Review of "Healer's Ruin" by Chris O'Mara

I grabbed this because it was listed at .99 and I was very impressed. In some ways you can tell that Chris O'Mara is a fairly new author, but I always appreciate a kind of raw quality to a book. It's tales like that where the author hasn't quite learned to pull his/her punches yet, and the overall effect is something closer to truth.

"Healer's Ruin" is not your typical sword and sorcery tale with a burly warrior that is basically unstoppable in battle. This book follows a healer or "slinger" named Chalos. Chalos is a powerful healer, but he doesn't possess a lot of offensive magic, so you get a strong sense of vulnerability with him. He is very dependent on the soldiers that surround him, but they are equally dependent on him. It's an interesting dynamic, and sometimes Chalos is forced to do things that he doesn't wish to do.

A novel like this allows you to contemplate deeper issues than the typical "good guy slaughters bad guy" fare. For example, if Chalos is dependent on a group and that group performs some immoral acts, what will the consequences be on Chalos's psyche? I liked being taken to those philosophical drop off points, and I also appreciated how O'Mara let these moments bloom on their own without being forced. There are a few superior scenes in this book, one where Chalos is required to heal some prisoners so that they can get more information beaten out of them stands out.

The world building in this book is very complex, which is both good and bad. I appreciated how well formed it was once I started to grasp the rules, but the first few chapters required a bit more understanding than I had initially. There are getting to be so many fantasy worlds that I'm almost getting to a point of fantasy fatigue. I think a good tactic might be to start things off on a really human level, engage the readers, and then introduce the story elements a little more slowly (you don't know anything about "The Force" in Star Wars until you're well into the movie). However, books like Dune dump you in the deep end and expect you to maybe my tastes are atypical.

In tone, this book reminded me of Master of the Five Magics (Del Rey Fantasy) which is also about a magic user. It's a little dark and the troop seems doomed from pretty early on. I also kind of was reminded of Aguirre: The Wrath of God (although I think my own cobwebby, foggy thinking brought that to the table more than the book did)...I'd be interested to hear if the author has ever seen that. I think it was just the ominous weight that hangs over the proceedings...its not called "Healer's Happy Time" now is it?

All in all, this book is completely worth your time. If it's still at .99 it's a bargain. Grab it, read it, and let your friends know.

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