Review: Valor of the Healer by Angela Highland ★★★★

Valor of the Healer by Angela Highland
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: Rebels of Adalonia, #1
Publication Date: April 15th 2013
ISBN: 9781426895364
Page Count: 266
Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: ARC
Reviewed by: Lynsey
Synopsis: The Rook

An assassin hired by vengeful elven rebels to kill the calculating Duke of Shalridan, Julian walks into a trap and barely escapes with his life. Healed by a beautiful captive in the dungeons, he's enthralled and vows to free her from the duke's clutches.

The Hawk

A Knight of the Hawk duty-bound to cleanse elven magic from Adalonia, Kestar has a secret--and heretical--ability to sense the use of magic from afar. He knows something suspicious is happening in the duke's keep, but he has no idea how deep the conspiracy goes.

The Dove

A half-elven healer with no control over her magic, Faanshi is the goddess's to command. She's always been a pawn of the powerful, but after healing two mysterious and very different men, she faces a choice that may decide the fate of the whole kingdom...


Valor of the Healer

I was very impressed by this. I was unsure what to expect because the synopsis sounded like standard fantasy fare with maybe a bit of courtly politics and some magic. Yet the cover seemed to be saying something entirely different... I'm not totally sure what. Having read the book, there is still a disconnect between the cover's tone and, if that's meant to be Faanshi, physical description accuracy. But, hey, it's just a cover. In the grand scheme of things, it's not even a bad cover. I've seen worse. I just don't think it does the quality of the book justice. Also, if by looking at it you're expecting this book to have some kind of badass magical staff-wielding heroine main character, then you'd be misled there also. Faanshi is many things, a badass not one of them. Not yet, anyway.

So, what's it about? Well it's a story - more accurately, the strong beginnings of a story - about a slave girl, reviled and revered in unequal measure for her uncanny ability to heal through magic. If you're familiar with Maria V. Snyder's Healer series, this will feel like familiar territory for you in that, just like Avry in that series, to heal, Faanshi has to first assume the person's injuries. With the notable exception that in this world, Faanshi doesn't actually have to manifest the wounds, just feel the pain, and that pain then ignites her power. A power she is unable to resist using. It will literally build within her until she's mindless with it, willing to crawl on hands and knees across hot coals if need be to touch the injured person and release it. Unfortunately, for Faanshi, this lack of control has forced her keeper/master/captor/asshat the Duke, to lock her in the dungeon for the last four years, because magic is forbidden and he should have reported her to the Hawks oh, say, 18 years ago when she was born, instead of squirelling her abilities away for himself.

So that's the general set-up and the comparison to Snyder is a good one in that, if you like her work, you will likely enjoy this, too. But actually, when I was reading VALOR OF THE HEALER, I kept thinking how it would be great for fans of Lisa Shearin, Michelle Sagara and the like. I think it might have been the weird and wonderful character names and the elf thing. Large casts and funky made up names can sometimes be a problem for me because my memory is pants and I get aggravated when I can't remember who's who, but this one wasn't so bad. The names were at least readable. Take note, Shearin.

The plot, although slow-moving at times, had lots of varied and well-crafted characters to keep readers occupied. Even those who only made the briefest of appearances were worthy of page time. Essentially though, as the synopsis suggests, we follow three main "voices" and alternate POVs between them. There's Kestar (The Hawk), a man whose job is to track down magic users to have them 'Cleansed' (removed of magic); Julian (The Rook), an assassin hired to kill the Duke of Shalridan. And Faanshi (The Dove), a half-elven slave girl. Out of the three options, I would probably have preferred more time with Faanshi and Julian because their relationship was more interesting as they got to know each other, but I absolutely understood the need to follow Kestar's journey and witness his perspective-changing discoveries.

Faanshi, our heroine, was an extremely passive character. A brain-washed slave, completely ignorant to life beyond the walls of her "home". She, like many people who are told they have no worth, believes it to be true of herself and has learnt to accept (although not happily) the dictates and cruel treatment of her master, the Duke of Shalridan. She's meek, timid and cringingly submissive. Got that whole kicked puppy vibe going on nicely. She was quite a religious character, too (although, this being an alternate world, it's not any religion you'd be familiar with). This also, in a way, dictated much of her behaviour. Her faith tells her she shouldn't be proud, or angry, or unappreciative, or any other kind of selfish or vain emotion. All this, combined with her confinement because of her alleged madness, and you've got merely the bare bones of a personality left. But the spark is there. And I absolutely, whole-heartedly believe that before this trilogy is done, we won't even recognise Faanshi as the cowering girl we met in this novel. And I, for one, can't wait to see it.

The Rook, or Julian (or Richard or whatever other fake name he's given to people this week), was even more interesting in his way. He's maimed (missing one hand and one eye) and has been for a dozen years or so. We don't know what happened exactly, other than that someone he knew well did it to him. Whether or not he deserved what happened to him I am yet to discover. He is an assassin, after all, so it's highly possible he wasn't a complete innocent in the whole affair. But assassin or not, I loved him and felt bad that he was in pain. He's not your swoop-in-and-rescue-the-damsel type of hero; he's much more subtly nuanced than that. But I still see the makings of a hero nonetheless. He's not much of a talker, and when he does it's gruff and usually impolite. But still, he won my affections, sympathy and admiration. I absolutely cannot wait to see him again in the next book (there better be a next book, I don't see one listed anywhere yet!), because he, too, is a character that's about to change dramatically methinks!

I definitely didn't want the book to end where it did. It wasn't a cliffhanger, but at the same time, I still wanted to swear like a sailor at where she left us. So very mean!

I'll definitely keep my eye on this series and this author. I hope people give it a go (particularly if you like the above-named authors), and that you enjoy it as much as I did.

4 Stars ★★★★
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very useful review and I will definitely give this book a try. Especially since the sequels are out.




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