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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Trace by Ian M. Smith is the story of Joanne Shaughnessy in what started out as a normal day, searching for a job and answers to her phantom limb pain. The New Age doctor she sees suggests she participates in a study on the Chi of amputees, which leads her to Ming - who talks her into a job finding antiques, and claims Joanne has an unusual ability to feel spirits attached to certain objects. She thinks they're both crazy until she can feel the pain and memories of a series of letters. As she struggles to understand her newfound abilities, she tunes into a stranger she met a bar, her best friend, a business man, and a seer with an arrogant and cocky attitude. But not everyone is what they seem, and Joanne soon learns that real danger may be right in front of her.
Ian M. Smith focuses on the characters that you don't see often in literature, making the underrepresented and unlikely heroes strong and compelling. Trace is refreshing, modern, and honest, with charm, humor, and strength of character. The story is character driven with a lot of science fiction and supernatural elements, but that felt in the background to me. It's not about the sci-fi tech or the abilities that Joanne discovers she has, but their personal stories and growth. Joanne starts off struggling for a job, and searching for answers to the source of her pain, and then later her abilities, but by the end she finds more of herself. Trace reads like the start of her story and her journey. No one is what they seem at face value. Joanne thinks Ming is crazy, but she's really strong and feisty. Sven comes off as a homeless womanizer who only agrees to give Joanne answers if she gets him hallucinogens, though Joanne learns that this may not be the case. Katy is one of my favorite parts of the book, because she's a blend of stereotypical polar opposites; she's involved with tech but she also loves giving makeovers. It's impossible not to love the characters that Smith created. A must-read!