Shadow Touch by Marjorie M. Liu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can't say enough good things about this book. It was so unique and very intense. The characters are so real that they jump off the page at you, and their suffering palpable. The first book in the series, Tiger Eye was good enough that I knew I wanted to continue reading, but this book lit me on fire for this series.
Shadow Touch starts with a shot to the heart. You see poor Artur at a crime scene, reliving the suffering of the horribly-murdered woman by using his ability to touch things and see what happened in the past in that place, by having contact with the same object that person touched in the past. The dark visions take their toll on Artur because he experiences everything that the other person feels. From the beginning, I know I would love Artur. To subject yourself to that kind of torture to make sure that justice is done.
I was predisposed to love Artur as I love Russian heroes, and he's one of the best I've ever read. He's very attractive and appealing as a hero, but he is flawed and vulnerable too.
Elena is a wonderful woman. She goes into hospitals as a volunteer and uses her ability to heal the sick. She doesn't do it to get glory, and stays under the radar, but because she feels her ability must be used to help others.
Marjorie Liu did such a good job of creating a compatible couple in this book. There is no doubt that Elena and Artur should be together. There is a bit of a delay before they actually meet, but honestly it was very important for the story to be set up. But when they meet, there is an instant connection. Arthur's telemetric abilities have seriously weakened his brain, and he is on the verge of death when Elena saves his life. When she does so, their souls merge. She goes into her body and leaves part of her soul there, the good part, which gives Artur the strength to fight the evil web of a horrible woman, who is one of the scariest villains I think I've ever read about.
I lived for the interactions between Elena and Artur, because their relationship is serendipity in action. This is one of those books where you really want the couple to stay together and fall deeply in love. They just complete each other in every way. Their pure, accepting love for each other is the balm to the wound caused by the evil cruelty perpetuated by the bad guys in this book.
And on top of that, there is a great suspense/intrigue plot in this story. Liu does a good job of balancing the emotional aspect with the adventure, giving you characters that you get deeply invested in, and putting them in dangerous situations that make you hold your breath. The way she writes this book, you do believe that magic is possible, and that people can have extraordinary abilities. I really love the concept behind Dirk and Steele as well (I'm an occult detective novel fan). She also has some snarky humor (and comraderie between the quintet of people who meet in a research facility run by the bad guys, including Elena and Artur) that I found very enjoyable.
Fans of Russian heroes and those with an interest in Russia will enjoy this book. I am just very interested in Russia so it was great to see how much detail Liu put into describing the country and the people. This book made me want to book a trip to see this very intriguing, and old part of the world.
And like the cherry on the top of the sundae, Artur is ex-Russian Mafia (sigh). I have a bizarre interest in them as well. Artur had a very bad life and did bad things, but he didn't get a lot choices, abandoned by his mother in an orphanage where he was abused and starved, and ending up on the streets. My heart went out to Artur. He was really a decent man despite what he had to do to live. There was no question that he was a moral person, and he suffered for his past sins.
Elena has to deal with some moral issues as well, as she realizes that the power to heal can also be used to kill. She has to face a serial killer who is being used by the villain to do her dirty work. This serial killer develops an unhealthy fixation for Elena. Serial killers have a real ick factor for me, but I must say it was handled well. This dynamic and many of the scenes showed what a strong, although deeply caring person Elena was. She was quite the smart aleck and had no problem telling other people what she thought. I liked her a lot.
The Dirk and Steele series really is one of the underrated paranormal series, but I recommend it highly. There is some of everything going on in this series. If you like psychic characters, healers, shapeshifters, antiheroes who have incredible supernatural powers that you cannot even guess about, not to mention, intriguing sexy men, and a great romance, you should read this series.
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