Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Note: I received a free copy of this novella from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All of the views in this review are my own. There are mild spoilers in this review, but for the most part I leave the big stuff a mystery. Additionally, if you haven’t read the first book in the series, go do that now!
Holden Payne has it all . . . or so he thinks. As heir to the founder of the Community—an organization that finds, protects, and manages psychics—he’s rich, powerful, and treated like royalty. But after a series of disappearances and murders rock the Community, he’s branded the fall guy for the scandal and saddled with a babysitter.
Sixtus Rossi is a broad-shouldered, tattooed lumbersexual with a man-bun and a steely gaze. He’s also an Invulnerable—supposedly impervious to both psychic abilities and Holden’s charms. It’s a claim Holden takes as a challenge. Especially if sleeping with Six may help him learn whether the Community had more to do with the disappearances than they claimed.
As Holden uncovers the truth, he also finds himself getting in deep with the man sent to watch him. His plan to seduce Six for information leads to a connection so intense that some of Six’s shields come crashing down. And with that comes a frightening realization: Holden has to either stand by the Community that has given him everything, or abandon his old life to protect the people he loves.
Let’s start this review off with how I didn’t expect to like Holden Payne as much as I did by the end of Oversight.
Back in Insight (Community #1) Holden is introduced as the owner of the nightclub Evolution, the setting for some of the book’s biggest scenes. He’s not a bad character at all, but it was hard to get a bead on him because none of the characters really knew him beyond “wealthy and spoiled son of Community’s founder”. I didn’t hate Holden, but then, I didn’t really care about him. But Oversight fleshes Holden out to the point where I not only found myself caring about the character’s survival, but about his happiness.
One of the first things that we find out in Oversight is that the relationship Holden has with his dad isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Of course Holden gets that things are less than stellar with his father Richard – the man is basically a cruel as hell ice cube of a man – but he doesn’t really get how bad things are or what his father is up to until it’s almost too late.
In the previous book, Holden appeared to be the posterchild for the Community. He talked up his father and the organization to Nate Black and appeared to be towing the party line 100%. In this book, things are way more complicated and I don’t think that Holden has a kind word to say about his father.
(Not that the man deserves anything other than a swift kick in the bits…)
I think that Holden’s journey towards being his own man – a journey that is helped along by the taciturn and mysterious Sixtus “Six” Rossi – is basically something that makes Oversight a winner for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have yet to meet a Santino Hassell book that I didn’t love to bits, but there’s something extra special about following along on Holden’s journey and witnessing his growth.
Oversight is different from Insight in that Hassell isn’t introducing readers to the world of psychics and sensitives that exists alongside our own. He’s returning to it. So we’re dropped right into the thick of things as Holden tries to come to terms to the truths his friends are dropping about the Community and what he suspects about his own father.
Now this is a spoiler but it’s nothing that someone coming off of Insight wouldn’t know: the Community under Richard Payne is basically akin to the horror stories we hear from survivors of cults or from people that have escaped Scientology. “Re-alignment” a process that serves to readjust the personalities of people who disrupt the Community’s day to day processes and to quell any deeper looks into how the organization really works.
As the founder’s son, Holden’s “re-alignment” is basically an intense grounding.
Other people aren’t that lucky.
Six is one of those unlucky people.
To explain Six and his importance would rely on me spoiling like 90% of the book because he’s so integral to the plot and to Holden’s path forward, so I’m going to be… vague. Six is one of the people who knows firsthand how bad things can get in the Community, especially up at the Farm where “re-alignment” and other shady things run rampant. He’s a mysterious figure and a presence from Holden’s past who is more than he seems at first.
Without Six, the novel would go so differently.
Hassell hit a home run not just with the Holden/Six relationship (which is gold and I love how their chemistry develops), and giving more screentime to characters like Elijah, but in deepening his world. In my review of Insight, one of the things that I talked about was how the novel had characters of color as significant recurring characters that called out the things that they saw going wrong in their world.
In Oversight, I think that Hassell does a great job at getting intersectional in his worldbuilding and in talking about the oppression that marginalized, vulnerable people in this world might face.
The idea that the Community preys on marginalized people and “at-risk” children/teens is not only brought up, but confirmed. As a reader, I don’t have to ask what life could be like for poor/Black/disabled psychics in the Community as it is now because it’s on the page. I don’t have to headcanon my existence into being because the author dropped the ball, because he didn’t. Elijah – who is a queer character of color who’s been through so much – is getting a book of his own. There are female characters of color in this world (and I’m pretty sure some of them are queer as well). I feel like I could exist in the world of The Community just from the worldbuilding Hassell did and that feels good.
I’m going to wrap this review up, but before I do, here are my feelings on Oversight in a nutshell:
Oversight pulls readers deeper into the world of the Community, unearthing buried secrets and some truly shady messes linked inextricably with the infrastructure of the organization. Holden shines as a main character and he grows on you within chapters. The relationship that he builds with Sixtus Rossi is amazing and as usual, Hassell provides readers with a relationship that has steamy scenes and intense emotional moments.
Seriously folks, if you are a fan of innovative urban fantasy and queer fiction with a darker bent to it, you need to be reading this series.