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.
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 you have read and enjoyed either Ms Snyder's Study series or Glass series, you'll love this. It is that simple. Go buy it now; you are dismissed (although I'd rather you stayed, of course...).
If you haven't read either, let me convince you.
The story starts with Avry on the run. As one of the last healers, she is forced to hide from those who believe her responsible for the spreading of the plague that has decimated the population of each Territory. When I say "the story starts", I really do mean it. Within the first few pages, Avry has risked her life to heal a dying child and faces execution as a result. There's a sense of urgency that starts on the first page and is sustained for the entire book and that made it nearly impossible to put down. So absorbed in this book was I that I grabbed at it whenever I could, often with embarrassing consequences (nearly bursting into tears on the bus being one...).
It seems that Ms Snyder has a great way with creating strong female characters. The main reason I loved her earlier work so much was that both series focus upon a girl/woman who are intelligent and powerful in their own right. Avry of Kazan is no exception. I adored her for caring enough to still fight to heal people in spite of their fear and hatred, for continuously standing up for herself against people that wanted to control and manipulate her and for her honesty. YA fiction could do with a lot more female characters like her.
The characters that surround her are no less well created. Kerrick, Belen, Quain, Vinn and Flea are the band of men that feature the most and are great additions. Belen, in particular, was a favourite of mine in his role as 'friendly giant'. Kerrick is as charming as someone who smacks you in the face can be, which is of course not very much. I did really enjoy watching his character develop, though. Quain, Vinn and Flea are very much like little brother figures (I imagine - seeing as I have a younger sister, I can't say for definite). Their capering and banter provides some much-needed light relief along the way and really helped the dynamic of the group and the pitch of the book as a whole. Kudos also to Avry for being able to banter with the boys!
I loved the intrigue that surrounded the plague, based in part on the Black Death. Where did it come from? Why can't it be healed? How does it spread? Obviously in many ways it differs from the Black Death as that would be decidedly light on the intrigue, being fact and history and all...
Oh, the BAD guys! There are plenty of nasties to create some danger and plights for the plucky healer, ranging from man-eating plants to other magicians to...other things that I won't spoil for you. Suffice to say, this book is not light on action and some of it is unexpected and creepy.
You probably won't be surprised to know that there is a touch of romance. However, you might be surprised to know that it is sufficiently subtle that it doesn't detract from the main plot and that Avry manages to keep a level head, act with dignity and stay true to herself. I know, an independent woman that can be in love and act like rational human being all at the same time; who'd have thought it?
The only (very minor) downside in this book for me was the occasional use of an usual narrative technique more usually used in plays. I am referring to the us of an 'aside' comment where the audience are addressed by a character in the play, while other characters remain oblivious. I regrettably didn't highlight the "worst" example on my eReader and now can't find it but something scary and unpleasant was going on and Avry interrupted the narration by saying something like "I know, scary right?" as though she was talking to the reader, rather than for their benefit. It was so strange and out of the blue that it did kill the moment a little for me. Since part of what makes this book great is how engaging Avry is, I can't complain too much but I did found that it jarred occasionally and the more pedantic among you should be warned. Also, if you don't like the word "guys", be warned - it's used in abundance. It grew on me after a while because it fits the characters and the story but it did annoy me slightly at first. (I must have been feeling ultra picky this week, sorry!)