Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne YA fantasy book reviewsUmbertouched by Livia Blackburne YA fantasy book reviewsUmbertouched by Livia Blackburne

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.

Publication date: November 6, 2018. 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.


  • Taya Okerlund

    TAYA OKERLUND's first career was in public service in the federal government. She previously lived in Japan and China and speaks both Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. More recently, she authored YA novel Hurricane Coltrane (WiDo, 2015) and currently reads and writes in spare moments between therapy runs and child rearing heroics.

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