I had the honor and pleasure of reading an electronic advance copy of Healer’s Curse by Kathrese McKee. Healer’s Curse is a novella in her Mardan’s Mark Series. The novella is a cute romantic fantasy set in northern half of the twin kingdoms, which rather reminds me of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, transplanted to the south near the gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi river, all re-named. The novella’s back story appears to be events from the first novel in the series, and I suspect the heroine is a minor character in that tale. If so, that makes this all the more interesting. I found the back story references raise reader interest in the larger series without being too intrusive.
The heroine of Healer’s Curse is medieval doctor, Lady Elilan, only eighteen-years-old and already a widow, whose late husband has died after only a year of marriage. To make the tragedy greater for her, she was already an orphan, her husband was a dear childhood friend, and she has a supernatural gift of healing, which she’d attempted to use with her husband to no avail. This naturally brings guilt and confusion as she asks what many believers ask, why didn’t God heal him? On top of it, gossipy neighbors have rather cruel opinions on the matter, thinking she caused or allowed her husband’s death. She becomes afraid to use her gift at all, which is only further cemented when she attempts it again with her ailing mother-in-law and again El (God) doesn’t allow the healing and her mother-in-law dies.
The romantic element is when she finds herself treating a soldier from the southern kingdom, which adds further conflict since there is friction between the two kingdoms, with many northerners wanting a total separation, and she has many separatists in her family. Though she does a really good job of resisting those influences and treating all patients fairly in my reading. It is much harder for her to maintain her professional distance from her patient.
The novella Healer’s Curse has good themes on bridging differences, the intersection faith and healing and tragedy. The voice has a lovely quality, perfectly suited to the first person narrator being a healer. If you enjoy Fantasy that is light on magic and light on violence and transports medieval worlds to maps closer to home (for Americans anyway), this will be a heart-warming, heart-soothing treat.