Mind of the Phoenix by Jamie McLachlan
(The Memory Collector #1)
Published: September 28th, 2015 by Penner Publishing
Genres: Adult, fantasy , romance, mystery
Trigger Warnings: Murder, gore, rape, violence, sexual content, physical abuse, torture
Pages: 350 pgs.
***I received a copy of this book free from the publisher & Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.***
Moira is a powerful empath, a psychic graced with the ability to read emotions and memories. Her skill is as much a curse as a gift, for in the harshly stratified city of Braxton empaths are slaves. Clever and beautiful, Moira has learned to rely on no one but herself. Determined to escape life as a concubine, she kills her master, and is imprisoned for the crime.
This could be the end for Moira, but the government has need of her skills. A mysterious serial killer known as the Phoenix has been planting suggestions in his victims’ minds that drive them to murder and suicide. To gain her freedom, Moira partners with Keenan Edwards, a handsome young detective, to stop the killer.
Hunting the Phoenix will bring Moira on a more dangerous road than she imagined, forcing her to confront dark minds, twisted moralities, and her growing feelings for the detective.
Sometimes, an average gift is just an average gift, no matter how much you try to dress up the package with frilly bows and wrapping paper. The same can be said for most paranormal romances these days, as well. Jamie McLachlan’s Mind of the Phoenix ended up giving me the same feeling of being let down once I got past the decorative outside. Beyond the corsets, the balls, and the allure of empaths, this wannabe steampunk adventure ended up being a few cogs short of a steam-powered engine.
Mind of the Phoenix follows Moira del Mar, a courtesan-turned-criminal with the power of emotional and mental manipulation. Recently jailed after killing her most recent master, Moira feels like she’s finally ready to give into her impending execution. However, there’s been a string of recent deaths of the Elite – a group of wealthy individuals who run the various empath service houses – and she might just be the only person with the abilities to find out who the killer is. After enlistment by the troubled, yet striking Detective Keenan Edwards, will Moira finally see freedom, or is she bound to be yet another wayward empath to swing from the gallows?
I wish I could say that this book lived up to the potential that the plot presents, but it, ultimately, end up leaving me wanting more. What is initially presented as the main plot gradually moves more and more to the backseat as time goes on through the book. The original idea was good and intriguing enough; it didn’t need to veer off into a million other directions in order to remain interesting. I realize that I need to tread lightly here to avoid spoilers, but there are other characters, other plotlines that come into play, yet never see any true resolution. More often than not, things are left to the wayside to float around, which makes for a very frustrating and confusing reading experience. Maybe some of these loose ends are tied up in the next book, but you’d think minor plots are resolved by the end of the first.
Where I will give her credit, though is in where her characters’ internal monologues could cross over into the realm of navel-gazing, McLachlan also was able to rein in these elements when they started to veer off the rails. A lot of newer authors aren’t able to quite master that part of controlling their characters, so I’m glad that she was able to realize when Moira was starting to get a little bit ranty.
Another big gripe I had about Mind of the Phoenix was that Moira herself was a major Mary Sue, probably one of the most egregious examples that I’ve read in quite a few years. As a main character, she hit almost every one of the major points of the Mary Sue Litmus Test: she’s alarmingly beautiful, she’s strongly desired for her looks and her abilities as an empath, every male character that crosses her path is enthralled by her mere existence, she’s got heterochromia, and, of course, she’s got powers that blow the next most-skilled person completely into the stratosphere. If I were to list every single point of Moira’s existence as a Mary Sue, this review would be annoyingly long, and I don’t necessarily want to do that to you lovely readers. While I appreciate that the author is doing what she can to make her main heroine appear like an interesting person, there definitely comes a point in which the character is a bit too perfect. The Litmus Test has been around nearly since time immemorial and should be a crucial element in someone’s character drafting at this point. This is disappointing.
However, I can’t fully say that McLachlan’s writing is terrible. Despite what I’ve pointed out above, it was actually very easy to imagine the world of Brixton and its intricacies. While the world-building started out a little slow, it gradually came together nicely and seemed like an interestingly gritty type of place to be. She can craft a setting exceptionally well, to the point where I could picture myself in the room, boudoir, jail cell — wherever — with the rest of the characters. I could see with ease into the recesses of the minds Moira explored. I just wish the same attention to detail that she gave her settings was applied to controlling some other, more glaring problems with the book.
Overall, I don’t completely abhor Mind of the Phoenix. There are definitely individual elements within the author’s writing that demonstrate her promise as a writer. She describes the story’s settings with nearly picturesque detail and makes it a very intriguing place to visualize. However, problems within keeping the plot and characters on track with their intended goals make it difficult for me to really feel at ease with the story. But I’m not quite giving up just yet.
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