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Quality Characterization

By Arcturus, member

Nov 28, 2018: On Touch

So Touch is a relatively unknown webnovel (to a shocking degree) despite it being one of the best webnovels out there. It has only 190 followers on Royalroad. It’s also probably in my top 10-15 webnovels. I will admit, it doesn’t update with the most frequency, with it updating on average once every 8.7 days or so, and with only 51 chapters thus far. To exacerbate the problem, the chapters aren’t extremely long either (~2.5k words or so), so there isn’t the most content, but what there is, is of immense quality. As a warning, Touch does not shy away at all from examining dark and traumatic topics, particularly involving child abuse.

A couple of quick definitions for my reviews: Coherence and Consistency are important elements for novels. For me they have these meanings: Coherence: This is an external examination that things make logical sense. For example: it makes logical sense to an outside observer that this country has developed into a powerful industrial nation, due to its advantage in natural resources and technology. Or: The characters are running into the swamp and are thus forced to slow down due to the difficult terrain. The events in the setting, plot and character progression make logical sense to a reader who otherwise knows nothing about the novel. Coherent=what is said makes sense.

Consistency: This is an internal examination to make sure that everything makes sense. For example: The character is known to be childish and suddenly does something extremely mature and out-of-character with no development. Or: the countries have been fighting for hundreds of years and hate each other, yet a peace can easily be brokered without any major developments besides authorial fiat. This means essentially that the relationships between settings elements, plot events and character traits internally don’t contradict. Consistent=what is said does not contradict itself.

Consistency is in general more important than coherence, since novels can be somewhat illogical to a reader’s perspective, yet still maintain a general logic that governs itself internally and still be enjoyable to read.

I typically break up my reviews into four parts:

  1. Style A brief touch upon style (basically word choice, phrasing and such). This doesn’t factor into my review grading except if it is bad, in which case it will knock down my overall rating.

For Touch, the author has a keen hand with adept word choice and is very fluent with their use of the English language. Little to no awkward phrasings and the chapters flow very naturally. There have been a couple moments with awkward phrasings which have been off-putting (which the author has acknowledged and corrected). Also, something that is annoying for me (and not really a problem with the novel) is the author’s tendency to have all of their characters’ dialogue call each other "bud", or "kiddo" or "pal", etc. I find it annoying due to how prevalent it is (especially when it’s not just a pet name or something) and how many characters speak like that, but it’s not a real issue. All in all, extremely well done for a webnovel.

  1. Setting Setting is one of the three major areas I examine when grading a novel. I look for coherence, originality (this is more of a bonus points area, then a need), depth, and consistency. There’s also something of a interesting-ness factor here too admittedly; I will be more critical of re-hashed/boring settings than something new.

Touch is an urban fantasy, so it isn’t in trying to build up a whole new fantasy world. There is the traditional veil where the magical elements hide themselves from the mundane populace. Further, it is thoroughly grounded in modern society and culture, with the main setting being NYC. It also draws liberally on some of the ideas and tropes from cape-fic (i.e. super-hero stories) with the clash between vigilantism and government oversight and the concept of trauma activating latent abilities. And there are the usual supernatural creatures referenced such as fauns, dwarves, elves, etc. The author does take care to put their own twist on all of these races and elements, and explores them all in extremely satisfying ways. What exists is quite good. The author is liberal with leaving the detail and description of the world to the minds of the readers, you won’t find much in the way of luscious descriptions of the places, but the minimalism works well with what the author is trying to do.

The author’s magic system (which as I already said draws from cape-fic tropes), is also rather interesting and while it hasn’t been thoroughly explored, what we have seen has been fascinating. In particular, the author’s system thus far allows for very powerful figures with immense magical talent and skill to exist, but they can be brought low/fought off by other weaker abilities as long as they are used intelligently or it is naturally countered. Since the magic system forces its users to trend towards more specificity, there are no masters of everything.

Really, the only issue I have with the setting is that there is still so much to explore and I personally feel that the story has trended more towards exploration of the characters as opposed to the world a bit too much. I wish I knew more. All in all, I give it 4.5/5

  1. Plot Plot is the second of the three major areas I examine when grading a novel. I look for pacing, originality (this not so much of a bonus area), coherence (transitions), depth, and consistency while grading.

The story of Touch is thus far both small and large. It has already begun to touch upon some of the larger, more mythic story arcs that I believe will play a much larger role later on, while still working through the smaller story arcs that make up the ongoing lives of our protagonists. It is not at all lacking in terms of the themes and ideas that the author has chosen to tackle thus far, which can be quite heavy, though the author addresses them tactfully.

However, Touch does have some not insignificant issues with pacing and transitions, especially early on. The author has a tendency to switch between character perspectives extremely liberally; there are very few chapters that are limited to only one character’s perspective. This can make for some difficulty in following the flow of the story. I spent a good 15 minutes at one point trying to figure out who was being referred to due to a change in perspective. The author has shown significant improvement here and, with some edits and continued improvement, this will certainly be less of an issue. The author’s pacing feels at time fast and slow: slow in that it is much more character study and interaction, than action; fast in that what action there is moves quite quickly (which doesn’t help the transitioning issues either).

As a whole, Touch does have a deep and insightful plot, which has been hinting at much more to come, despite flaws in terms of its flow. I give it 4/5 stars.

  1. Character Character is the last of the three major areas I examine when grading a novel. I look for coherence, originality (again, this not so much of a bonus area), depth, development and consistency while grading. Originality is middling here. I do not really want all stock characters with traditional stereotypical personalities, but having characters who are very similar to other characters, whose personalities and backstories make sense is fine.

This is where Touch really shines. Touch is a loving examination of its characters and there is careful emphasis on each action and word of dialogue by a character. They not only make sense and feel right, but convey complex emotional states that are informed by past and current events. These are living characters who think and feel in extremely complex ways. Trauma, family, sexuality, all of these play huge roles in informing our characters’ behavior, personality and beliefs. We can see them changing as well, some slower than others, though trauma is a major catalyst change and is rightfully used as such in Touch.

I really can’t complain all that much about the characters. Rhythm has done a wonderful job with them and I really could only nitpick. 5/5 for character.

Conclusion Touch is a great novel that is just over a year old and is really a hidden gem. With wonderful characterization and strong world-building, to go with solid story, Touch is a must-read for English Original webnovel enthusiasts and webnovel readers in general. Altogether I give it 4.5 stars (leaning toward 4 stars, since it isn’t perfect or with enough output to commit to 5 stars). Highly recommended.

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