Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-13809-6
Fantasy Romance, 2004
A testament to the powers of the Jove editor, perhaps, or maybe Christine Feehan has finally woken up one morning, reread her old works, and realized, “Damn, I really need to start writing like an author instead of like just some untamed kid with ideas but not much else!” Whatever it is a testament of, Mind Game is a departure of sort, technique-wise, for this author. The cringe-inducing purple prose has been cut down to a commendable minimum, the story is actually exciting when it wants to be, and because I get caught up in the flow of the story, any plot holes in the story don’t intrude too much on my enjoyment. Unfortunately, the romance between Ghostwalker hero Nicolas Trevane and our pyrokinetic invisible flying heroine (don’t ask) Dahlia Le Blanc is strictly formula.
Yes, Nicolas must save Dahlia. I suspect that future Ghostwalker books will revolve around this “a Ghostwalker must save a psychic heroine” premise because Dahlia is the first of many psychic/paranormally-gifted heroines the Ghostwalkers have to locate and save. This doesn’t bode well for readers who are already bored with the author’s repetitive stories, does it?
Naturally, Dahlia, as a guinea pig at the hands of wicked scientific fiends, can’t control her powers, needs a man to make her whole, yadda yadda yadda. She is much younger than he is – in age as well as in mental capabilities. As usual, her powers are nothing more than an excuse for her being a virgin (can’t meet many people, you see), weak (oh, help her, she can’t control her powers), in trouble (mercenaries want her dead), and even sexual (ooh, when she makes love with him, fire literally happens). It’s quite insulting, if anyone wants to be insulted, because Dahlia’s entire personality is created so that she will be dependent on Nicolas to make her safe and de-virginized, in that order. Meanwhile, our hero is half-Lakota (all American Indians are psychics, you know) and half-Japanese – don’t ask me why he’s named the way he is given his ancestry – and he’s trained in martial arts to supplement his telepathic skills.
Of course, the whole telepathic angle is just an excuse for plenty of italicized lusting. Readers familiar with the author’s books will encounter few surprises here.
You want plot holes? Well, the scientific explanation behind Dahlia’s powers is quite difficult to swallow, but that’s probably just me. The characters aren’t quite consistent, from our virgin heroine acting like she’s been around the block very often during her first love scene to some plot twists that are triggered by people acting out of character. Readers ought to be careful when Dahlia decides to take action – that heroine is actually more annoying than capable.
The bright side is that the writing in Mind Game is noticeably cleaner and less clumsy than before. The pacing is good, there is a nicely-done balance between action scenes and quiet scenes, and there are some good ideas in here, although these ideas may be a bit too familiar to those found in cheesy mutant superhero TV shows (Mutant X comes to mind).
It’s hard for me to give this book a definite thumbs-up or thumbs-down because this book is the author at her best, technically, but story-wise, she’s stuck in the same old rut of alpha heroes and fragile heroines. Readers who are still with the author in her increasingly tired formula may still enjoy Mind Game but everyone else may have a better time renting similar stuff from the nearest video store.