Review: The Healer’s Keep by Victoria Hanley

EDIT: Well, this is fascinating. I was going back through my book log, looking for well-loved children’s books to submit to the Top 100 Children’s Fiction Chapter Books Poll, when I came across The Seer and the Sword in my log. Apparently, I read it in 2005, and I liked it a lot as it has one my my rare asterisks next to the title in the log. Well, hmm…

Title (year): The Healer’s Keep (2002)

Sequel? Yes, I was tricked because they refer to it as a “companion book” to 2000’s The Seer and the Sword. But The Healer’s Keep was published second, and the events in it take place after the events in The Seer and the Sword. Sounds like a sequel to me. It’s the type of sequel, however, that takes place in the next generation, and ample backstory is given so the book can stand alone for a new reader.

Genre: Fantasy

Other important themes: Dreams, Magic, Love, Enslavement, Bonds of friendship, Dystopian society, Coming of age, Hero’s journey

Age (sex) of main character: 17 (female) with two more teen boys and a teen girl who also often have POV

Estimated age of intended audience: 12-17

Wholesome/edgy/realistic?: Fantasy, definitely, and very wholesome.

Narrative POV: Third-person subjective for several different characters, including minor characters.

Writing quality: I found the whole story to be kind of… blurry, I guess is how I would put it. I never really sank in anywhere. The constantly shifting point of view killed most of the potential for dramatic tension. The fantasy world has its own, very interesting, complex laws and rules of magic but the reader learns them almost entirely through exposition and explanation, rather than seeing them unfold within the story.

Formulaic or surprising?: Surprising to the extent that I often had no idea what was going on or what would happen next. Formulaic in terms of romance and good guys/bad guys.

Comfort food/challenging?: Definitely on the comfort food end of the spectrum.

Dark or Light? Endless struggle?: Although there is slavery and cruelty, the book is not particularly dark, and the scenes where danger looms are described in a somewhat detached manner so they are practically over before you can get scared or tense.

Identify with: (people of color, disabled folks, respected elders, working class) Nothing of that sort here.

Read this if you liked… If you have enjoy sort of vague YA fantasy with an interesting world but not intensely developed characters… well, this describes too many books to name here, but if this is your thing, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Genre-bender? (recommended to ALL): No. For lovers of YA fantasy only, in my opinion. I should say here, however, that this book won a lot of awards, both from critics and from young readers’ choice, so I might be the only one who doesn’t love it.