Okay, after reading Poison Study (right after I read Touch of Power), I had to come back and drop the rating for ToP by a star. I now consider it a 2.5 star book rather than a 3 star book. Maybe this isn't fair, and each book should stand on its own merit, but I'm going to explain the reasons for my decision.
It shocked me that I read these books right after each other, and I felt like I was reading *the same exact book*. It was as if the author has an outline that she follows for her stories, and only puts different names to the characters and slightly different plots. But everything at its core just felt too completely similar. For example, let's see, we have:
1) Book opening with the heroine about to be put to death
2) Only to be rescued/reprieved in some fashion by the man who will eventually become her love interest
3) Of course the heroine has some sort of magical power as well, for which she'd be executed if discovered
4) And of course the hero has a stony-faced, rough exterior, hiding all of his feelings for the heroine until the last possible moment
5) The hero also has complete and almost blind devotion to some sort of ruler figure, for whom he'd do absolutely anything
6) Then there's the evil villain with no redeeming qualities, who likes to do stuff like use children for torture experiments
7) And let's not forget the hero's faithful men, who come to adore the heroine and would do anything at all to protect her
8) By the way, these faithful men teach heroine to be a good or better fighter, and our heroines even have the same weapon of choice (knife)
There's probably even a lot more things that I can't think of on the spot, but those are some of the glaring similarities. Knowing this, I had to lower my rating for Touch of Power because it just seems so incredibly *lazy*.
Come on, a little more creativity, please?
The series arcs themselves even seem to follow the same structure/pattern. I haven't read the second book in either series yet, but the plot for both centers around the hero and heroine being separated for most of the book.
Anyway, without further adieu, my original review for the book is below if you'd like to read it.
This was my first experience with Maria Snyder, so I wasn't sure what to expect. As it turned out, I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. Although I enjoyed it, I just feel like it ultimately didn't live up to its potential.
The first 1/3 had me completely enthralled. The second 1/3 was pretty good. But in the last 1/3, everything kind of just seemed to fall apart. I think the main problem was that everything felt really rushed in the end, including the romance (which I didn't really buy into anyway, to be honest). Imagine some unfocused action, superficial romance, and some deus ex machina to boot, and you have a good idea of what to expect in the final 1/3 of the book.
Regarding the Avry/Kerrick relationship, I thought it seemed superficial because, until the end, both characters seemed so indifferent to each other. And yes, I know that you have to read between the lines when it comes to these things, but occasionally the author should throw you a bone so you don't think, "Well... maybe the both of them really *don't* like each other?" in the back of your mind. So, when their feelings were *finally* spelled out, it just felt flat and sudden and a bit unbelievable.
No, the strength of this book wasn't the romance, but rather, the fantasy aspects. I loved the idea of the healers, the healer powers, the other magical powers, the magical connections between characters, magical ties to nature - all of those things. I also thought that Avry was a really strong protagonist, and I liked her a lot. Sure, maybe she borderlined a bit into the category of "Mary Sue," but she was still interesting enough to carry the book and make me root for her.
Kerrick on the other hand... sorry but I just didn't love him. He had his moments, sure, but not enough to redeem him from the slapping incident. Also, I thought his reasons for being so completely devoted to Prince Ryne were pretty weak, as were his reasons for having such a cold/icy exterior. I don't know, I just really wanted more from him and from the author on his behalf.
Also, some things in the book just didn't work. Like the Prince/Princess 90210-esque high school. Any talk of that boarding school in the book made me cringe. Another thing that bugged me were the occasional times when Avry would break the fourth wall in her inner monologue. I don't mind that the book was from her point of view or that we were privy to her thoughts, but the times when she would address the reader bugged me, even if they were few and far between.
I know I'm being very critical here, but at the end of the day, I definitely liked the book. It may not seem so from what I've written, but Ms. Snyder created a compelling story in Touch of Power, and her writing is very accessible. I will probably be reading the next book in the series when it's released, and I'm definitely going to check out Ms. Snyder's other works (like Poison Study!). I'm just sad because if a few things had been cleaned up, if a few things had been a bit tighter, I could definitely see myself giving Touch of Power closer to 5 stars. In the end, though, it just couldn't quite get there.