‘Concealed Power’ by K.J. Colt is the first novel in a fantasy series about healers. In an unusual twist, the healers are painted as the villains of this world — or rather, the villainnesses, since they are all female.
The premise of The Healers of Meligna series is based on the trope of sex magic. The healers of this world are always women and can only heal men, through having sexual intercourse. Once revered as demi-goddesses, they are now shunned and condemned as “golden whores,” blamed by society for the civil war and plague of twenty-five years ago. Now, they have retreated to their own utopia of Meligna City and charge outsiders exorbitant fees for healing. The hatred for healers amongst ordinary people is so extreme that girls who manifest the signs of a healer have to be taken from their families and sent to Meligna for their own protection.
That’s where the main character comes in. Adenine is a young girl who has spent her entire life locked in the living area above her parents’ house, unable to go outside because she is the last known carrier of the plague. After an accident leaves her blind, Adenine becomes even more isolated and dependent. When her mother falls ill, however, she is forced to venture outside for help. Her introduction to the outside world brings her new freedom, but also new dangers. Too many people — including the town mayor, a strange foreign warrior woman, and a sinister visiting healer — seem altogether too interested in this young blind girl. Adenine slowly unravels the clues, discovering conspiracy, betrayal, and a concealed power within herself.
It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that Adenine is a healer. Although Adenine is so sheltered that her parents never even explain what “laying together” means (she has to find out in a comedic scene with her best friend), the clues to her true identity are scattered consistently throughout the book. It is relatively easy for the reader to pick them up and piece them together as they go along.
‘Concealed Power’ is less about a dramatic reveal of Adenine’s concealed powers and more about Adenine’s development as a character and her coming of age. She begins as an extremely innocent girl, becomes scared and mistrusting, and eventually breaks out of her sheltered shell and starts acting and thinking for herself. While parts of ‘Concealed Power’ are tense and suspenseful, this isn’t an action-packed fantasy novel. It’s more of a psychologically driven character study.
U.S.A Today Bestselling author Kylie J. Colt writes epic fantasy with a psychological twist. By threading common psychological pathologies such as depression into her story lines, she creates deeper, more realistic characters. — Amazon.com
The narrative is written in first person. Adenine’s voice is well-characterized and strongly captured, but for certain scenes and emotions, the first person style can be gut-wrenching. For instance, a defining moment for Adenine happens early on: the first time someone attempts to rape her, at the age of ten. This shapes Adenine’s character for the rest of the novel. She mistrusts all adults, can’t stand to be touched, and is morbidly shy of strangers. ‘The Healers of Meligna’ follows the rather cruel dilemma of a sex healer who has PTSD from childhood sexual abuse.
While this is a coming-of-age plot, some of the content is on the darker side of Young Adult. The writing level, voice, style, and plot are all Young Adult fantasy, but there are a total of four attempted rapes or sexual assaults in the novel — and three happen directly to our first-person narrator. Some readers may wonder whether it was necessary to put quite so much detail into attempted child rape. In the author’s bio, K.J. Colt explains that it was her background in psychology that shaped her characterization of Adenine. Some readers who have faced similar problems may find Adenine’s story validating; however, other readers may find the content simply upsetting or even triggering.
The thematic foundation of ‘Concealed Power’ is moral ambiguity, and by the end of the novel, it is unclear who is “good” and who is “bad.” Technically, the writing can be clumsy, particularly in the beginning. It smooths out as it goes along and the story hits its stride, and the book becomes compelling and easy to read. It’s unclear whether this difference in writing is a deliberate choice to show the character aging or whether it is just the result of inconsistent editing.
However, even as the writing improves, the random typos and grammatical errors remain. They aren’t enough to detract from enjoyment of the novel, but they are consistent — you’ll find the same errors repeated over and over. In addition, there are some eyebrow-raising cliches such as the plague being literally called “the Death Plague” and the beast-tamer character being called “Klawdia.” On the whole, though, the merits of ‘Concealed Power’ more than make up for its technical defects.
‘Concealed Power’ is not as artfully crafted as some of the books that this review channel has given four stars; however, it is a better story than many of them. ‘The Healers of Meligna’ is a series, so the writing probably improves throughout the series as it did throughout the first book. The characters introduced in ‘Concealed Power’ are also well-developed, and certainly interesting enough to want to follow in later books. Adenine is a realistically drawn, sympathetic heroine. K.J. Colt has also written a spin-off series about Klawdia, a more conventional fantasy warrior heroine.
‘Concealed Power’ is available as part of the ebook fantasy anthologies ‘Epic: Fourteen Tales of Fantasy’ and ‘Fierce: Sixteen Authors of Fantasy,’ as well as on its own through various ebook vendors. Fans of the series can also join The Healers’ Guild, a Facebook group where fans can discuss the books as well as give input on character names, titles, and cover art.