I was very kindly given a copy of this book from Full Fathom Five through NetGalley in return for an honest review - Many thanks!
Sometimes, you get used to a genre and it's conventions. It's comfortable. You pick the book up and you know you can count on certain things. And the sometimes you pick up a book in that genre, expecting those typical conventions, and you get something wholly and wonderfully surprising.
And that's what I got here.
Colina is a healer, but after something terrible happens, she decides healing magic won't cut it. She needs something stronger. She needs it to protect herself. She needs it for revenge. At times, she's not sure which of those is the truth. But when the terror that drove her to such a drastic decision gets other people roped into the trouble, she makes new friends, gets new powers and tests the limits of her own strength and courage.
First of all, I really liked that this story centered on someone who'd been a healer, and featured healing magic heavily. I was always surprised at how few magic-filled worlds had healing magic. I know some people would say it just makes things too easy... but that's what magic does. It never made much sense when healing magic didn't exist unless there was a reason within the system.
This book surprised me in a lot of great ways. I really liked Colina at the beginning, and while I found myself liking her progressively less and less as she underwent trials to gain dark powers, I didn't find her less *interesting,* just less likeable - and I think that was the point, done in small, wonderful ways. The ending completely took me by surprise, the progression of relationships within it were natural and lovely and the magic made me interested to learn more.
Also, I like that unlike a lot of urban fantasy, this is almost a ghost story. The magics, the plot, the characters - there's a heavy focus on ghosts and spirits, on loss and pain and the inability to accept terrible things. The inability to accept people doing terrible things, to you and to people you love. A clash of rational and emotional played out over a story of revenge and salvation. People's reactions were largely realistic even when those reactions tore at my heart.
It's not a perfect story. There's a bit of a pacing issue that, while never even close to a deal-breaker, made some parts drag. Also, if you're the sort of person who needs stories to have roundly happy endings, you're going to want to stay away from this. This isn't a story for neat little bows, it's a story that's bit rough and dark but no less fascinating for that. I also found it highly enjoyable, and I think I'll be continuing with the series. I'm not always a fan of dark stories, but when it works, it works. :)