I received a digital review copy of Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne from Netgalley, and I couldn’t wait to read the conclusion of one of my recent favorite series. I love this series and what it represents, but I felt that book 2 fell a bit short.
Rosemarked was one of my favorite reads of the year for so many reasons. You can see my thoughts on Goodreads. The plague story drew me in, and the characters made me stick around. There is also an amazing focus on mental health, mental illness, and how memories affect our sense of self. As someone with a neuroscience background, those elements really spoke to me and kept me thinking throughout the book. There may be some spoilers for Rosemarked ahead, so if you haven’t read it yet you have been warned.
Click here for the synopsis!
The mission was a failure. Even though Zivah and Dineas discovered a secret that could bring down the empire, their information is useless without proof. Now, with their cover blown and their quest abandoned, their only remaining hope is to get home before Ampara brings the full might of its armies against their peoples.
As Shidadi and Dara alike prepare for war, Zivah and Dineas grapple with the toll of their time in the capital. After fighting alongside the Amparans against his own kin, can Dineas convince the Shidadi—and himself—where his loyalties lie? After betraying her healer’s vows in Sehmar City, can Zivah find a way to redeem herself—especially when the Dara ask her to do the unthinkable? And after reluctantly falling in love, what will the two do with their lingering feelings, now that the Dineas from Sehmar City is gone forever? Time is running out for all of them, but especially Zivah whose plague symptoms surface once again. Now, she must decide how she’ll define the life she has left.
Together, healer and warrior must find the courage to save their people, expose the truth, and face the devastating consequences headed their way.
Umbertouched starts after the big climax of the duology, which I think is the major issue with the book. Throughout book 1, you’re waiting to see what will happen when Dineas’ subterfuge is discovered, and you do see some of that fallout before the end of Rosemarked. As a result, book 2 is almost all falling action. Even though there are some major developments in the world, the characters are more stagnant.
The questions about Dineas’ sense of self are still there, but more on the periphery. A lot of the elements I loved about book 1, just don’t shine the same way in Umbertouched. The same questions recurred throughout the book, with no real development, or answers provided. I didn’t necessarily want an answer, but I’m left with the same thoughts about memories effect on personality and personhood that I had after Rosemarked.
The plotting felt a bit disjointed to me as well. There are some sections of traveling that could have been covered in some expository dialogue. Zivah spends weeks alone in the woods, and that time doesn’t seem to match up with Dineas’ timeline. Those elements pulled me out of the story a bit.
Zivah has a very solitary storyline in Umbertouched, which made her story the most interesting to me. She spends a lot of time considering her devotion to her morals, and what she should do in the face of the horrors of the war around her. She aids the war effort by refusing to let others die, which leads to a somewhat unexpected ending.
As an almost grim-dark fantasy novel with a focus on war politics, I think Umbertouched succeeded. Unfortunately, the strategy and political conflict were not the elements of the story I was really invested in. Overall I love the duology and I really hope more readers will give it a try. There’s something really magical about Rosemarked, and I think reading the 2 books back to back will be the best way to enjoy the series.
Have you read anything by Livia Blackburne? Let me know in the comments!