Title: “Touch of Death”
Author: Kelly Hashway
Genre: YA, Paranormal Romance
Publication Date: January 15, 2013 (Spencer Hill Press – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Jodi Marshall isn’t sure how she went from normal teenager to walking disaster. One minute she’s in her junior year of high school, spending time with her amazing boyfriend and her best friend. The next she’s being stalked by some guy no one seems to know.
After the stranger, Alex, reveals himself, Jodi learns he’s not a normal teenager and neither is she. With a kiss that kills and a touch that brings the dead back to life, Jodi discovers she’s part of a branch of necromancers born under the 13th sign of the zodiac, Ophiuchus. A branch of necromancers that are descendents of Medusa. A branch of necromancers with poisoned blood writhing in their veins.
Jodi’s deadly to the living and even more deadly to the deceased. She has to leave her old, normal life behind before she hurts the people she loves. As if that isn’t difficult enough, Jodi discovers she’s the chosen one who has to save the rest of her kind from perishing at the hands of Hades. If she can’t figure out how to control her power, history will repeat itself, and her race will become extinct.
☆: 3.5/5 stars – could have been better, but still a good start to a promising new YA series!
Review: While I’m happy to say that this one was a rather nice surprise in terms of really shaking things up in the way YA uses mythology (in this case, Greek mythology), it still didn’t entirely deliver for me. “Touch of Death” has an incredible world, uses the more obscure pieces of Greek mythology to entice us in, it unfortunately still uses quite a few YA tropes that I feel could have been avoided entirely. But hey, this isn’t bad for a first book in a series. Not bad at all.
So, this is the second book to be released in 2o13 that mentions the thirteenth zodiac sign, Ophiuchus, but the mythology used within it helps create an absolutely fantastic and unforgettable world filled with zombies, magic, monsters, and prophecies. Even though a lot of the other technical areas were kind of weak with this book, I must give Hashway props in the worldbuilding department, because she does it and does it well. I mean, the zombies especially were really creepy, and while I kind of wished there’d been more biting and infecting in the zombie department, what I got was not only unique but really interesting. I love this world, and I can’t wait to return to it. Hashway also has a great grab on sensory imagery and language (especially whenever someone is raised from the dead, good god), and it definitely left a great first impression on me. I mean, whoa. Blood and rabies-foam and decaying servants? Yes, please, sir I would like some more.
However, I do feel that a lot of the rest of the book was lacking, particularly in the way the characters were created using tried and true YA tropes, to the point where I felt more than a bit disappointed with Hashway’s methods. It felt like taking the easy way out (just a taste) to have Jodi as the chosen one, to have a big battle with gods and monsters in order to save her race. In the construction of other characters (particularly Alex), the whole hot-stalker-dude-no-one-else-can-see (or almost no one else, at any rate) along with the insta-love really turned me off. However, this was made up by Jodi becoming incredibly sassy and plucky at the end of the book with finally getting up all of her courage and fighting for her birthright. That was incredibly satisfying, and I just wish she’d been that way from the start.
One thing I do have to cheer about is the fact that there is no love triangle. Usually when there’s insta-love, a love triangle isn’t too far behind. But there’s none of that there – just a one-sided crush that doesn’t get returned (regarding Abby and Alex), leaving Alex and Jodi able to go for it. Though I have to admit, I was more than a bit disturbed by Jodi’s easy falling for Alex not even 24 hours after her previous boyfriend is cold in the ground – but at least that was brought up at all. Jodi’s self-examination about that redeemed the whole situation just enough for me to keep going.
Okay, yeah, I do love Chosen One tropes, but at points, it got cheesy. I mean, the actual term “Chosen One” was used in that direct fashion. But the battles, mythology, and the gods and monsters mentioned that went with all of that? Completely awesome – to the point where I was able to ignore it for a big part of the book. However, it did give Jodi an impetus to grow as a character (with Hades starting to destroy Ophi right and left), and I was glad she got a kick in the butt that way with having to literally race against a clock ticking down that would destroy her race. So, even though it was cheesy? Hashway made it work.
Final verdict? There was a lot that I wish had been worked on in this ARC version of the book, but overall, it’s a fresh new look at some very obscure Greek myths and a great new use of zombies. Definitely count me in for book two. “Touch of Death” is out January 15, 2013 from Spencer Hill Press in North America, so if you’re looking for a new mythology and/or zombie YA series book to try, this is definitely your book.