I remember Maria V Snyder’s previous novels fondly, and this one didn’t let me down either. It also turned out to be surprisingly topical – I wasn’t expecting to find references to bioterrorism in a fantasy novel, but there you go.
The central character, Avry of Kazan, is a healer, blessed with the ability to heal ten times faster than the average person, and to take other peoples’ illnesses from them, to herself. Before the incurable plague that wiped out two-thirds of the population, healers were a valuable part of society, but blame fell on them for refusing to heal the plague victims, leading to their being hunted down and killed. Now, even other types of magicians are viewed with distrust, and there is a large bounty on Avry’s head.
She’s been on the run for years, but is discovered healing a young girl, and thrown into prison to be executed. Luckily, she is rescued from gaol, but by a band of men who have been hunting her down to force her to heal their leader of the plague – the very man she suspects started it to begin with.
Avry makes for a strong, independently minded heroine, albeit a little blind to her own feelings. Her powers are explained consistently and in a scientific manner, although not to the extent Brandon Sanderson manages to pull off. I found myself caught up not only by the plot and characters but also by curiosity as Avry pieces together the creation of the plague virus. The bleak, chaotic feel of a world depopulated by illness was vividly done too.
Next up: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey