Shared with permission.
Note, this review does contain spoilers for Warrior’s Touch and Healer’s Touch.
“Warriors Touch” is the middle book in a trilogy by Dunedin-based fantasy author Deb E Howell, the sequel to 2013’s “Healer’s Touch.” Howell blends magical fantasy, steampunk and the Wild West in a massively entertaining, page-turning mix.
Jonas and Llew must head for Quaver, Jonas’s ancestral home, but once there they suffer a terrible betrayal by Jonas’s mentor and once-trusted friend, Aris, who has been keeping a dangerous secret for many years. His betrayal leaves Llew broken, in a strange land that hates her kind, and far from the unique Ajnai tree that is the only safe source of healing for her. The tree is her only way to heal without draining the life out of the people that she touches. Without draining the life out of Jonas, the man she loves. Llew and Jonas must reach the tree before Aris, because Ajnai wood is the only thing that can kill an Immortal. If the tree dies, Llew can no longer heal from it, and she will need all her strength for the coming trials. She must battle not only the Immortal and murderous Aris, but also Jonas’s deranged half-brother, the magician Braph, who has kidnapped Llew’s own mother to tap as a source of his power.
The technology takes a leap from the previous book to this one, with the introduction of steam trains and even proto-helicopters and guns that fire bullets cored with Ajnai wood. Llew, from her little gold-mining town out in the sticks, is left suitably awed by this new technology. And we get to learn more about her heritage, what it means to be a Syaenuk and a Syakaran, the strengths those powers confer, and the potentially fatal weaknesses, and the magic that can happen when they come together. It’s a complicated but very well-thought out and unusual magic system, and it was fun to see it explored in greater depth in this book.
Llew and Jonas make a great couple; their relationship matures on the page, and it’s both painful and touching to see Llew’s desire to take comfort in Jonas’s touch, only to have it denied to her for much of the book as she knows skin-to-skin contact with him, while healing her, would be very likely to kill him. It makes both characters more sympathetic than they were in the first book (and don’t worry, romance fans, they make up for it by the end!) Llew in particular goes through a very hard time, and comes out of it hardened but not embittered by her loss.
This is a great book. You can see Deb E Howell growing and stretching herself as a writer on every page. She is an author just beginning to come into her full powers, and on the basis of this book, I anticipate magnificent things from her in the future.
Warrior’s Touch is Available for pre-order in ebook:
Goes live 2nd September 2018