I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
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.
But I liked it anyway, mostly because I liked Jahir and Vasiht'h a lot. Like I said, not much really happened. Jahir and Vasiht'h went to class, worked on papers and assignments, went out for ice cream and other goodies together, and occasionally visited a group of sick children at the hospital. There was no villain, but there were plenty of absolutely lovely conversations. The focus was mostly on Jahir and Vasiht'h's budding friendship and their struggles to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives. Reading Mindtouch sometimes felt more like checking up on a couple friends than like reading a story.
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.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)