Early Book Review: Prisoner of the Mind by Susan Staneslow Olsen

I am very fortunate to know a number of authors, which thus far I have avoided reviewing for because I did not want anyone to think positive reviews were biased, or if I did not like a book I was worried about hurt feelings or other complications. I am glad that I was asked by one such author, a coworker, to review and I agreed. Since we have fairly similar taste and fandoms I thought I would give it a go. Now I am both glad I did and disappointed that I did not read her work earlier. Finding another series to read is a double edged sword.

Prisoner of the Mind by Susan Staneslow Olsen currently scheduled for release in July 2016 and is the first book in a series. Rumors about the Kerasi and their violent society abound. Frustrated parents warned their children to stay in bed or a Kerasi might get them. They played marbles with real eyes, ate live toads the way decent people ate peanuts, and executed people just for walking down the street. The worst things Kerasi did didn’t kill you, but you wished they did. Aila Perrin knew that for a fact. A Union operative had been caught on Kerasím. The Kerasi returned him without incident. His mind had been tampered with, erased, until he didn’t have the sense to feed himself. When thirteen year old Aila finds herself abducted by the Kerasi, she has every right to be terrified for her life. But even bad things aren’t always what they seem, and as Aila is drawn deeper and deeper into the Kerasi’s plot, she can’t help but wonder who the worst offenders are; the patriots fighting to free their own people, or her own precious Union that wants to keep them down. Can Aila forgive her captors and save a race of people without sacrificing her own?

Prisoner of the Mind is the first in a series, so there is some serious world and character building.  For some reason the world building reminded me a bit of Jim Butcher's style, even though the world and plot are nothing like his works. Aila is an outspoken, intelligent girl that takes her privilege and independence a bit for granted. The Kerasi culture is one that depend heavily on a caste system, and women are typically thought little of. When Aila is kidnapped the two worlds collide and the reader gets to see both sides of the coin, the pros and cons of both the Union and Kerasi way of life. I liked that we get in the heads of several people, giving us a good glimpse of the big picture.  The cultures and personalities were very well described, but at no time was it overwhelming of boring. Aila grows up quite a bit in the story, as one tends to when held hostage, but she is not the only character that grows and changes. I think the connection she makes with those she comes in contact with, some of which were technically her enemies, and her understanding of the larger picture even though she is fairly young was somehow both realistic and hopeful. In fact, I think the state of the societies in the book show a realistic pairing of the fear and hope that seems inherent in humanity and politics. While there is a huge, important social statement here, the story is not heavy handed or preachy (which often happens) instead it is a fantastic story that just happens to say something huge to readers that are willing to listen.

Prisoner of the Mind had me think about the character and world long after I finish the book. I actually had dreams about the characters and had trouble letting go of them enough to get into my next read. I highly recommend the book, and cannot wait to see where the story goes from here. It is an all around great read that is both entertaining and thought provoking. 
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