Taste of Darkness (Healer Series #3)

Taste of Darkness (Healer Series #3)

by Maria V. Snyder


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778315858
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 12/31/2013
Series: Healer Series , #3
Edition description: Original
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 323,633
Product dimensions: 5.44(w) x 8.23(h) x 1.24(d)

About the Author

Maria V. Snyder is the New York Times bestselling author of the Study series, the Glass series, the Healer series, Inside Out, and Outside In. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Meteorology from Penn State and a Master of Arts degree in fiction writing from Seton Hill University. Unable to part ways with Seton Hill, Maria is currently a teacher and mentor for the MFA program. Find her on the Web at MariaVSnyder.com.

Read an Excerpt

Cold air caressed my back. I rolled over, muttering at Kerrick for hogging the blanket, but stopped. Something felt…odd, wrong, missing. Opening my eyes, I confirmed the emptiness next to me. Kerrick was gone.

For a moment, I stared at the dent in the pillow. Had yesterday been a dream? Had I imagined Wynn's betrayal, Tohon trapped in a magical stasis, Kerrick's miraculous arrival, and the rest of the insanity?

No. The events replayed in my head with vivid details. The blood, the overpowering reek of dead ufas, and Wynn's poisoned knife striking Kerrick's arm. Poisoned with Death Lily toxin. I'd thought I'd sucked all the deadly poison from Kerrick's wound…but what if I hadn't?

Icy fingers of fear wrapped around my heart. I shot to my feet and dressed in record time. Kerrick's shirt, boots, and sword lay in a heap by the dying fire. Not good.

Out in the large main cavern, the rest of the infirmary staff stirred. I scanned the patients' cots on the off chance Kerrick had collapsed into one. He hadn't.

Loren added wood to the cooking hearth, poking it into a bright blaze.

I rushed over to him. "Have you seen Kerrick?"

"Nope, and we figured we wouldn't see either of you until…" His smirk faded. "Maybe he went outside for some fresh air." This in a hopeful tone.

"Without his shirt?"

"Well, when nature calls."

"Or his sword?"

Loren jumped up. "Let's not panic, Avry." Too late.

"Have you searched the other caverns?" he asked. "Not yet."

"Okay, then you look for him inside, and I'll go outside. If he's not nearby, I'll ask the guards if they saw him last night.

All right?"

I nodded, but dread clawed up my throat. Kerrick wouldn't be in another cavern unless he'd been too sick to find his way back to me. Gulping down the tight knot, I grabbed a lantern and checked all the other sleeping areas.

A few people grumbled after I swept the light over them, but I didn't care.

Odd squinted in the brightness, but sat up as if he'd been awake. "What's wrong?"

I explained.

He cursed. "Not only did Wynn stab us in the back, she's twisted the blade, too."

"While I'd love to plot revenge with you—"

"Yeah, go. I'll be right out."

The other caverns yielded the same results. Even the one reserved for the privy. A detached part of my mind noted the buckets needed to be dumped. However my heart kept its frantic rhythm. That was the last place inside. Perhaps…

Running back to the main cavern, I spotted Loren and Odd talking to a soldier.

"…sometime after midnight," the man said. "Don't recall if he came back or not."

Loren rounded on him. "Don't recall! You're supposed to be guarding us. What if the enemy grabbed him? If someone goes into the woods and doesn't come back, that's a big red flag, you idiot!"

Odd touched Loren's shoulder and tilted his head toward me. "Not helping right now."

"He was outside?" I asked.

The guard had seen him leave. I dashed out into the cold morning air. The fresh scent of moist earth reminded me of Kerrick. Without hesitating, I embraced the closest bit of foliage, seeking the vibrations of Kerrick's forest magic.

Nothing. I drew a shaky breath. Don't jump to conclusions. He could be unconscious. Odd and Loren had followed me out. Six inches shorter than Odd, Loren ran a hand over his buzzed black hair. More silver sprinkled his hair despite only being thirty-five. Odd on the other hand had let his hair grow since Tohon's surprise attack. Although saying it had grown was being generous. His dark brown locks remained close to his scalp in a fine fuzz.

"We need to search the area. Wake the others," I ordered.

They hastened inside and soon Flea, Quain, and most of the soldiers had assembled by the cave's entrance. Using one of Ryne's military maps, Loren divided the surrounding area into quadrants. The infirmary cave was located in Pomyt Realm, northeast of Zabin and east of the ruins of the Healer's Guild.

Quain growled at everyone, but he appeared healthy despite being frozen in Sepp's magical stasis only yesterday. But Flea's face remained pale and he seemed unsteady on his feet. The discovery of his ability to break Sepp's stasis had taken a toll on him.

I moved closer to him. "Flea, stay here, you're in no condition—"

"No. I'm going." Despite being sixteen, he sounded much older. And his firm gaze meant I'd have an easier time convincing fire not to burn.

Before assigning quadrants to the teams, Loren pulled me aside. "Hate to bring this up, but if he's… If we find…"

"A dead body?" Not like I hadn't thought of it a million times since I'd woken up.


"Tell them to find me as fast as possible. I have the Lily map—we'll head to the closest Peace Lily and hope for the best." I glanced at Flea. A Peace Lily had saved his life and mine; it might save Kerrick's.

The strain on Loren's face eased just a bit. "Right." He shouted orders and the teams of four headed into the woods, fanning out to their assigned areas.

No surprise that Loren, Quain, and Flea joined me. I trailed my fingers along the greenery, hoping to detect Kerrick's magic. At this point, I'd pray to Estrid's creator if I thought it would help.

As a group, we moved in silent mode. Despite Tohon's current condition—frozen in stasis, because if he weren't, he'd die from the deep stab wound in his chest, a little gift from me—his army still advanced from the south. Cellina had taken over command. Just as ruthless as he was, at least she couldn't create more dead soldiers. And we'd discovered how to stop the ones in existence. So it was only a matter of time until we neutralized them all.

What if we didn't find Kerrick in time? The Peace Lilys were picky. From the little I'd learned, the person in question either needed to be a magician or have the potential to be one, and the body had to be fresh. Flea'd been dead a few hours and I had died inside the Lily.

Well, actually, the Lily hadn't brought us back to life. It'd preserved our bodies until another person touched us. I'd awoken Flea and Kerrick had saved me.

Kerrick, why didn't you wake me? Why didn't you tell me you felt sick?

What if the Peace Lily rejected him? Like it refused Ursan and Noelle? Although Ursan had been a magic sniffer, he'd been dead too long, and my sister, Noelle, hadn't been gifted with magic. I was the only one in my family who'd developed powers. Healing powers, not that it helped with either of them. Or Kerrick. I couldn't cure those poisoned by Death Lily toxin or infected with the plague.

The plague had killed two-thirds of the population of the Fifteen Realms. At least there hadn't been a new case in almost three years. But during its prime, over six million people had died.

Gee, not like I wasn't depressed enough. I focused my energies on the search. How far could one sick man go anyway?

The day dragged on. We made sweeping arcs through our area, but only managed to scare a few rabbits, which Loren shot with his bow. Sunlight streamed through the gaps in the trees, heating the air to a comfortable level—summer's last gasp. Fall started in eleven days.

Memories of last fall came unbidden. Around midseason Kerrick and the guys had rescued me from the guillotine. Because of his forest magic, his eyes had matched the color of the forest with warm browns, gold, and amber flecks. I huffed. His personality hadn't coordinated at all. He'd been cold, mean, and only cared about healing Prince Ryne, which had been why he'd freed me from jail.

Loren raised his hand in a stopping motion. We froze, listening. Hope surged, but died just as quick. The noise of the other searchers' passage had carried. They weren't as skilled in moving through the forest. Instead of their movements blending in with the forest's song, it stood out like an out-of-tune violin in a string quartet.

My emotions had been on an endless seesaw over the past month. First Tohon's vast army had surrounded Estrid's and he'd demanded unconditional surrender. Cellina had acted as his liaison and Kerrick's sword had hung from her belt. She'd claimed Kerrick had been torn apart by her pack of dead ufas. He hadn't. But then Ryne had sent Kerrick north to fight the invading tribes and a messenger had reported he'd died in the attempt. He hadn't.

So this was just another false alarm. Right? Kerrick was like a cat with nine lives. Three down, five left. I clung to that thin thread of hope because… Well, if I didn't, I'd shatter.

We searched all day.

When the sun hovered over the horizon, Loren called it off. "We can resume in the morning."

"You can go back," I said, "but I'm staying."

"We need to regroup and see if anyone has seen anything."

"I agree, but you don't need me for that."

Loren exchanged a glance with Quain. Close to my age of twenty-one, Quain had teamed up with Loren before joining Kerrick. Their antics had earned them the nickname the monkeys. I'd once quipped Quain was the bald monkey since no hair grew on his head.

"Avry, you haven't eaten all day," Quain said.

"Really, Quain? Is that all you got? Do you think I have an appetite right now?" I regretted my harsh sarcasm immediately. It wasn't Quain's fault.

He stepped closer to me. His voice dipped low. "You're not the only one hurting here."

"I know, I'm sorry."

Quain paused at that, blinking at me as if no one had ever apologized to him before. "Do you think you'll be able to help Kerrick if you're passed out from exhaustion?"

"I know my limits, Quain."

"And how effective can one person be stumbling around in the dark?"

I drew breath to blast him again, but Flea said, "I'll stay with Avry."

Flea's face had paled to bone white. The only color was the dark smudges underneath his eyes. He swayed on his feet. Talk about passing out… If I stayed, Flea would insist on staying, as well.

Sighing, I said, "You're right. I'd be useless."

Quain showed an amazing amount of restraint in not gloating over my comment. Loren raised his eyebrows, but kept quiet.

As we headed back, I walked next to Flea and took his hand. He squeezed my fingers in silent support. However, I had another purpose for linking hands. I sent him a subtle flow of magical energy. Since I'd awoken him, we had a bond. He sensed when I was in trouble, and we could share strength.

Once we found Kerrick, we'd have to figure out the extent of Flea's new magic. Was he now a death magician or a hybrid magician who didn't fit in one of the eleven categories of magic? The fact that he could break Sepp's stasis made for another weapon in our growing arsenal against Cellina's army. Funny to think of the thousands of soldiers as Cellina's now.

I slowed as Flea grew stronger.

"Hey! Stop that." He let go, shaking me off.

"Stop what?" I acted confused.

"Don't pull that on me. I didn't ask for help."

"Yes, you did. You just didn't know it." And before Flea could protest, I added, "Healer. Remember? It's what I do."

"But what if we find Kerrick?"

What if? Those two words had haunted me all day. And just like with Flea, Kerrick and I shared a bond. I reached for the bushes, touching the leaves. Still no ripple of magic. Yet a tightness deep down inside me wouldn't let me despair. It clung to the notion I'd been wrong about his death before. In fact, it reasoned that until I had proof to the contrary, I should assume he was alive.

"When we find Kerrick, I'll have plenty of energy," I said.

Back at the cave entrance, the other teams milled about, talking in low voices. From their universal serious expressions, I guessed they'd been unsuccessful.

"I'm sorry, Avry, but there's been no sign of him," Odd said, joining us. "A few of the teams covered their entire areas. Are you sure he's sick? I hate to be gross…but we didn't find any vomit. And it's hard to imagine him traveling farther if he wasn't feeling good."

"Kerrick can be stubborn," I said, hoping that annoying trait had saved him.

"He had to be sick. Why else would he be out without his shirt or sword?" Loren asked.

"All right. So he goes outside thinking he's going to throw up…then what?" Odd asked.

We'd all assumed he collapsed, but… What if he'd realized he was dying? I imagined his thoughts and feelings at that moment, putting myself in his place. He'd promised me he wouldn't die. But it was inevitable. Yet Kerrick didn't give up easily.

I gasped. "He headed to a Peace Lily!"

"Of course," Flea said. "Why didn't I think of that?"

And I wished I'd figured it out sooner. Sick and dying, Kerrick must have done the only thing he could—head to a Peace Lily. He'd been there when the Lily had saved my life and he'd recently learned about Flea's survival. A surge of energy coursed through me.

"Could he find a Lily at night?" Odd asked.

"Yeah, he's a forest mage," Flea said.

"Loren, where's the map you used for the search areas?" I pulled out my Lily map, but the sunlight was all but gone.

"I left it with the captain of the watch in case anyone returned and needed to find us," Loren said.

"Go get it and ask the search teams how much of their areas were covered today. Oh, and see if they encountered any Lilys and where."

"Got it." Loren dashed off.

Quain, Flea, and Odd followed me inside the infirmary cave. I knelt next to the fire and spread my map out. The locations of the clusters of Lilys had been marked on it.

Handy, except the markings didn't indicate if they were Death or Peace Lilys. For once it didn't matter, because Kerrick also couldn't tell the difference. He'd head for the closest cluster since the odds were in his favor. A hundred Peace Lilys grew for every Death Lily. However, I still needed to know if the teams had found any Lilys. Since I'd been using the map, I'd discovered it wasn't 100 percent accurate.

I paused, letting the irony sink in. Death Lily toxin killed my sister and might take Kerrick, but it stopped Tohon's dead soldiers, and had given me my healing magic. Ironic or warped? Or twisted? How about plain old sad?

Loren arrived with the information I'd requested. We consulted and pinpointed the closest Lily cluster. Half a day southwest. I remembered that group of six Lilys. One had been a Death Lily, and I'd harvested its toxin sacks. More important, five were Peace Lilys.

Standing, I said, "Let's go."

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Taste of Darkness 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book. You had to really look beyond the two given POVs to understand the story. The way each character acted can be respected by the end of the book, but it takes some time to put it all together and not just see things as Avry or Kerrick. Some parts were a bit overwhelming, but it was the finale book. There were a good few loose ends that needed to be tied up, and even some that weren't touched on towards the end. Which can leave the question of another book later on. Overall, it was good. I'm happy how it all turned out. I'm a huge fan of Maria's writing, and can't wait for her next book. On my nook it was 346 pages. Totally worth the money IMO if you've read the other two books and want to finish up the series or are a fan of Maria. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bookharpy More than 1 year ago
** spoiler alert ** What words can I say?... So much happened in this book. I actually put it to the side for about a month before finishing it, because I feared what was going to happen at the end. However, Maria V. Snyder did not disappoint. Tohon is killed and finally put to a stop, Flea is back and well, Belen has reappeared (mostly) unharmed, and Kerrick and Avry are setting the date! Snyder wrapped things up so satisfactorily in those last few pages of the book. And Kerrick will not stayed bound to the living green for all his life. Everyone who loves fantasy should read this trilogy!!
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British-jo More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this newer series and found it satisfyingly absorbing. I wish she could write faster!! My 17 yr old daughter also disappeared into the books. Like her previous series, excellent!
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Sarah_UK1 More than 1 year ago
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Harlequin and Netgalley.) This is book 3 in the ‘Healer’ trilogy, and picks up where book 2 left off. Kerrick is poisoned by a death lily, and taken by the forest. Avry has no idea what has happened to him, why she has a whole bunch of patient’s dying, or what is going on with Tohon and the Skeleton King. Will Kerrick ever come back? Can Avry heal her patients when it seems a new plague has arisen? And can they defeat their enemies once and for all? This was a good end to the series, and surprisingly it wasn’t all about the war. Avry took charge in this book, and really showed her strength as both a healer and a leader. She continued to put her own life at risk to help others, and kept her faith in Kerrick, even when all seemed lost. She also put real thought into trying to solve problems, and finding the best ways to do things. The storyline in this was pretty good, and I was pleased that it wasn’t all politics and war. I really couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Kerrick after the end of ‘Scent of Magic’, and I was happy with the way things turned out. There was some action, and some twists, and there was also a little touch of romance. I thought that the story flowed well, and there was just enough going on to keep it interesting, but I didn’t think that it was all that exciting strangely enough. The ending was okay, and I was happy with the way things turned out. We did get a happy ending, and things were all tied up satisfactorily. Overall; a good end to the series. 7 out of 10.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
pagese More than 1 year ago
I was waiting very patiently for this one. I knew this was to be the last in the series and I hoped that it would have a satisfactory ending. It's Maria Snyder! I shouldn't have worried! One thing I always have loved about Avry is that she doesn't like to be used and she doesn't like to be cornered. She has a hard time taking orders from Ryan. It's not so much that she wants to do her own thing. But more along the lines that she can see the better way to get things done. And she's always trusts her instincts, which don't always match up with what everybody else is doing. I admired her courage when Kerrick is missing and presumed dead. I love her interactions with the Peace and Death Lilly's. She always puts others first to the point that some of them leave out little details to keep her from putting herself in harms way. Kerrick was interesting to me. He's character took a drastic physical transformation that I found fascinating. Turns out his forest magic is way more intricate that I though possible. But for the longest time I wondered how he would be able to help Avry and his friends. He has way more limitations that he ever did. At times I did enjoy this though because it required him to step back and admit that Avry could do that work. There's a lot of details in this book. Way to much to cover in a short little review. But, the story was surprisingly fast paced. Enough so, that as I reached the end I wondered if we would see a conclusion or if Maria would surprise us with a 4th book. Thankfully it ended in a way that didn't really surprise me. I'm just thankful those damn Lilly's are around! I have no idea what's up next for Marie, but you can bet I will be reading it!
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
    Maria never ceases to amaze me with her writing, being so exciting, plot driven, romantic and the surprising plot twists.      I was into it the whole time, always wanting to keep reading, and find out what Avry would disobey and where her instincts would lead her next.      My heart was pounding wondering if against all hope that Kerrick would be alive and that he and Avry could get their happily ever after.      I still love the secondary characters, the monkeys, Flea and his new ability with the added trouble of wondering what is the moral choice and if the good can possibly outweigh the bad with his magic.      She knows how to write an enemy that you just want to hate. They do such evil things, and I never know what to expect from them next.      The ending worked well for me, and I am still in love with the characters. Although I am not sure if this is the last book in the series or not, I mean it gave them an ending sounding ending, but it also left some strings open, and I can't find any info about another book.  Bottom Line: Exciting, fast paced and romantic addition to the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE all of maria snyders books. This one didnt dissapoint and I spent my only day off, unable to put it down, up until 2 am, finishing it. I read it in one day much to the neglect of my poor husband. I look forward to the next new series! Start with touch of power and read in order. When you are done with these read the inside out series and the poison study series.
JessBess32 More than 1 year ago
Needless to say I LOVED IT!! Taste of Darkness picks up at about where things ended with Scent of Magic, Kerrick has gone missing and now Avry is determined to find him. He had been dying and we were led to wonder what his fate was. I remember my own agony over that particular ending so I was greedily eating up the pages of this one! It takes a bit to truly know what Kerrick's fate was and luckily, Maria once again gives up his point of view in third person so we're able to know what he's going through and thinking. Kerrick is a changed man. Like seriously changed! He's become closer to the forest and they share a connection, much like the one he and Avry had started to form. He and Avry are separated for quite a bit of the story again, makes me really glad that they finally get a break from all the chaos that has infected their lives and they have a chance for some downtime! But problems still persist in the Fifteen Realms, just because Tohon is frozen and all doesn't mean the battle's over. In fact, there seems to be a new enemy on the rise, who is just as deadly. He calls himself the Skeleton King and boy is he one freaky dude! Not to mention a cannibal! To add to Avry and her friends' problems there's also a new strand of the plague going around, as if the first wave wasn't enough! Pretty much every little bit that's been left hanging and unsaid gets answered and resolved in this one! Thankfully, since it's the end of the trilogy! Avry and her friends plan a rescue attempt to get Melina out of the monastery where she was taken for being unpure. That place was pretty downright scary! The end results of said rescue attempt were pretty surprising, although not really when you think about it! As far as romance goes, I gotta say I loooooove the way Maria writes romance! In my other reads of Urban Fantasies I get the hot and delicious kind, but with Maria, we get a more intense variety! There's definitely strong romantic connections going on and I love them! They are infinitely swoon-worthy!! The action in this one was as intense and suspenseful as ever! Things are never easy for Avry and Kerrick. So much goes on and so much must be done! Added to that of course, are the new problems that seem to pop up all the time! Getting kidnapped, being taken hostage, being tortured...it's whirlwind of adventure! I was very happy to see many of the characters we've met making more appearances. Avry and her friends have been through a lot. They have lost a lot and have gained quite a bit too! There were a few loose-ends that weren't entirely wrapped up, but you still get the sense that everything is going to be all right. And that is the best way to end a trilogy! Maria V. Snyder is truly magical!! Overall Rating 5/5 stars
yperez20 More than 1 year ago
Love her books they are excellent. Her books feel so real like if you were the one there. I fully recommend them! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was pretty good but Kerrick became really jealous over stupid non existant things and Avry becomes angry that Ryne doesnt share all the details with her when there is a very obvious reason why he lies and keeps things from her. Even though I loved the fact that kerrick and avry are back together in this book, Avry just seriously needed to start caring/understanding that Ryne was doing his best and needed their help. I mean she learns that near the end but disregarding everything he said just to get her way irked me. Last of all, Avry talks about all the guilt she harbors which adds/grows throughout the book but she doesnt really do anything about it except feeling sorry for herself that she has all this guilt towards people. I liked the ending though.