Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne

Umbertouched Cover

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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.

DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



TW: PTSD, hallucinations, death and violence of war, terminal illness

All the way back in June, I did a buddy read of Rosemarked and ended up really enjoyed it! It was well worth my time, and I didn’t regret picking it up based on that beautiful cover. It was a solid four star read, and once I knew Umbertouched was on the way, I made sure to get my preorder in AND to put an ARC request in on NetGalley (which was granted; thanks, NetGalley!).

I’m delighted to say the experience has been by and large the same with Umbertouched as it was with Rosemarked. Neither book has that BAM sort of feeling to it that would have made it a five star read for me, but both were still entertaining, and I really enjoy both Zivah and Dineas’s characters, so four stars seems fitting.

Really, gorgeous covers aside, I think it’s the characters that have made me stick with this series. No one is perfect or innocent, and there’s a heavy question of morality hanging over almost everyone. Zivah is trapped between her vows as a healer, her own mortality, and the looming danger for the people of Dara, her family. Dineas is caught between his Shidadi heritage and upbringing, and the Amparan Dineas he became in Rosemarked, when he lost his memories and became someone else, someone without a life of trauma to shape him into someone cautious and guarded and sometimes gruff. Even Mehtap gets some time in the spotlight, which was interesting after her involvement in Rosemarked, and we see more of Zivah and Dineas’s family and friends now that the fight has come home and the army is on their doorstep. We even get more of those delightful crows, though less of Diadem the snake, which is a bit of a shame. I’m terrified of snakes to be perfectly honest, but got quite attached to Diadem somewhere along the way.

I also got attached to too many characters who were primed and ready to die. Such are the casualties in a book about war on the doorstep, but MAN, why is it always the ones I get attached to? What is up with that?

All that said, I think Zivah’s chapters were more interesting than Dineas’s. I’m a sucker for characters forced to confront the values they hold most dear, and I’m especially a sucker for characters who hold to their principles, and I’m ESPECIALLY a sucker for characters who hold to their principles which happen to be principles of compassion. There’s something that really strikes a chord with me about characters who risk their lives to help those in need, who take the steps no one else would dare take to see to the needs of others. Zivah is incredibly like that, and it delights me far more than Dineas’s struggle to be trusted again among the Shidadi. That may be a more interesting conflict for some than Zivah’s plight, but what can I say? That internal conflict and that personal drive to find resolution really catch my eye.

Zivah also spends more time in motion than Dineas, and seems more involved in the plot at large, with its consequences on the Amparan continent. As interesting as the war at home is supposed to be, the break provided by traveling back to Ampara and investigating there made a big difference in which of the two POVs I favored in the end. I need motion and decisiveness and the greater details of the more treacherous parts of the plot, and Zivah’s POV delivered on that.

As does the ending. Without spoiling anything, it leaves room for a future, which is a nice way to wrap things up. I feel like this story is complete, but that if there were to be more, I would be ready to read it. There’s a hopeful cast to it, despite everything, and I would love to come back someday and see where it went. At the same time, it feels resolved. That’s a difficult balance to strike, but I feel as if it’s been done.

Another thing that pleased me was the way faith is handled in this duology. Zivah and Dineas have different approaches to the gods and how best to revere them, and though it doesn’t form a central part of the plot, I would be absolutely fascinated to get more information on the religion in this world. It has a sense of unexplored richness that I would love to dive into, and it gives me the itch to read even more fantasy that also boasts the potential for richly developed religions.

Really, my only complaint other than that lack of OOMPH that I can’t quite put my finger on is that it’s hard to get a full sense of time. It’s mentioned that sometimes days or weeks go by, but I struggled to get a full scope of how long this war lasted and when the POVs matched up with one another, or who was ahead of who in the timeline as it stood. That kind of confusion can take away from the narrative a little, unfortunately.

In the end, though, Umbertouched was a satisfying conclusion, and I happily read it in one sitting! If you enjoyed Rosemarked, you’ll probably enjoy the direction this takes Zivah and Dineas, forced to change the course of their lives after the events in Sehmar City, and if you haven’t read Rosemarked yet but enjoy fantasy with political intrigue and potions (but interestingly, no magic), and enjoy slow burn romance with a tragic backdrop, then this might just be for you! Umbertouched hits shelves on November 6, 2018 (oh yes, that’s tomorrow!), and it’s well worth the time!

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