Book Review: Healer’s Touch by Deb E. Howell

Healer's Touch (Touch, #1)

Howell’s Healer’s Touch is an interesting twist on a stock fantasy character class. Instead of Healers being gentle and mild-mannered clerics, they are highly feared by the populace and coveted by military powers for their destructive abilities. Healer’s Touch title character, Llew is a street urchin who has suffered abandonment by both parents at a tender age and has to get by on her wit and her disguise of passing herself of as a boy. Neither of these things seem to be serving her too well for at the opening of the book, she is cornered by a drunk on her way home, who discovers that she is actually a girl. His failed attempt at raping her ends with him slashing her face and chest to ribbons with a broken bottle and her draining the life out of him to heal herself. Things only get worse for Llew as she is accused of murder and then branded a witch by the townspeople. Help comes from an unlikely source, a dark haired stranger with a wicked looking knife, haunting memories of his past and secret powers of his own.
The book is pitched as a steampunk western-styled fantasy, although the first half of the book is reminiscent of Twilight, with Llew caught in a love triangle between two men who desire her, with the one she is falling for being unable to return her love due to their kind being sworn enemies. But Howell’s Llew is more a feisty Lois Lane than an awkward and whiny Bella of the Twilight novels. She is slightly uncouth, always says the wrong thing, pragmatic to a fault and more comfortable being a guy than hanging with the girls.
The writing is of a decent standard and the plot, though at times predictable, has enough interesting twists in it to keep the reader hooked. The characterisation is good and I quickly found myself in Llew’s corner and cheering her on as she tried to win over the ‘enigmatic’ Jonas. The dialogue was annoyingly ‘modern’, with the turn of phrases and structure of sentences. Jonas had what I can only assume is either a Southern drawl or a New Orleans twang. However, the ending was rather abrupt and had me turn back a page in surprise, thinking that perhaps I flipped too far forward.
There are several points in the story that make for uncomfortable reading, where Howell has done a great job of showing how a woman has to disassociate herself from what his happening to her that reminded me of the case of the Ohio sex-slave girls, which reveals that Howell is only scratching the surface of her writing talents and worth watching as the series develops.
Healer’s Touch gets a sturdy three out of five stars for promise and a decent read.

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