I keep hearing good things about Maria V. Snyder, but I've never had a chance to read one of her books until now. And what a book to start with! Action-packed, fast-paced, with incredibly likeable heroes. Simply delicious.What can I say? I enjoy a good story, with a strong female character. One thing you learn to appreciate when you've been reading YA Paranormal for a long time is a heroine that isn't a doormat. The world-building is also very interesting - a plague-stricken region where people are still struggling to get back on their feet, a magical system, a caste that is chased everywhere. It's all very fascinating and it makes for a very quick read.Unfortunately, the book wasn't without its flaws. For one thing, even if I liked Avry, her voice was often a bit too contemporary and teenage for a character that has been fending for herself in the last three years. For another, she is a little bit too perfect for my tastes - all hr conflict is external, the deaths of her family and Flea, her sister's anger , and she is never conflicted about anything.Her power, in particular, to absorb other people's illnesses and injuries, gives her plenty of room for development, but she just goes on with it without ever questioning the rightness of sacrificing herself for others because she's apparently compelled to do it and that's that. How... lazy. Kerrick, her love interest, isn't any better. For the bigger part of the book, he's no more than a jerk, and an abusive one at that. I know it's a fantasy set in a Middle-Age like world where men had to always be macho and tough and all that, but I find the power play between him and Avry disturbing. Early on in the book, he knocks her around, drags her across the forest for days, makes her sleep while tied to a tree and all but forces food down her throat. He's mean to her, she's weak and self-sacrificing, eventually her selflessness wears down his own grumpy shield and he falls in love with her. This stereotype - the dominant male and the submissive female, is just not one I enjoy.I can only hope the next book would address that. Until then... sorry, not for me.Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.