Aversion / Sentient / Broken Ties

The Mentalist Series 0-2

Kenechi Udogu’s The Mentalist Series is a sequence of paranormal coming of age stories which focus around a teenage girl as she learns the nature of her strange powers. The series currently consists of two main novellas – Aversion (2012) and Sentient (2013) – as well as a prequel novella titled Broken Ties (2014). A fourth novel, Keepers, is due for release later this year.

Gemma Green has always be subjected to a strict upbringing. As the only female Averter, she has been subject to rigorous training by her father in order to prove that she is just as capable as any boy. Her job is simple. When a vision of the future hits her she must find the person that it affects, look them in the eye and push a thought in their head in order to avert the impending disaster. When she receives her first vision, Gemma is thrilled that she will soon be a full-fledged Averter.

But it quickly becomes apparent that something has gone horribly wrong with the Aversion. Her target, a boy in her class named Russ, is not supposed to have any recollection of what has happened to him and yet he seems to have gained an unhealthy obsession with her. The more that she tries to put things right, the more eager he is to be close to her. He thinks that it’s a crush but Gemma knows better. She has done something that affects the way that his brain works and she needs to find a way to put it right.

However, things are not as simple as it seems. She soon notices a strange man watching her house and her father suddenly seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Gemma quickly comes to realise that her father may not have been entirely honest with her about the nature of the Averters and the truth will change her life forever.

The Mentalist Series introduces a set of truly unique concepts which make for some incredibly interesting reading. The Adverters’ mission to prevent ordinary people from coming to harm is motivated purely by a sense of duty – they are blessed with such incredible powers and therefore believe it is necessary to use them for the greater good. While this initially seems like a wonderful cause, as the series progresses it becomes readily apparent that they are not the nicest of people. The sense of tradition is so ingrained in them that they are unforgiving to every Averter that deviates from this path. Women who display psychic powers are shunned, while having a child with someone other than a specially selected mate is a punishable offence. The way that my sympathy for the Averters shifted over the three novellas was the thing that I found most interesting of all.

It is very clear that Udogu’s skill as a writer improves dramatically as the series progresses. Aversion is probably the weakest of the three novellas as it feels noticeably shallow when compared to is sequel. Although Aversion introduces the concept of the Averters, it does not really flesh out these ideas at all. The novel ends without explaining much as to how the Averters are structured as an organisation or who makes and governs their many rules. It was also rather vague as to the true nature of Gemma’s powers, leaving me somewhat confused as to what she was. While I understood what an Adverter was by the climax of Aversion, other kinds of psychic were name dropped and only described very vaguely. I had no idea what made a Progressive Empath or a Sentient Twin different to an Adverter and the novel did not do enough to help me understand.

One of the problems with an original concept is that you really need to be conscious that a reader will be unfamiliar with how your world works. As information dumping is a clumsy way of relating exposition, authors need find creative ways to bring their readers up to speed. The problem with Aversion is that this doesn’t happen. As it is written in first person, the reader is always in Gemma’s shoes, and she is constantly fed conflicting information about what she is. This makes it very difficult for the reader to figure out the true nature of her powers.

Sentient is a marked improvement as it does start to offer explanations for concepts raised in Aversion, yet it still ends on an uncertain note. Throughout out this novel, Gemma is approached by a few different groups who claim to have her best interest at heart. While it is clear from the start that none of the characters are being completely honest with her, it is still left ambiguous as to just how much they are telling her is the truth. While I expect that the answers will become clearer still in Keepers, it meant that the ending of Sentient was unsatisfying as it lacked any sense of closure.

I should probably also mention Broken Ties here. Although this novella is a prequel to the series, I don’t think that it would make a lot of sense unless you’ve at least read Aversion first. This novella tells the story of how Gemma’s parents met and, although it does not really bring anything new to the table as this story is already alluded to in Aversion, it also does not explain the core concepts at all. If you were to pick up this story first, I feel that you would probably find it unsatisfying as you miss out on a lot of the bigger picture.

While some of the issues above can be put down to poor editing, it is the characterisation that I found biggest fault with in this series. While I will accept that there is less space for development in a novella than one will find in a full length novel, I felt that many of the characters in The Mentalist Series were rather flat. I did not really get what most of the secondary characters were like beyond what Gemma told me I should feel. While Gemma gushed about her father’s virtues, he never showed any of these positive traits (he actually came across as more of a coward due to his constant desire to run away). Similarly Peter, another Averter at her school, seemed as though he was an important character when first introduced but failed to make any impression. He was not even named until the end of the first novel and, in the second, he was surprisingly absent. In one scene, Russ expressed jealousy towards Peter but I never felt that there was any reason for this. He was so absent from the story and showed so little interest in Gemma that he never felt like a contender in a love triangle.

The only secondary character that I will praise is Laura. Although she did not get introduced until Sentient, Laura was a breath of fresh air. She was refreshingly different to the other characters and provided some much needed humour to the story. Her back story was also very satisfying and I thought that the uncertainty as to whether or not she could be trusted added some great tension to the novella.

In terms of the main characters, Gemma did make more and more of an impression as the series progressed. At the end of Aversion, I was left thinking that she just came across as childish. While she was supposed to be fifteen (she has her sixteenth birthday at the end of Sentient), she talks as though she is much younger than this and did not really receive any character growth with in this story. She fared a lot better in Sentient as this novella did give her a lot more room to grow in character. She gained a lot more confidence in herself as she finally began to learn the true nature of her powers. My only real concern for Gemma was that she gradually became more and more of a Mary Sue as she discovered herself. As her abilities are very poorly defined and yet everyone seemed to want a piece of them, it began to feel as though she was some all-powerful being.

As her love interest, Russ came across as being a bit of a wet blanket. As he is generally characterised as just being calm and collected in any situation, I never really got a good feel towards his character. He was just a blank slate while no really defining character traits whatsoever. I was not even certain as to how his abilities worked. Unlike Gemma, he did not have any kind of active skills but instead just seemed to act as some kind of conduit to help Gemma control her own. The romance between them was also a little iffy. Due to the nature of their connection, it was really unclear how much of their relationship was simply due to the fact that they had a psychic link, rather than true love. This just seemed to be a very awkward device to ensure that they got together quickly, little more than saying that it was just down to destiny. Personally, I found this to be very weak as it just forced a relationship between two people who seemed to have little chemistry together.

I’m running a little long on this review so I guess I should conclude. While Udogu’s ideas are highly original, I felt that these novellas were let down by some weak structuring and characterisation. Explanations in these stories comes a little too late for my liking and often contracts earlier assumptions that the reader makes. Most of the secondary cast are also fairly non-descript and, while the protagonist does eventually get some strong development, she does stray a little into Mary Sue territory. If you’re curious, Broken Ties is currently free to download on Amazon.co.uk. While this is not the best starting place for the series, at least it will give you a feel for the tone and style of the author so you can see if it’s to your taste.

Aversion can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

Sentient can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

Broken Ties: Prequel can be purchased as an eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. louiseg12
    Jan 25, 2015 @ 11:04:16

    Might be worthwhile downloading the freebie 🙂

    Reply

    • Kim
      Jan 25, 2015 @ 11:05:47

      Yeah, there’s no harm in it. It doesn’t explain the world mechanics as well as Aversion but it will at least give you a feel of the tone of the series.

      Reply

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