Closer to 3.5 stars
I enjoyed this. I thought the hook of the book, especially for the over-saturated UF market, felt pretty fresh. The protagonists live in a place called Mid-City where enhanced mental powers are normal (even while many people believe they are a myth). There is a group of people called Nightcaps who all have specialized mental powers -- telekinesis, teleportation, clairvoyance etc. One character can manipulate physical structures so that he can imprison people in a place of his choosing -- others can get in but the prisoner can't leave, ever.
There is a second group of people, led by an enigmatic Nightcap named Packard who are called Disillusionists. The Disillusionists are a band of people pulled together to bring down criminals who otherwise escape justice. They use their mental powers to break down their prey by infusing the person with their own special mental torments. Different Disillusionists have different abilities. Some infuse the bad guy with deep depression or a need to gamble away all their life savings or anxiety over large earth events etc. The idea is to break them down, re-boot them and make them come out as reformed.
Justine is the main character and becomes a disillusionist in the course of the story. She is a hypochondriac who can use her ability to instill her particular and intense brand of paranoia into the criminals. I thought she was interesting because she wasn't your run-of-the-mill UF tatooed, sword wielding heroine. Which brings me to the issue of the cover. She is holding a knife. Why? The whole idea behind the book, even the name of the book, is about the power of the mind. The protagonists all use their mental abilities as their weapons. Sure Justine has a stun gun and a GPS tracking phone if she gets in trouble so that she can call the team to extract her, but she never wields a knife.
Okay, back to Justine. I thought the writer did a great job of making the reader really get
Justine's paranoia. It was fascinating to follow downward spiral as Justine gives herself over to her imagined maladies. I also thought the writer did a great job in conceptualizing what the disillusionists did and how they worked.
As usual for me with books that feature an ensemble, when done well I tend to enjoy the group dynamics. So I really enjoyed the parts where Justine begins to gel within the group and as I got to know the other disillusionists.
Packard, of course, is a stand-out character I thought the way the writer brought him to life made him feel organically charismatic.
In contrast we have the character of Otto who I even am pretty skeptical about. The Otto v. Packard characterization is a great example of showing versus telling. In the course of the story, you simply get to feel how interesting, powerful and --as mentioned above -- charismatic Packard is. However Justine keeps telling us how awesome Otto is, but I never got that as I was reading. She was too emphatic about it and I was weirdly repelled by him.
Which brings me to one of the reasons why this isn't a higher rated book for me. I don't like love triangles at all. Especially not in UF where they seem to be shoe-horned in to maintain some sort of romantic tension. Yawn. So the set up for the triangle with Otto, Justine and Packard feels forced and not even interesting considering I don't even like Otto all that much. I also thought the conflicts keeping Justine from Packard also felt forced. Possibly in order to propel her toward Otto.
Hopefully this won't drag out to the bitter end, but I am not optimistic. I understand this is a trilogy. If it actually does end at 3 books I might be tempted to read the next two.