We are proud to host, as our March Featured Author, Urban Fantasy novelist, Carolyn Crane. Her Disillusionists series is something rare in UF: a world in which the central characters utilize powers formulated from the human psyche, from the recesses of fear and paranoia, recklessness and excess. Crane has set herself apart in a genre full of the supernatural, of the fantastic and built a world around the politics of power and the neurosis of the human condition. And she does this through narrative of a woman whose personal demons are as scary as the villains she faces.
We’d like to thank Carolyn for her support of LitStack and for gifting her readers with a compelling series that is the paradigm of what great Urban Fantasy should be.
First up in our FA segment for March is book #1 in The Disillusionists Trilogy, Mind Games.
Bantam~Spectra/Audible/Untreed Reads (2010)
Justine Jones is a hopeless hypochondriac whose life is crippled by fear…until one day when a handsome, tortured mastermind named Packard peers into her soul and invites her to join his psychological hit squad.
Justine resists until she gets a taste of the peace Packard can promise. At first, Justine enjoys being part of the thrilling world of neurotic vigilantes who battle Midcity’s paranormal criminals. Things get complicated when she uncovers certain secrets…and falls for one of her most dangerous targets.
Justine Jones isn’t simply a hypochondriac. She’s a master of the condition, something Crane sets up as the driving motivation for all things Justine gets up and into in Mind Games. She weaves the paranoia and fear of her “illness” like a wizard:
A wave of wooziness suggests my blood pressure’s dropping. It really is happening, I think with some shock. My condition, known as “vein star syndrome,” is the proverbial ticking time bomb in the head. Once you’re past the point of vascular rupture, no medical attention can save you.
But Justine’s problems come from more than her death-grip fear. Her hypochondria feeds her, fuels her and leads her into a life full of more problems, more drama and, ultimately, a sense of purpose. She gets recruited by Packard, the mysterious ringleader of a band of vigilante Disillusionists with the ability to reform the wicked. They imbue in their victims everything from guilt, to hypochondria, reckless risk and wild, wild rage all in an effort to “reboot” them and force them to see the error of their ways. It isn’t a job Justine asks for and, initially, one that leaves her feeling guilty. Being a Disillusionist has its drawbacks. And it’s Justine’s moral quibbles and anger/attraction to Packard that drives the plot forward into a wild, fun adventure that subtly hides the running theme of power. Shouldn’t the wicked be given a choice about their reformations? Who are the Disillusionists to decide that these people are in need of rebooting? These are questions that Crane poses and which Justine struggles with throughout the trilogy.
Despite her mounting discomfiture over her new position, Justine finds companionship with her fellow Disillusionist and they form some semblance of a family over time, something that she missed with the loss of her mother and her mysophobic father. But it’s Packard’s agenda and the secrets of the past that help to unravel the greatest mystery and the highest source of conflict in the novel. Why did Packard choose her and why is he being so secretive about the “clients” he assigns Justine to? What will happen when one of those clients, who shares Justine’s hypochondriac mania, is discovered to be the source of Packard’s motivations?
Crane has effortlessly revamped a genre thick with supernatural cliches, all without relying on any of them. Mind Games is a fun, addictive, fresh new addition to the genre and an “impossible to put down” book that will have readers reaching for the next installment.