Title: Insight (The Community: Book One)
Author: Santino Hassell
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 331 Pages
Category: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Suspense/Thriller
At a Glance: This is an incredible start to what I hope will be some of the best paranormal work this genre has seen in quite some time. I highly recommend it to you.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate.
Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets—something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.
Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart.
Review: When an author sets up a paranormal community for a new series of stories, I am eager to check out what they have done to set their novel apart from the pack. Sadly, in this particular genre, so often the same storylines are toted out and reused, but this is so not the case with author Santino Hassell and his newest release, Insight, book one in The Community series. While you and I may have read about psychics before, I would venture to say that the spin this author puts on his paranormal cast of characters will leave you much like it did me–wanting so much more!
First, before I begin my review, a word of caution. Don’t be daunted by the immediate glut of names in this first novel—as the author remarks through one of the main characters, Nate, he needs time as well to “digest the influx of information”. Just know that in a lesser author’s hands, the immediate lineup of key players would have been a bit overwhelming. But, by giving Nate a person to confide in who was, for the most part, an outsider to all the intrigue and drama, we get a rehash of who is who fairly quickly, and it all falls into place. So, let me unpack the basic storyline before delving into why this novel was so outstanding.
Nate is a psychic; he can hear and feel the thoughts of others, so much so that he can barely tolerate being around other people and rarely feels comfortable being touched or touching anyone. Essentially he is continually bombarded by their feelings, and he has great difficulty blocking them out. He attempts to wall off the feelings of others but has very little success. In the scheme of things, he is fairly weak when it comes to being psychically gifted, unlike his mother and his twin brother, Theo, were. Theo and Nate have been estranged for quite some time. Theo had left town to travel to New York City where, for some mysterious reason, he commits suicide by drowning in the river. Nate has been sent a vision—the last moments of Theo’s life—and he is horrified to learn that someone forced him to remain underwater until he died.
After learning some disturbing news about his Uncle Dade at Theo’s funeral, Nate defies his aunt and hitchhikes his way to New York. It’s on the journey there that he meets Trent—the first man to ever be able to be close to Nate and transmit a calming and soothing vibe. When an attraction lights up between them, Nate is reluctant to pursue it, fearing it’s his own desire for closeness that is inadvertently “pushing” Trent into having feelings for him. You see, Trent has admitted to Nate on their journey to New York that while he has had occasional thoughts about guys, he has never really followed through with them.
Once the two end up in New York, Trent has Nate promise to stay in touch, and Nate reluctantly agrees. Now begins the real roller coaster ride this novel turns out to be. Nate finds the club where Theo and his band were performing, only to discover that it is a hive for other gifted psychics. Stunned to discover there are so many others like himself, Nate is drawn into the “community” that seems at best shady and at worst, deadly to some who try to leave it. As more and more people who knew Theo start turning up dead, Nate realizes he can trust no one, and relies heavily on Trent. But the real question is, has his association with Nate made Trent a potential target for the killer who is on the loose and will stop at nothing to keep Nate from finding out who killed his twin brother.
Despite my poor attempt at a synopsis, this story was nothing but a thrilling mystery from beginning to end. Due to Mr. Hassell’s keen ability to write fully realized characters that burrow straight into your mind and heart, you are swept up into Nate’s story immediately. You can feel the confusion and fear that Nate experiences almost every moment he is in contact with various members of the community. In real contrast, you also experience the incredible calming aura Trent gives off and the sweet kindness with which he treats Nate. Their slow-growing relationship is truly magical in many ways, and you never for one moment doubt the veracity of Trent’s feelings for Nate, unlike Nate himself who really grapples with the idea that Trent will one day wake up and leave Nate like so many others have before.
However, the real standout in this story is the secondary cast of characters who are unique, slightly creepy and intense beyond belief. The author uses every moment on the page to set up an entire group of fascinating people who all have some stake in what happened to Theo. Their varying psychic abilities create an entire new scope of paranormal beings who are as vulnerable as they are gifted. You watch this story unfold with your heart in your throat, waiting for the next weirdly wonderful creation to grace the page, and each time the author introduces someone new, you come away thirsty for their backstory. And, through it all we have the budding relationship between Nate and Trent to anchor us to some sort of normalcy in an admittedly fantastical world.
Insight is the first in the newly promised trilogy offered up by the gifted author Santino Hassell. It is an incredible start to what I hope will be some of the best paranormal work this genre has seen in quite some time. I highly recommend it to you.
You can buy Insight here: