Touch by Michelle Sagara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a must read. The danger heats up in the second installment in the Queen of the Dead series. Nathan returns at the behest of the Queen of the Dead. His reunion with Emma is bittersweet. Emma is still in the dark about her powers and what her purpose is as a necromancer. Ms. Sagara pushes up the violence with threats against Emma's friends and their family. This story is dark. It isn't a fluffy teenage drama. Instead, it is more similar to Joss Whedon's season seven of Buffy, when Buffy's last glimmer of cheerleading spark is completely snuffed out.
What I really love about this story is how Ms. Sagara designs each character. Her characters are complex and well created. They all have their specific hot buttons and motivations. The way Emma's friends relate to her is a powerful demonstration of loyalty, courage and a bit of foolishness. Amy and Allison won't leave Emma, even if it means they could possibly be killed. While Chase and Ernest tries to convince Allison to abandon Emma and stay safe, Eric tries to keep Emma from getting killed. Amusingly enough, Michael is the only sane one.
What moves me about this book, is Emma's idealist sense of justice. She is outraged by Mark's situation. Mark is a child ghost who is trying to figure out what happened to him. He needs closure. Emma is angry and already creates a story in her head about why Mark is dead and she's judged and cast the evil villain. This is a very realistic portrayal of a sheltered child, especially with Emma's strong convictions of right and wrong. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm not saying that adults are jaded with flawed moral compass. What Ms. Sagara does, is show how there are shades of grey. The lines blur because each situation requires an analysis of many variables. It's not cut and dry. This is a learning experience for Emma and she grows from it. She's no longer the self-righteous child screaming "unfair"! She's now a more subdued young adult learning that real life contains hard choices and there is no such thing as "fair". There are several teaching moments here. It all comes down to core concept - choice. Each character must make a choice and accept the consequences of their choices. This speaks to me.
While this kind of lesson is critically missing in most young adult books (and adult ones), it does make the story pace a bit slow. It's also so subtle that I believe many readers will miss or ignore it. This would be a mistake because I believe this is a key element to determine what kind of necromancer she turns out to be. These are tests to see if she will show compassion and see ghosts as more than a power source. Ms. Sagara mentions this point a few times which means it will come into play in further installments. No one ever said Ms. Sagara was fast. She's frustratingly elaborate at times and takes a long time to build her foundation. It is a very solid foundation. This fantasy is highly recommended to readers who enjoy a story about loyalty, courage, idealism and struggles with moral dilemmas.
*provided by Edelweiss
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