champagne.”
Avry: She is similar to Yelena in her character development, only considerably less sympathetic. For one, she is too soft-hearted, and that makes her often too stupid to live. Avry is a kind woman, it cannot be denied. The only thing is that softness almost killed her.
Avry loves children. She hates seeing children sick. She is a healer on the run, she cannot afford to expose herself, but time after time she risks her own life to heal a sick child, knowing that it will expose her and she will have to run away yet again. It is a fault many of her fellow healers took. Avry was rescued from certain death---the other healers weren't so fortunate.
“Heading generally northwest, and stopping only in the bigger settlements. You’d last about...six, maybe eight weeks before healing a child and taking off.” Loren settled on his bedroll next to the fire.
When I thought about it, he was right. A zing of fear traveled up my spine. If I survived this mission, I would have to be extra-vigilant.
Kerrick and his men located her because her pattern of stopping and healing a child was so obvious. Not the brightest move if you wanted to survive.
She repeatedly puts herself in danger. She runs away into the forest, not knowing what lurks there. She risks her life and that of her companions for foolish, grandiose missions, like a side trip to save a girl.
Heroic, yes. Noble, yes. Smart? No.
Avry makes ridiculous, improbable plans that fail...
His touch zipped right through me, igniting every single nerve ending. My body responded. Desire flared. I leaned against him and kissed him back.
So much for my plan.
Yet she somehow always succeeds in her mission, however unlikely, however stupid the tools.
“How could I do anything, Tohon? All I have left are these.” I reached into my pocket slowly and withdrew my stones.
“What are they?” Sepp asked.
“Juggling stones. See?”
I did like her character development, Avry went from a woman without a purpose, who doesn't really care whether or not she dies.
“Do you want to be executed?”
“Some things are worse than death,” I said.
To a person who finds meaning in life, who feels that she has something to contribute, who has power that only she can wield.
“Belen, I decide who I heal. Me. Not Kerrick. Not you. Not anyone. It’s my decision. The only one I have left.”
With a strangled cry, Kerrick lost his temper. Belen lunged toward Kerrick and I raised an arm to block Kerrick’s strike, but we were both too slow. Kerrick backhanded me across my cheek. The force of the blow sent me to the ground.
No. No. No! Motherfucking douchebag!
Maria V. Snyder wrote another series, Poison Study. That series features one of my three book boyfriends, Valek. Kerrick doesn't hold a candle to Valek. Kerrick is not worthy of breathing in the same air.
Kerrick is a jerk. The romance, or should I say, bromance, in this book isn't between Avry and Kerrick, it's between Kerrick and Prince Ryne. As far as Kerrick is concerned, the sun rises and sets on Prince Ryne.
“Because Ryne is a brilliant strategist, and has outsmarted Tohon before.”
Ryne is more important than anyone, more than the fate of his best friend, more than the fates of a girl.
“In case you haven’t been paying attention, if Ryne is more important to me than Belen’s life, then he’s certainly a higher priority than some girl.”
Save the Realm? Kerrick has absolute faith in Ryne.
An impossible task.”
“Ryne will find a way.”
“You can’t know that for certain.”
“I can.” His gaze burned into mine. “I wouldn’t have spent two years searching for you if I didn’t have utter faith in him.”
Throughout the book, Avry finds herself thinking of Ryne, dreaming of him, smelling his "springtime sunshine" scent. I don't buy it for a moment, because there is zero relationship development between Kerrick and Avry.
Kerrick is a jerk, an abusive jerk.
“No one else has backhanded me, starved me, manacled me to a tree and let me freeze each night. Therefore, I don’t have anyone else to compare you to.”
He is arrogant, he is unwavering, he is high-handed. I don't like him one bit, and I can't understand why Avry does.
What can I say? I loved this book anyway. Damned book chemistry.