Sunday, February 3, 2013

Book Review: Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder

Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder
Series: #2 in the Healer series
Release Date: December 18, 2012
Publisher: Harleqin MIRA
Pages: 414
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page

WARNING! This is a sequel! 
I always try to avoid spoilers, but if you're afraid you can check out my review of the first book (a book I LOVED)?


From Goodreads:

As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avry of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of her friends and foes alike, she no longer exists. Despite her need to prevent the megalomanical King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avry is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. And she must do it alone, as Kerrick, her partner and sole confident, returns to Alga to summon his country into battle.

Though she should be in hiding, Avry will do whatever she can to support Tohon’s opponents. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and figuring out how to stop Tohon’s most horrible creations yet; an army of the walking dead—human and animal alike and nearly impossible to defeat.

War is coming and Avry is alone. Unless she figures out how to do the impossible ... again.


I heart Avry


I couldn't stand Avry.

Scent of Magic made a valiant effort in trying to convince me that Avry was ten times more awesome than a rainbow sparkle unicorn and about a million times more lovable than a pile of puppies (which is scientifically impossible because nothing is more lovable than a puppy pile).

And by "valiant" I mean a mix of the sledge hammer approach and a focus on quantity over quality.

But that's ok, right? I mean it's a little unreasonable to expect actual, tangible reasons to account for Avry's magnificence. Scent of Magic works on a much more "take my word for it" level when it comes to character development, and I had an entire cast of characters exclaiming over Avry's awe-inspiring vague perfection to try to convince me.

Plus, I DID read  Touch of Power, so shouldn't the evidence in that book be enough to carry me through the rest of the series?

Except, NO. Because, not only is that totally unacceptable (characters are supposed to be on a continual journey of ever-deepening character growth and development!), it also doesn't even work given the fact that both Avry and Kerrick act completely different in this book.

Which, hey, on one hand it's pretty nice that Kerrick decided to ditch his grumpy and abusive ways ('cause hitting ladies is still unappealing!), but I had a hard time believing that these were the same characters I read about in Touch of Power.

Kerrick is nicer (if blander, and a potential new candidate for the Babysitters' Club), but Avry's changes were weird, and annoying. It felt like she OD'd on Pixie Stix as she gleefully bounced around the camp, her manic, shallow thoughts jumping and rehashing the same (boring) subjects (I miss Kerrick! I am determined to make my sister like me again with oppressive cheerfulness! Look at how quietly I can walk!)  

Yeah, she CAN walk quietly

This quiet forest walking accounts for entire CHAPTERS of the book. Yes, plural! It may even be a quarter of the book. Or half. I don't even know. It was like I was stuck in a dream that kept looping around again and again and I'd never be able to wake up and get free of the loop.

First Avry demonstrates her walking abilities, then she trains some people. Then she trains another group. Then they praise her for walking quietly. Then they train another group. Then they praise her for teaching them this valuable skill. Then they train more.

Now, honestly, walking silently through the forest is a totally neat skill and I want it for sure, but enough is enough. I need a stronger plot than that.

Which brings me to my next complaint.

What happened to the political intrigue?!
To recap Touch of Power, this world is a post-apocalyptic fantasy where various factions are all gearing up for major battles with lots of political maneuvering going on as each faction tries whatever means necessary to wrest control for themselves.

And "whatever means necessary" meant reanimated corpses, Mengele-style experiments, biological warfare, magical seduction, and "I can suck the air out of your lungs with a thought" wizard duels. Which is all pretty badass. And that's only what ONE faction is bringing to the table.

So I was expecting book two, when we get a look into the inner circle of another faction, to really up the ante. Because if any other faction is going to have a prayer at winning the kingdom, they need to step up and fight fire with fire. Or, erm, zombie armies with...well, it's gotta be something awesome.

Except they don't. Avry needs to teach them how to walk quietly and THAT is their big ace up the sleeve.

The villain deserves to win.

Help me prince, you're my only hope!

Remember that prince Avry sacrificed her life to save because he's a master strategist and he's totally going to win this thing?

Well, he's kinda cool? He does do a few nifty things that made me unreservedly award points for cleverness (particularly that whole hiding thing), but Avry ultimately steals his thunder (of course, because she's perfection on earth, in case you forgot).

Even if she hadn't, his few cool ideas aside, he still hasn't done anything to convince me he's worth sacrificing one's life for (even if at this point I'd gladly sacrifice Avry's life for a peanut butter sandwich).

What happened to my flowers?!

I know I'm knocking on Avry a lot, but I should point out that the characters of this particular series were always eclipsed by my jaw-dropping love for Maria V. Snyder's ingenious peace and death lilies.

These flowers are the absolute coolest, not only because of their powers, but also because they're a total mystery with ties to both the rampant world-destroying plague AND the creation of healers. My mind practically explodes with win every time I think about them.

Touch of Power set the stage for the flowers and gave a peek into their connections and history, as well as a glimpse of some of their powers. So I was prepared to be swimming in flowery mystery and magic come Scent of Magic.

And I was! And I wasn't. There are definitely major reveals as far as the abilities of the flowers and the implications this has for Avry and pretty much everyone else. I LOVED this! I was disappointed that the history of the flowers' involvement with the plague and healers was largely ignored in Scent of Magic, but the new flower power info mostly made up for it.

What it didn't make up for was the fact that by the time I finally got to this good stuff I had already been slogging through pages upon pages of The Avry Love Fest mixed with Kerrick's Adventures in Irrelevant Babysitting and about 50% of my involvement had already checked out.

Bottom line

So. Where does this leave me? Do I read book three on the hope that it completely avoids the utter disappointment that was book two and brings me back to the amazing stupendousness that was book one?

Or do I cut my losses and ignore the existence (or, future existence) of book three while trying to blot out the memory of book two and somehow twist the ending of book one so I can forever think of it as a glorious standalone?

Oh conundrums.

So fellow readers, I am taking the easy way out and laying this one squarely at your feet. If, upon finishing Scent of Magic, you felt compelled to raise your arms and let loose with a Darth Vadar wail of rage and regret like *I* did, please do me the favor of reading book three and letting me know if it's any better.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Scent of Magic that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!


  1. Ouch! I cringed the whole time I was reading this review (and secretly sniggering at your awesome sense of sarcasm!).

    I haven't read any of Snyder's books, but I did hear that they were great. I'm sorry to read that this one takes a horrible turn though- and you listed most of what would put me off in a book. So I'll avoid it until I'm sure the ending is worth it.

    Great review!

  2. I hate writing cringe-inducing reviews :( I am just SO disappointed! The first book was beyond amazing.

    You should definitely check out Poison Study! It's such a good book, and it can easily be read as a standalone (which is what I did).

  3. I really liked this second book (better than the second Poison Study book and second Glass book) but it does seem as if Snyder does first books best and then struggles with the next books. I will be returning for the third and hope that it proves worth it if you also pick up the third.

    1. I have heard that about her, but this is my first experience with a second book from her. I'll keep an eye out to see what you think of the third book. :)

  4. I can't believe it! A 2.5! I'm so sorry Small. This has got to go down in the annals as one of your major disappointments. I wish I was there to hold your hand. What will you read to cleanse your palate?

    1. This is probably the biggest disappointment in recent reading history for me. I had such high hopes :( I almost Special Shelved the first book! I've been reading Michael Sullivan's high fantasy series and it's been a definite palate cleanser. It's awesome.

  5. I felt the exact same way about this book; it just didn't live up. This seems pretty consistent with how her other series are for me because the first book always blows me away, but the rest are all hit or miss. And I agree with everything you said and you are SO funny (look how quietly I can walk! Kerrick and the babysitter's club!). You crack me up :D

    I read the same version as you (from Netgalley through Harlequin UK - even though I'm not in the UK either and I was surprised to get approved!) and I thought since there were no chapter breaks it really emphasized how long certain sections dragged (like the walking quietly rubbish). I also thought it made her end of chapter cliffhangers seem a little contrived and annoying. Anyway, I'll probably read the third but I'm not excited about it.

  6. Hah hah, your reviews always make me laugh. I am always intrigued by this author's books, but I read all three of the Poison Study books and had very mixed reactions to them. I'm sorry this one was a disappointment! Enough that you're cutting the series loose, even.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  7. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

    Well. My goodness.

    I'm still going to read this...Snyder sent me a finished copy for review so I need to read it. But I'm hoping...crossing my fingers...that I'll like it more than you did. 'Cause. That would suck if I didn't. I really don't want to not like this book! :/

    Thank you for a great review, darling. ;)

    Sierra @ Yearning to Read

  8. *Gives cookie*

    That sounds bad, I don't think I woud like Avry either. And the book sounds quite like a let down. I don't know if I would keep reading, I guess I would, maybe but only if I didn't have to buy it and could get it out of the library.

  9. Aw, oh no - what happened, you loved the first book! How disappointing for you... and disappointing for me, as well, because I was hoping to read this series at some point. The skill of walking quietly does indeed sound like a useful one to have... but not exciting in the slightest. Oh well... for what it's worth, I would be interested in hearing your take on the third book when it comes out, just to see if it's worth it for me to make a commitment to the series. But if you suspect the outcome will be much the same as with this one, then you should probably skip it. I should probably focus my reading time instead on getting Poison Study read at some point soon.


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