Touch of Power immediately started with our heroine, Avry, doing the right thing and almost being killed for it. In her world, healers such as she are on the run, outlawed and hunted down because of the recent plague pandemic they could not quell. Avry's been hiding out in small towns and attempting not to use her magical gift, but she simply cannot help herself when faced with the illness of a young child she knows. Once her secret is out, she's condemned to die...but wait, someone rescues her just in the nick of time. Though Avry of course takes the opportunity to live, she knows it won't be without strings attached, and they are big: She's being forcefully taken to heal Ryne, king of one of the Fifteen Realms. What her captors don't know is that if she heals Ryne, she will die, and besides that, she doesn't even like the guy.
Much of Touch of Power takes place as Avry and her captors, who become her friends, travel toward the Nine Mountains so she can heal Ryne. To say that Avry is less than thrilled with leader Kerrick is an understatement; but it's equally evident that there are sparks flying between the two and that they work well together. A lot of time is spent on Avry learning the tricks of the forest and there are some side forays such as helping a girl who has been kidnapped that add to the length of the book. The best parts are the interactions between Avry, Belen, and the "monkeys" (the men helping Kerrick retrieve Avry); it's so nice to see genuine friendships develop slowly, and it gives depth to Avry's character. There is a lot of repetition in the travels: staying away from Death Lilies, sleeping in caves, escaping mercenaries; while those things didn't bother me, I do wonder now if perhaps they could have somehow been varied a bit. The whole story with Avry's sister Noelle took me by surprise and I look forward to seeing how it will all play out in the future.
I loved Avry's spirited personality and her headstrong attitude and felt she was definitely the brightest link in the book. Smart female protagonists always enhance my enjoyment and Avry is no exception, with her sharp mind and outstanding sense of sarcasm. A few times I was drawn out of the story by the modern feeling of the dialogue, but since it's a fantasy, I feel the author can choose to write it as she wishes. I was not such a fan of Kerrick, however; I disliked his unwillingness to listen and definitely despised his treatment, sometimes physical, of Avry early on. It's going to take some doing before I'm 100% on board with him.
My biggest complaint, if it can be termed as such, is that it's hard to gauge the readership for this novel. Though the characters are in their twenties, they often interact and react as though they were teens. While I see this novel as appealing to all fantasy readers and most young adult readers, I wonder if there will be those who will nitpick the actions of twenty-somethings who do not seem fully adult. But Maria V. Snyder's writing fully engages and those minor concerns are lost in the overall fun and action of the story. I'm on to the second book!