The Wizard of Woah
Touch is an interesting beast. The most obvious comparison I could make is to Worm, given the premise of trauma-induced superpowers, but I don’t think that’d give either the right impression or do the story justice.
One of the tags for Touch is "superhero" but it more strongly resembles a psychological urban fantasy, focusing on three children at different points of life, each with their own pains and trauma. We have James, a boy on the brink of adolescence suffering from the physical and emotional aftermath of a violent stranger-rape; Casper, a young teen dealing with an abusive homelife and burdensome, overwhelming telepathy; and Tasha, a super strong teenage girl living alone with her dog who vents her rage on criminals picked out for her by Casper.
I was originally drawn to Touch for its psychological focus on its characters. The author clearly knows their stuff, and maintains a sympathetic distance from their characters, seeming neither detached nor prone to wallowing in their suffering. Some parts of the story are downright are difficult to read, but only because the realism in which the subject matter involved is rendered.
As for the characters themselves, Rhythm does an excellent job bringing them to life, especially in regards to differentiating their voices and perspective, something a mite harder to do in third person than in the first person that has almost become the "industry standard" for web-novels, and very important given the range ages, life experiences, and unique perspective their viewpoint characters come in. Of particular note is the age appropriate dialogue and reactions of Casper and James, who feel like genuine twelve and thirteen year olds without feeling grating.
The worldbuilding is interesting, although the alternate history elements for me do strain credulity a little, mostly in regards to the masquerade persisting into modern day, and their modern day so closely resembling ours.
Just an example: purity marks. It’s a well known fact of life in the world of Touch that when someone loses their virginity, a mark appears on their forehead. Given that this (barring makeup) constitutes indisputable proof of sexual activity, and how much of human history has been influenced by dynastic marriages, often dependent on the virginity of the (usually) female participants, you’d think this would have caused some changes. At least enough that Harry Potter isn’t still around. Little knock on effects like that.
Still, this is a minor sin common across all modern fantasy, so I can’t get too worked up about it. As for the actual magic/superpower system, it’s a good one, with a lot of different paths to power and a lot of forms this power can take, which prevents one character or faction from rendering others irrelevant.
Good, crips prose with the occasional and hopefully increasing poetic flourish round Touch out as one of the finest web-novels currently online, which I hope to see in print form some day.