SPOILERS FOR THIS BOOK
This book was literally the only book I could finish during my vacation in Ireland. I guess that’s a positive thing, right? Anyway, while I enjoyed parts of it, particularly the romance, the overall package didn’t work as well for me.
Artur, a member of Dirke and Steel introduced in the previous book, can access the memories and emotions of any object or person he touches. Elena can heal broken bones and cure cancer, an ability she has no idea why she even has, but one she is willing to use for the benefit of others. Their paths intersect when they are both kidnapped by a powerful, sinister organization called the Consortium, which is dedicated to studying humans with psychic and magical abilities and using their powers for their own benefit. Their first meeting largely takes place within each other’s minds, which creates a mutual connection whose reach and strength allows them to look after each other whilst getting to know each other on a very personal level. Artur and Elena’s romance continues to develop against the backdrop of their effort to prevent the Consortium from potentially gaining the control of one of the largest crime syndicates in the world.
Marjorie M. Liu is quickly becoming the master of writing romances that occur over absolutely unrealistic spans of time that I somehow manage to believe in nonetheless. In this book, the majority of the romance takes place over the course of one to two days! This should be completely ridiculous! But because of the nature of the romance – the fact that most of their original communication occurs in each other’s minds, combined with both of their abilities to touch and learn about each other on a psychic level due to their individual powers, means that the shortness of time it takes for them to make a move on each other gains a lot more plausibility than seems possible.
Another thing Marjorie M. Liu is becoming exceedingly good at is writing heroes who are physically powerful, skilled in violence, and are vested with protecting their love interest, but who aren’t muscle-bound stupids constantly reveling in their own masculinity. Artur has a particularly dark history, what with his former employment with the Russian Mafia as hired muscle, and so he never lets his guard down even for a minute due to his violent past. Furthermore, his psychic ability makes him extremely vulnerable to touch, since everything he comes into contact with carries the history and memories of the person handling them, and in his line of work, that includes a lot of horrific and obscene memories. Despite all his physical strength and multiple capabilities, he keeps his past and his emotions locked away so as not to harm himself or anyone else with the memories of all that he’s done. However, when he starts falling for Elena, he doesn’t go, “FEELINGS? What foreign concept is THIS? I am a MANLY MAN and I don’t need FEELINGS!” Instead, like Hari in Tiger Eye, Artur becomes a giant sweetheart whose interactions with Elena are tender and lovely to read about. Really, it’s less a battle about what he feels as opposed to if he’s able to let Elena into his mind to judge for herself what kind of man he is.
I won’t deny, it was a little strange reading about Artur because I kept picturing him as a Russian version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, but he’s actually a huge teddy bear who needs and deserves one million hugs and kittens and rainbows. Also, he’s not a sex god and the first time he and Elena have sex isn’t perfect! I love him even more for it. Again, like in Tiger Eye, this relationship is based more on emotional intimacy, openness, and trust than it is on lust and physical attraction, though the latter is still there.
Elena was decent, but her back-story was paper thin, especially compared to Artur’s. She has a vaguely described bad history with her mother, she grew up on a fruit farm that she now owns, and has an ability to heal people that she doesn’t really understand how it works. That’s it. As a result, it was difficult for me to fully understand the person Elena was at the time of the book because I couldn’t put together what made her who she is. She was suitably brave, heroic, and capable, which was good. Still, when placed next to Artur, Elena was not as well-drawn a character, and it did make it difficult for me to understand what Artur saw in her, whereas I fully got why Elena was interested in Artur.
The plot of this book was, to me, a lot weaker than the first book. The entire captivity sequence didn’t come together fully, I think because the stakes weren’t made as clear. There was too much disconnect between Beatrix Weaving, the head of the Consortium, and her lackeys, who are supposed to do her bidding. Really, the lackeys felt like they each had their own agenda that never matched up with anyone else’s, and so it was impossible to figure out why Elena and Artur had been captured and what the hell was going on. Which might have been the point, but it mean that I had little vested interest in approximately half of the book. Things pick up in the second half and the plot and action tightens considerably. And while the events in this book lay the ground for what looks like a series arc, it’s still too open-ended right now. As it stands, it looks as though Dirke and Steel’s enemies are doing evil and attempting to take over the world because they want “power”. Whatever that means.
This series really is becoming addicting. The books aren’t weighty, thinky-thought types of books, but they’re fun, engaging, and easy to read. One could say that they’re “light” reads, but I think it’s more that what you see is what you get. You get awesome action scenes, cool psychic abilities, and a romance that makes you go “aww” (well, it makes me go “aww” at any rate). Still, Shadow Touch was definitely a step down in terms of plotting and pace, and I hope those problems are rectified in the next book.
Disclosure – library