For What It's Worth

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: The Disillusionists Series (Mind Games, Double Cross, Head Rush) by Carolyn Crane

I read the Disillusionists trilogy last month but I'm just now writing a review because it took me this long to process the whole thing. I just wanted time to be in love…It sounds dorky I know but I had such a rare blissful reading experience with this series that I wanted to savor it for a while.

As usual, when I really LOVE something my thoughts are a scrambled mess of OMG's and GO READ THIS NOW so here we go with my most likely non sensical review of the Disillusionists trilogy by Carolyn Crane that will in no way do it justice but will hopefully make you want to go read it anyway.

This is urban fantasy at it's best. Carolyn Crane has created a world that is dark and sinister yet with the potential for hope around every corner.The characters are complex (holy cow are they complex!) and are always walking that razor thin line between right and wrong. The moral contradictions alone had me squeeing with delight.

Hypochondriac Justine Jones is tapped by the enigmatic mastermind Sterling Packard to join his personal hit squad of disillusionists. This is the wackiest team of superheroes you will ever meet. They all have some sort of fear/phobia or in the case of highcaps, heightened brain power, giving them powers like telekinesis, telepathy or memory revision. 

Packard's team is hired by victims or their families to "disillusion" the Midcity bad guys. Each member of the team takes a turn at zinging - that's the technical term - their fears & phobias into the target to break them down "on emotional, mental, and other levels." Once the criminal reaches their mental breaking point Packard rebuilds them into a productive member of society.

"Disillusionment crashes and reboots people"

For the disillusionists, Packard offers them salvation and an odd sense of family after living with their debilitating phobias for so long. After they *zing* into the victim they are temporally cured. Seems like a win-win situation for everyone but nothing is ever as simple as it seems in this series.

The title for each book in the series say it all. Mind Games. Double Cross. Head Rush. That is exactly what you get.

So that's the set up. I will commence fangirl babbling now.

The heroine: Justine Jones is one of the most fascinating UF heroines I have ever read. She's no bad ass. She isn't snarky. She is completely crippled by hypochondria and the fear that she will die from a case of rare Vein Star Syndrome. Despite that she is amazing! This girl has an incredible sense of right and wrong and a desire to be accepted as she is. She's probably one of the most sympathetic and real characters I've read about in a loooong time. Another odd insight to Justine…. in UF the heroines instincts are almost always spot on. In the case of Justine, her judgement can't always be trusted. She goes with her heart and that's not always the right call. She wants to believe in people so badly that she sometimes doesn't see things as they are but as she wishes them to be. As a reader seeing through the protagonists eyes you usually know the truth - here you don't and it keeps you guessing right along with Justine the whole time.

The bad guys: This has me giggling. With names like The Silver Widow and The Alchemists this series walks just this side of camp but never crosses the line. These villains are SCARY bad asses. They are also complicated. I definitely wanted them to lose but once you see what's inside their head as the team breaks them down you do start to feel a bit of sympathy for them. They aren't the stereotypical, larger than life villains. A few even think they're helping Midcity. Maybe they are. Interesting stuff.

The relationships: Whether it's the romance (a love triangle which I normally HATE but I loved this one) or a friendship, all of the relationships in this series intersect at some point to strengthen the overall plot. Another high point for me is the close friendship Justine shares with Shelby and the non sexual friendships she shares with her male counterparts.

Side characters that ADD not detract: I loved every single character in this series. Even the one(s) I loved to hate. I'm talking about you Otto. Outrageous over the top Simon, Russian accented, chipped tooth Shelby and the rest of the motley crew are not around for mere decoration. They are pivotal to the plot and each one could carry a spin off series on their own.

The twists: Oh. My. God. How did people wait a year between these books?? There are some MAJOR twists, turns and cliffhangers! What's awesome about this series is that this is a mind game but NOT a mind f*ck. The twists and turns move everyone forward and aren't plot devices or tricks just to confuse and toy with the reader.

Sterling Packard: Is he an evil mastermind? A vigilante? Sex on a stick? The one person who can save Justine? The one person who can destroy Justine? All of those things? Neither?
Plus he's trapped for eternity inside a mongolian restaurant forced to eat only kabobs! Hilarious and only this series could make that a plausible plot line and pull it off so beautifully.

The conclusion to the series: SO good! I have been so disappointed in series enders lately but Head Rush totally delivers IMHO.

I realize I didn't get into too much detail about the plot. There are plenty of reviews on Goodreads if you really want to know. My pal Tiger reviewed the entire series on her blog also. In my opinion this series is such a rare example of a trilogy done right that I think it's better to just dive in and experience it cold turkey. 

Confession…..I'm a huge spoiler whore. I read the last page first most of the time. I didn't even want any spoilers for this one. I was completely gripped the entire time, flipping through the pages….stomach churning. It was exhilarating! I seriously haven't felt this way in so long about a series. I was getting excited looking through the book again while writing this review. I just wanted to stop and read the whole thing again.

So um yeah…..I like this series. A lot.

Go read it.

Like now.

Rating: Mind Games, Double Cross, Head Rush. 4 out 4 for them all! A+++

*The Disillusionists Trilogy qualifies for the Author's After Dark 2012 Reading Challenge hosted by Midnyte Reader

Buy the book!
Mind Games: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Powells |IndieBound | Signed copies from Uncle Hugo's
Double Cross: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Powells |IndieBound | Signed copies from Uncle Hugo’s|
Head Rush: Currently only available as e-book - Samhain (all formats) | Amazon Kindle |Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Barnes & Noble |Google ebooks | Diesel

Win a copy of both Mind Games and Double Cross!

Fill out the Rafflecopter below. (DO NOT leave your email in the comments)

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Ends Saturday 1/14 - winner announced Sunday 1/15!
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a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I've been putting off Head Rush. I'm afraid of disappointment, but I think I'll start it today after your review. Mind Games reminded me of a comic book in novel format.

  2. i dont like mice or rats ewwww they terrify me! once we attempted to rent a house that had them only we didnt know til we moved it! we were there two weeks i was freaking out..

    mel91284 at yahoo dot com

  3. Liking the sound of this series even if I did promise myself that I wouldn't start any more books that weren't a one-off. Justine really appeals to me as she sounds just that little bit different, as you say not the typical heroine of this genre.

  4. I have this series ordered from my library :) sounds like a good series

  5. No phobias to speak of that I know about LOL

  6. Thanks for the giveaway, I enjoyed reading the review.
    I don't have any full blown phobias, but I'm not awefully fond of spiders and some other crawly insects. I don't have the urge to go out kill them or hide from them, but I'd rather not have to come in close contact with them if not necessary.

  7. my dreams zombies and robots...and knives. Luckily there are no zombies around in real life, so snakes!

  8. No need to enter me into the contest, but popping in to say I'm glad you liked this series so much! I really enjoyed it, too.

  9. Spiders! I hate spiders. >_<
    Thank you for your review! This series sounds great! :D

  10. I would say I am a bit claustrophobic.

  11. Lol. I can be a spoiler whore when it comes to TV, but I'm generally pretty good when it comes to books. I've heard a lot of good things about this series, so I'm glad to hear you agree. Definitely need to pick up this series!

    As far as phobias go? Dirty showers. Ridiculous, I know, but I can't stand them! They just gross me out!

  12. I have been insanely curious about this series, solely based on your tweets!

    My only true semi-phobia is heights. I'm okay on a plane, but if I look over a high bridge or even walking up a flight of steps, major vertigo. Scary!

    Thanks so much!

  13. hhmm phobias, cockroaches! They can not harm me or anything but they are spawn of the devil!! I hate the sight of that creatures.

    P.S: You do not read the last page of your books??! I don't understand you people LOL I can't stand spoilers of any kind. But we are all different of course. :)

  14. I have had Mind Games for far to long, need to just try it, I love your enthusiasm.

    You read the last page :-0 nooooo, lol. I am shocked.

  15. I don't have any phobias. This is a rave review. Tops my list now,.

  16. I am so damn nervous to read Head Rush! The ending of Double Cross was HEART BREAKING.

  17. I am with you on love triangles, but for some reason it doesn't bother me with this series. I love it! I can't wait to read Head Rush!
    Glad I don't have any crippling phobias like is hard enough!

  18. I must read this series. I remember you telling me how you devoured Mind Games. Must buy...must buy!

  19. This really does seem fantastic, and after reading your review, I'm getting that guilty buying itch- when you know you don't need more books but you want them anyway!

    This sounds really great, and I'm ever so glad you feel in love with a trilogy and were completely gripped. And I love enthusiastic reviews- so this was lovely. I was feeling a bit stressed before reading this, but it's really cheered me up! Thanks.

  20. I just put this on my GR list because of you :) My phobia is spiders. I just hate them and I know I'm way bigger but they're just so creepy!

  21. I'm so looking forward to reading these thanks to your recommendation! My phobias change from time to time, but I'd say my most consistent is Enissophobia - fear of criticism. I just want everything to be easy, happy and I'm usually a pleaser. LOL P.S. - I am also usually a spoiler whore. If I have a lot emotionally invested in a series, I ALWAYS read the end to make sure I'll be able to handle it. ;)

  22. Right on! Those 'moral contradictions' had me in joyful knots. There were so many times where I wasn't sure if the 'good guys' were doing the right thing or if they were, to what /extent/ were they right and what's the tipping point between the two states? The whole series was flummoxing and engaging in the best sense.

  23. Thanks for the giveaway!

    I actually don't have any phobias.... that I currently know of! :)

  24. Moths...I can't stand moths. There was on next to my bed a few weeks ago and I had to wake up my sister so she could kill it.

    Thanks for such an awesome giveaway. I've been looking for a new good adult series to get into. This might be the one.

  25. Always open for new series to read!

  26. I will admit I am a bit of a germaphobe LOL Fortunately it is not too drastic, but it lurks :) Thank you for the fun fangirl ramblings andlovely giveaway opportunity!

  27. I so want to read this series!

    Phobias. Hmm. I am terrified of being buried alive. I don't know if that is a phobia or not.

    1. I'm not sure if that's a phobia but I used to have nightmare's about being buried alive!

  28. I don't think I have any phobias. I'm scared of sharks because they might eat me. I'm scared of riding motorcycles ever since a friend crashed his and broke every bone in his face. To me, those are completely rational and not debilitating.