Pros: Stunning & original world; continuation of the fascinating plot from “Ghostland”
Cons: Male lead doesn’t stand out as much; secondary plot not as engaging
Rating: 4 out of 5
In Jory Strong’s lovely Ghostland, we find ourselves “in a post-apocalyptic world where supernaturals have emerged from hiding, wealthy humans delight in decadence while the religious gain power through temptation.” The Djinn, creatures so old that people mistakenly believe them to be demons, harbor a deep hatred of humans for enslaving them—but thanks to one Djinn and the human shamaness (Aisling) who loves him, that might be changing.
In Spider-Touched we follow the story of Araña, a young woman whose touch can kill, even when she doesn’t want it to. She has a unique ability to manipulate others’ destinies, an ability she fears and doesn’t understand. That ability brings her to Tir, a powerful immortal who doesn’t remember who or what he is—only that humans have kept him enslaved for centuries. When Araña frees him he finds himself drawn to her, and they both set out to find out who and what he is—and to free him from his remaining shackles.
Once again Jory Strong explores her post-apocalyptic Oakland, a land of shape-shifters, powerful vampire families, outcast humans with special “gifts,” witches with hidden agendas, wealthy humans fulfilling decadent desires, and a power-hungry church ruling through terror. Her world-building is exquisite, and her particular mix of urban fantasy and paranormal unusual and refreshing. Since Spider-Touched focused less on the gifted humans, however, than Ghostland did, and spends more of its time in the physical world, it had a little less to distinguish itself from other urban fantasy/paranormals than the previous book did.
Araña is a strong, enjoyable character—somewhat withdrawn, but fiercely protective of her friends and herself. She’s smart and savvy, and she has good chemistry with Tir. Tir, however, perhaps because of his amnesia, was less remarkable than Zurael from the previous book; he wasn’t as intense or detailed a character. Also, if you’ve read Ghostland you’ll find some of the plot developments easy to predict in this one because of the parallels, which makes them a little less intense.
The side plot in this one, involving a healer and a werewolf trying to save victims from the “Maze” used as both punishment and entertainment, was engaging but also less so than the events in Ghostland. The funny thing is, I think Spider-Touched is actually quite good, but it suffers a bit in comparison to Ghostland because that book was so above-and-beyond!
Once again I have to give Jory props for depicting dominant/submissive sex scenes (male dom, female sub) that are erotic, loving, and enjoyable without straying toward abusive.
Spider-Touched is a good follow-on to Ghostland, and I look forward to reading more of Jory’s work. That said, Ghostland was so outstanding that Spider-Touched does suffer a little by comparison.