I read The Ability by M.M. Vaughan last year and really enjoyed it. I love boarding school stories, mysteries, and fantasy. It was a perfect fit. I was really excited about the sequel Mindscape.
(This is a review of an ARC I received in exchange for a fair review.)
Everywhere that Christopher Lane turns, he sees the face of the boy he killed. There is no escape from the guilt, not even on his return to Myers Holt—the secret London academy where he and five others are being trained to use their mental powers, their Ability.
But now that the threat of Dulcia Genever has been dealt with, his friends are too busy working for the police, entering the minds of some of the country’s most dangerous criminals, to sympathize. Chris’s teachers are already concerned enough about him, especially when Chris starts to wonder if the boy may not be a figment of his imagination after all.
Meanwhile, alone in Darkwhisper Manor, Ernest Genever is enjoying watching Chris’s torment. Yes, he will keep his promise—Christopher Lane will die—but not until he has watched Chris lose his mind waiting for Ernest to appear. For, if nothing else, Dulcia Genever did teach her son one valuable lesson:
Revenge is a dish best served cold.
The book began promisingly, picking up where the first left off and focusing on Chris's psychological trauma following the events of the first book. I enjoyed how he didn't just bounce back and really struggled. The darkness of of PTSD was touched on enough that readers get a clear picture of what Christopher is going through without dwelling on it. I thought the scene with the new psychologist was ridiculous. I mean, who trained that guy? But the emotions Chris displays are real and paint a forceful picture. The first half of the book follows this and the story of Ernest, who is focused on revenge for his brother's death. As Chris begins to notice Ernest following him and butting into his life, the other members of Myers Holt begin to lose confidence in him, believing he was too damaged by what happened. Ernest exploits this situation beautifully.
This plot is interspersed with a few crimes the kids are helping the police solve. It was a little long in places and some of it seemed unnecessary, but I was again enjoying this fun twist on a typical fantasy novel with a boarding school. Then the end happened. The darkness tinging the edges of the plot was what I enjoyed about the first book, particularly the end. In this volume the end was way too tidy and happily ever after. And that turn around happened way too fast. Something else happens at the very end that was far worse for me though, that I can't fully explain because it's a major spoiler. This is rather frustrating. Let's just say one of the elements of Chris and the other kids' "powers" that I really liked was completely circumvented, and I was annoyed.
Readers who read the first book and liked it, will probably want to read this one as well. Not everyone is going to have the same reaction I did. Some are probably going to like the elements introduced at the end. It is worth giving it a chance if you liked the first book, and want to know what happens next.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Margaret McElderry Books, via NetGalley. Mindscape is available March 11.