I think I'm done with Maria V. Snyder. I just keep giving her chances and she just keeps disappointing me. Taste of Darkness is the sixth book in a row to do so, and I just can't justify continuing on with her works when I am continually let down. Poison Study was so good, but all of her other works seem to be cardboard cutouts of it, with copy-pasted characters and settings that feel like stage pieces and could be knocked over by a breath of wind. The entire Glass series felt like this, and now the Healer series has followed suit.
Taste of Darkness is the final book in the Healer trilogy, in which healer Avry and her boyfriend Kerrick, along with their compatriots, try to stop the armies that are taking over the Fifteen Realms in the wake of a plague that decimated the population. Tohon, the former leader of the takeover, is (presumably) stuck in a stasis, and his second-in-command Cellina has taken over. Do we ever really see Cellina, or Tohon's armies or, well, any of this takeover stuff? Not really. Instead, like in the other books, Avry and her friends spend most of their time running back and forth from location to location in a world that doesn't obey its own logic.
We have all of Snyder's signature characters here: the spunky heroine with unusual magical powers who is being hunted for them; the established love interest who's a badass; the two goofball sidekicks. None of the characters have undergone any significant growth throughout the books. The Fifteen Realms don't seem to differ from each other at all, and only three or four of them ever actually came into play. Cellina is supposed to be leading an army against the forces Avry is allied with, but we never actually see her or it; she's just another throwaway character. The staple piece of magic in these books, the Peace and Death Lilys (it bothers me to no end that this is not pluralized properly as Lilies) don't play by the rules that Snyder has established; apparently Peace Lilys can't actually bring people back to life, except that they have! Three separate times. And Death Lilys kill people, except when they randomly decide not to, and to help them instead. Tohon apparently somehow protected his classmates from the plague so he could lord over them later, but it's never established how. The two most interesting elements in these books were really the northern tribes, with their seasonal magic rather than the established eleven types in the Fifteen Realms, and the Skeleton King and his army, but there is no backstory or real exploration of either of these elements. They're side notes, pushed off as soon as Snyder feels like Avry and her friends need to move for the sake of moving again. They gallop about from place to place pursuing plots that never really fully develop and don't lend anything to the story as a whole. Just like Snyder's other books, Poison Study aside, nothing is developed and there are plot holes everywhere. It's a huge disappointment after how absolutely wonderful Poison Study was.
I don't know if it's because Snyder had more time to work on Poison Study (because it was her first book, and she could polish it before submitting it and being tied to a publisher's more rigid publishing schedule, which has since sometimes involved her releasing more than one book in a year) or if it's something else, but I'm sick of reading books from her that feature the same characters in different guises, worlds that aren't fleshed out, and abundant plot holes. Snyder was apparently a one-hit wonder who hasn't actually produced anything really new since.
2 stars out of 5, for the potential alone, but I won't be picking up any of Snyder's other books anymore. Seeing such potential just fall flat time and time again is more than my poor little heart can stand.