This is the first in a series of reviews I’ll be doing that cover author M.C.A. Hogarth’s work, but I’m starting here because that’s where I personally started. So join with me in my walk through this universe.

Mindtouch by M.C.A. Hogarth (2013)

I’d only read one novel of Hogarth’s before, set in a different universe – a novel I helped back on Kickstarter called A Rosary of Stones and Thorns – and had thoroughly enjoyed it. Hogarth had a way with character and setting that rivaled few I’d ever read before. However, I am hesitant to step into an author’s established world without good reason. While I’d spoken with her on Twitter a few times, and she speaks with several other authors I know there as well, few seemed to be well-versed in her work.

However, after Hogarth sent out a plea on Twitter for beta readers, my copy editing job (and boss) tossed me into the fray. I received a file in my email, was given my timeline, and I set forth – thinking that it would be good for me to edit something from a world I didn’t know. It would make me objective – able to see the flaws without being entranced by the world itself.

I didn’t hold my distance long. It took me about a chapter to acclimate myself to the word usage and the new races, but as is her wont, Hogarth made it easy for me to find my way. We meet Jahir Seni Galare, a new student at the school who’s come from his xenophobic home world to study psychology. The Eldritch – Jahir’s race – are touch espers, beings that can sense emotions by touch. The Eldritch do not embrace this, finding it uncomfortable and improper. Jahir is not your average Eldritch…but neither is he that far distanced from his people.

Next we meet the co-leader of the plot, Vasiht’h – a Glaseah, a bit of a cross between a centaur and a pegasus. Vasiht’h becomes Jahir’s roommate – an accommodation to the unfortunate forcing of Jahir to have a roommate in the first place – and from there, the plot blooms.

Mindtouch is a story about coming of age, in a way. It’s a story about finding yourself – a story about carving your own path where one has not been laid. It’s about friendship, and about trust. It’s about walking into a world where no one matches you, forcing your way into some small niche, and realizing that there’s been someone waiting for you there the whole time. And it’s about finding out what to do with that person when you find them.

Hogarth describes herself on her website as “the daughter of two Cuban political exiles.” The concept of the Other, of the outsider, is likely not one that she finds new. But she doesn’t play up the Other-ness of the characters, letting them sit in their exclusion and refuse to become part of the rest (much like Eldritch culture indoctrinates). Hogarth brings them – and their Other-ness – to the forefront and makes it the point of the story, without ever allowing it to be a caricature of itself. Jahir and Vasiht’h fight their own natures in themselves, the natures of each other, and the natures of their friends around them. The Glaseah and the Eldritch are well-matched in some ways – and exactly polar opposites in others. And when something that’s only spoken of in fairy tales and romance novels begins to happen…well, it will take each and every one of them to figure out what is happening – and if they like it.

It was far too easy to fall in love with both of these characters. I wrote in my response to Hogarth with the edited draft I had that I was afraid more of my notes were me personally commenting to the characters and less actual help. Being able to watch each one grow, being able to see them come into their own – fall away from each other – fight their way back… Each one was a personal thing for me. My heart tightened with each hurdle to be jumped, and sang with each victory. I mourned with them in their loss and celebrated in their joy. Each and every writer should be aspiring to make their characters as real as themselves in a reader’s mind, and Hogarth has done just that.

The plot doesn’t need to be “new” and “edgy.” It doesn’t need to set out to tackle something that “no one has ever tackled before.” It finds its novelty and its power through Hogarth’s writing and her characters, and the reader can be surprised each step of the way as they learn alongside their protagonists. And by the end, with its dramatic twists, vicious turns, and the sudden heart-dropping cliffhanger that the book is left on, the end result is obvious.

Each and every reader, just like myself, should be on edge waiting for the sequel Mindline to come out.

Rating: ***** – Highest Recommendation


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