Sunday, February 9, 2014

For Fantasy Lovers - Healer's Touch by Deb Howell

Good afternoon on a cold and snowy day!

While trapped indoors this week, I opted to check out the freebie downloads currently available for my Kindle.  It's been awhile since a fantasy novel passed by, so I picked up one that I thought I'd give a little recommendation for here at the blog.  For those who like a simple but promising fantasy series, check out Deb E. Howell's Healer's Touch.

Book Blurb (from Amazon): 
Llew has a gift. Her body heals itself from any injury - but at a cost to anyone nearby.

In a country fearful of magic, freeing yourself from the hangman's noose by wielding forbidden power brings dangers of its own. After dying and coming back, Llew drops from the gallows into the hands of Jonas: the man carrying the knife with the power to kill her - permanently.

The last of his warrior race, Jonas is haunted by memories of his loved ones. At his side, the cursed knife that took their lives acts as a cruel reminder of his pain. Jonas has learned the hard way that caring for others means their death.

Jealous of his half-brother's celebrated strength and speed, Braph has created the device that gives him the power to perform magic, any magic. But it needs fuel - the blood of a healer...

My Review:
There were several things I liked about this novel and several things I believe could be strengthened.

This is really a fantasy novel in a fantasy world, not a wild-west or steampunk setting. I understand the western themed moniker to give it a semblance of time and setting, but I think that reference in the book blurb (on GoodReads) is misleading. There are characters with special powers I found very interesting, particularly the healer's touch component that our protagonist, Llew, possesses.

Llew is a teenaged orphan, living on the streets of Cheer (a misnomer) as a boy since her father disappeared. One night she is attacked when a man realizes she is a woman. When Llew tries to fight him off, he starts slashing at her with a broken bottle. However, each time he slashes at her and she touches him to fight off the attack, a transfer of life occurs and Llew is healed. Eventually she passes out, realizing the connection she maintained with the man sucked the life out of him to heal her - and his lifeless body lay beside her.

When the townspeople of Cheer realize a murdering witch is in their midst, Llew is forced to flee into the unknown. Along the way, she encounters a group of wealthy adventurers escorting a young woman to another land to meet her betrothed. They agree to take her on as another protector - and for the time being Llew's secret is safe. But the traveling troupe has many secrets of their own, the warrior Jonas being more than a distraction.

This wasn't a story that kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning, but it was one that kept me coming back over the course of several days as I had availability. So without giving away too much, here we go. The first third of the book was interesting as I got to know Llew and her predicament, her strong and determined personality, and as she grew more aware - and sometimes frightened - of her strange power. The last third was both exciting and heartbreaking as Llew fought for her freedom, her life, and for the lives of others.

The main problem I had was with the middle third, as it got bogged down and at times felt as if the author had lost direction. The characters even changed in odd ways and didn't stay true to what they were at the beginning and end. One of the most irritating was the changing speech patterns of several characters, in particular Jonas. He had disappearing and reappearing accents that varied throughout the story. In the beginning he carried a normal speech pattern, and then suddenly he sounded like a southerner from Texas, then the Bayou, and then back to no discernible accent. The middle could be cut waaay back without losing any significant aspect of the story.

Then, besides Llew, there was little development of any other character to give the reader a sense of depth, motivations, and more than one-dimensional representation. I think this would have helped the middle section from feeling so wooden and would have also made our antagonist feel more like a flesh and blood man instead of a spoiled brat throwing a temper-tantrum.

There were very few editing errors and point-of-view stayed fairly strong without jumping around from character to character in the midst of a scene (bravo and thank you, Ms. Howell!!!). In the end, I think the story ended on an appropriate note and made me interested in continuing with the next leg of Llew's journey.  This would've rated a four star if not for the issues mentioned above, but it has much promise in regard to Llew and the created fantasy world elements.  Thus I'll settle with three and a-half stars for this first outing in the series.  

Healer's Touch is still a freebie under all eBook outlets if fantasy tickles your fancy.  Due to some disturbing elements (rape, hanging, bloody battle sequences and death) I'd only recommend for 18+.

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