I decided that nothing I read during my vacation will get a read-alikes list, so there are no read-alikes at the end of this post. Part of me feels a little guilty, because I've created read-alikes lists for almost every review post I've written for this blog, and part of me is glad, because coming up with a read-alikes list for this book would have been really hard.
Jahir, an Eldritch, leaves his stagnant and secretive home world in order to study xenopsychology. His problems begin right away. He has been assigned to live with a roommate, and, because he is highly sensitive to the emotions and thoughts of others, particularly when they touch him, this will not do. He's limited in what he can do or say to find a solution to his roommate problem, however, because Eldritch are forbidden to reveal too many details about their people to others.
Vasiht'h, another xenopsychology student, offers to let Jahir stay in his apartment. He'd still be sharing some of his living space, but at least he'd have his bedroom all to himself. So begins the friendship between Jahir and Vasiht'h, two beings trying to figure out what to do with their lives.
I'm still on the lookout for decently written romantic stories featuring at least one asexual character. This was tagged with “asexual” in Smashwords. There was no guarantee it contained any romance, but the cover art looked good and I liked the excerpt well enough, so I decided to give it a shot. This is, I think, the first time I've purchased something through Smashwords without having at least read a freebie by the author, so it was a bit of a risk. I'm happy to say that it turned out to be a risk worth taking. Despite its incredibly frustrating ending.
There are several reasons I should not have liked this book as much as I did.
- There were occasional things about the writing that bothered me, such as a few instances of two characters speaking within a single paragraph.
- I had no clue how to mentally pronounce Vasiht'h's name, which also made it hard for me to remember what his name was. In my notes, he was V.
- Several terminally ill children were prominent minor characters. I dislike reading books that are guaranteed to make me cry, and there were lots of warning signs that I would be crying at some point. (A slight spoiler, but a necessary one for some: one of the children dies on-page. For me, the most painful part was reading characters' reactions after the death. The death itself was pretty peaceful.)
- I had trouble taking the Pelted seriously at first, figuring they were just something that Hogarth dumped into her world because Yay Furries! I mean, there was Vasiht'h, a mammal with eight limbs (four legs, two arms, and two wings). Hogarth won me over, though. The Pelted turned out to have a rich history (and icky origins) that had an effect on how certain characters thought and behaved.
- I had no clue what kind of story this was going to be. Neither the description nor the one review I read told me much. For the longest time, even while I was reading the book I had no idea what its focus was and what sort of ending it might be working towards.
Except real life goes on and on, and stories are supposed to have an actual ending. It took a while, but I did eventually start to see what Mindtouch was working towards.
Fairly early on, maybe around the 20% mark, I started noticing signs that there might eventually be some asexual romance between Vasiht'h and Jahir. As the story progressed, those signs became clearer. For several reasons, there was absolutely nothing sexual about their relationship and how they interacted, but the level of intimacy between them was so high that when, for instance, they exchanged gifts on Maker's Day, a Pelted holiday, I actually blushed a little. I loved how homey they were together. Jahir did their shopping while Vasiht'h did most of their cooking. Jahir noticed that Vasiht'h liked to bake when he was upset, so he shopped accordingly, without having to be asked. Little things like that made me smile.
As Jahir and Vasiht'h grew closer, they also had to make more decisions about their futures and what they were going to do with their xenopsychology degrees, and that's where some of the conflict came in. They both had reasons for choosing the paths they chose, but those paths weren't necessarily good for them and also had a high probability of forcing them apart after graduation. I wanted so badly to jump into the book and shout, “You're both making the wrong choices! Stop it!!!”
Unfortunately, at some point I started reading this book like it was a romance that happened not to have any sex in it. Maybe if I hadn't done that, then the ending wouldn't have upset me so much. Or maybe not. At any rate, the book ended juuust before the point where a romance novel would have ended. I felt like I'd smacked into an invisible wall only a few feet away from the finish line. Since Book 2 doesn't even have a release date yet, my only consolation is that Hogarth has written several short stories starring Jahir and Vasiht'h. Those will have to do, I guess, but I really hope Book 2 comes out sometime in 2014.
A glossary and a recipe for kerinne, a drink Vasiht'h enjoyed. I wish I had known about this recipe back when I was on meds that I needed to take with fatty foods – it would have been perfect. Now, though, it sounds horrifyingly rich.