[Book Review] Insight by Santino Hassell

Insight Cover

Title: Insight (The Community #1)
Santino Hassell (Twitter)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Genre/Category: Urban Fantasy, Psychics, Queer Romance/Erotica, Paranormal Romance, Suspense/Mystery
Release Date: March 13, 2017

Publisher: Riptide Publishing


Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All of the views in review are my own and there are mild spoilers.

Santino Hassell’s Insight is an incredible look at a community of marginalized people — some psychics, some people of color, all incredibly fascinating — who live in NYC on an Earth that seems just like ours. It’s also got a murder-mystery and conspiracy slant to it while also serving up some complicated psychic love and tension so thick that you could cut it with a spoon.

Straight up, I love this book.

I’m a new Santino Hassell fan but a huge one. His Five Boroughs series has been consistently steamy, captivating, and incredibly realistic while the series he does with Megan Erickson (the Cyberlove series)  is all of those things on top of some seriously awesome nods to gaming culture. I love his writing and the way that his characters seem to leap off the pages as you’re reading them.

So, with that being said, let’s get cracking on Insight:

Nate Black, our main character, is an outcast in a family of psychics. If you’re stuck, picture Anne Rice’s Mayfair clan but without the red hair and financial success. The Black family of psychics hail from Texas and basically keep to themselves on a compound. They’re known for being weirdos and for their psychic powers, but for the most part, Nate doesn’t show any sign of having any serious clout when it comes to powers.

His twin brother Theo on the other hand?

Kind of overpowered.

Also… kind of a dick.

At least, he was until he turns up dead in New York five years after he’d last had contact with Nate. The official cause is suicide, but things are fishy from the start especially as Nate starts getting these visions starring his brother from the end of chapter two. They aren’t happy visions and they make Nate question everything that he doesn’t know about his estranged twin.

Nate’s desire to find out what really happened to his brother is the driving point for the plot and it’s what gets him on the road with the handsome and caring Trent.

Trent is such a solid character. Gosh! While Nate is a bit of an outsider to The Community because that’s not how the Black family works, as a “void” (a person without psychic powers akin to a Muggle), Trent is straight up an outsider. He’s experiencing a world that he’s had no access to outside of the days he spent with Nate and his empathy. I love that we get to sort of feel the world through him because his is the closest experience to that of the reader and that’s pretty neat.

The first couple chapters of Insight are basically a roadtrip type scenario. It’s such a great idea because you get to dig deeper into Nate’s character and watch the sexual tension between him and Trent build with every chapter that passes. It also helps the reader kind of tap into Nate’s head a bit because it serves a similar purpose to a montage in a film: all of these glimpses of what Nate and Trent are like together and how Nate’s powers work are really amazing. (Also, they bond over Japanese rock music and look, I

For me though, I think the best part of the book is Nate’s introduction to The Community via the nightclub Evolution.

I’m so not going to drop any major spoilers, but Evolution is something out of this world. It’s like an iceberg. At surface level, it looks like this absolutely chill place to hang out and be a babely queer psychic, but underwater… It’s not so pretty or accessible. There’s a ton of darkness centered around the club and even more suspicious secrets on The Community itself. And Insight only reveals some of those series.

(Side note: One thing that I literally screamed over that isn’t necessarily a spoiler is that Hassell has several characters of color in this book and one of the female characters of color basically calls out the whiteness of Evolution, which serves as a major setting for the story as well as where a majority of the action takes place. As a queer Black person who’s been to Pride… My god. It was so refreshing to read her comments.)

In Insight, Santino Hassell basically pulls together one big and brilliant genre smush.

This is an actually diverse Urban Fantasy story (almost all of the characters we see are queer in some way and then Hassell has several characters of color that are absolutely integral to the story) that expertly wields many tricks and tropes of the mystery genre.

Insight is unpredictable and interesting.

I was reading the book in the English department (as I basically live there when school’s in session) and just making all of the inarticulate noises about the plot and the characters and their experiences. I’ve already recommended this book to three people in my department and I’m going to keep talking it up because I adore this book.

Insight, for me, is a fresh approach to the Urban Fantasy genre that had me on my toes from the first chapter and whose plotlines and characters were immediately interesting.

I was invested from page one and I think you all will be too!

Content Note: The topic of consent and psychic powers comes into play in this book a bunch of times. No one is assaulted onscreen (in my opinion), but Theo is (falsely?) accused of using his powers to control people, Nate worries that he could be manipulative with his powers, and then the character Holden tries to put the psychic whammy on Nate in a way that might be triggering to some readers. They’re relatively minor scenes, but it’s better to be forewarned! Happy reading, folks!