Livia Blackburne’s second novel in the ROSEMARKED duology, Umbertouched (2018) follows the story of plague-infected Zivah and -recovered Dineas as they escape imperial quarantine to return to their tribe and village, prepare them for imperial attack, and try to widely expose the rogue physician who had used the plague to deliberately infect imperial troops.
Tension between Dineas and Zivah remains consistent and credible, despite Zivah’s having restored his memory. Zivah feels guilt for the lingering negative impact of the treatment and psychological burden of having, effectively, cut his mind in half. Dineas is sure that Zivah loves him only without his burdened memory. They work together expertly, however, and when certain of the Shidadi tribe want to make Zivah use the plague as a weapon against the imperial armies, Dineas defends Zivah admirably.
Perhaps it’s Blackburne’s background in biology. I liked reading about her character’s often-creative healing exploits among her companions and war victims on both sides of the conflict. She textures these instances with biological insight, as well as compassion and human interest.
All this said, I felt a little disappointed with this second installment. The story’s skeleton felt a little sparse and the narrative seemed to be working hard to fit what was, ultimately, a structure with fewer ideas and interesting surprises. The writing was only satisfactory and the story, even with a lot of action and fighting scenes, didn’t really grip.
All told, however, Umbertouched was a good, if not thrilling, read. Those who liked Dineas and Zivah’s fraught teamwork from the first novel, Rosemarked, will be pleased to read more of the same in this concluding novel.
The GIVEAWAY has ended.
The publisher has graciously offered to give one copy of Umbertouched to one commenter. Limited to United States zip codes, please. The winner will be chosen at random.