The Hyponist is a genre-bending thriller by established author M. J. Rose. Although it’s third in The Reincarnationist series, The Hypnotist works perfectly as a standalone despite some recurring characters. FBI special agent Lucian Glass is still in pursuit of Malachai Samuels, a man criminally committed to acquiring a list of ancient Memory Tools that reputedly give a person the power to learn of his or her past lives. A list of those tools could be hidden in a statue of Hypnos, currently held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and undergoing a dangerous, international dispute of ownership. But more than just a tale of high stakes art theft, The Hypnotist is also about Lucian’s own emotional journey. It turns out that what’s happening in the present day may have all too much to do with what’s happened in the past.
Tightly plotted and exciting
You’ll find no fluff in The Hypnotist. Rose switches between different characters and centuries masterfully, and her writing is lean and straight to the point. At first the changing cast of characters confused me, but soon I was swept up into the many energetic, intricately connected storylines. Reincarnation provides a very handy tool for exploring vastly different settings and characters all in one book – you’ll see a little of everything in here.
Rose’s knowledge of fine art was also a pleasure to encounter. The politics behind conflicting claims of ownership was fascinating, and though I’m no expert, Rose at least gave the appearance of being authoritative in her explanations. Detailed, real locations like the Metropolitan Museum of Art gave the less plausible scenes some realism, and I had as much fun learning about art and its conservation as I did following the twists and turns of the plot.
One weak character
At the centre of The Hypnotist is an uneasy romance between Lucian and Emeline. Some backstory: when Lucian was a young man, he was badly injured and his girlfriend at the time, Solange, was murdered in an art theft that wouldn’t have happened if Lucian had only arrived on time for their dinner date. Ever since, Lucian’s memory of Solange has filled him with guilt and prevented him from finding a real, adult relationship.
Enter Solange’s cousin, Emeline.
Does Emeline possess Solange’s soul, reincarnated? Similarities between the women seem to exceed mere coincidence, but guilt-ridden Lucian doesn’t want to believe he has a second chance to atone for his past. Romantic tension predictably abounds between Lucian and Emeline – but somewhere in the is-this-reincarnation-or-not mystery, Emeline loses any sense of individuality or even personality. She doesn’t act like a reincarnation of Solange’s soul (if, in fact, that’s what she is). Instead, Emeline is more like Lucian’s idealized, teenage memory of Solange: perfect, hazy, insubstantial.
The other characters, happily, are much more engaging and unique.
Not quite fantasy
Many people believe in reincarnation, and so I hesitate to call reincarnation the unreal element that makes this novel ‘fantasy,’ but apart from reincarnation, there really isn’t anything fantastic – in the magical sense – about this book. The Hypnotist and its characters treat reincarnation in such a scientific, matter-of-fact way that the novel still doesn’t feel like a fantasy even if you do think that reincarnation is supernatural, magical and unrealistic. The Hypnotist is definitely speculative fiction, but that’s about as close to fantasy as this book gets.
Why should you read this book?
The Hypnotist is a great book: exciting; full of plausible, complex characters (Emeline is the only exception); and a lot of excellent details to make the plot feel believable. But to call The Hypnotist a fantasy would be unfair and inaccurate. I’d call this a modern-day, romantic thriller with a “what if” hook: what if reincarnation played a significant role in individuals’ lives? It’s a good book, but a departure from RD’s standard fare. Just keep that in mind if you buy it.
Caleigh received a review copy courtesy of Mira Books.