[Review] The Psionics #1: I Am the Storm & #2: We Are the Catalyst by Tash McAdam | Spoiler-Free

Keep your head down. Don’t look anyone in the eye. Never even think about technology if one of those ghostly, grey cars is sliding silently down the road. They’ll see the thoughts inside you, if you let them. 

Sam’s a technopath, able to control electronic signals and manipulate technology with his mind. And so, ever since childhood, his life has been a carefully constructed web of lies, meant to keep his Talent hidden, his powers a secret. But the Institute wants those unusual powers, and will do anything to get a hold of him and turn him into one of their mindless slaves. 

Sam slips up once. Just once, but that’s enough. Now the Institute is after him in full force. Soldiers, telekinetics, and mind readers, all gunning just for him. 

Newly qualified soldier, Serena, doesn’t even know she’s chasing a person, all she knows is that she has to find whatever the Institute is after before they do. But tracking an unknown entity through an unfamiliar city, with inaccurate intelligence, unexpected storms, and Gav Belias, people’s hero of the Watch, on the prowl, will she even survive? Will she get to Sam before the Institute does? His special skills could provide the rebellion with an incredible advantage, but not if they can’t get out of the city, and over the huge wall that stands between them and freedom.

Genre(s): YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopian
The Psionics #1
NineStar Press
Release date:
December 17, 2018
Book links*:
Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound

Representation: lesbian MC, F/F relationship

Content warnings: (click to show)

graphic violence, secondary character death(s)

*These include affiliate links, which means that if you click through and buy a book I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. [Full disclaimers here.]

I received a review copy from the author. This does not affect my rating or opinions.

3.5 stars

To be honest, I had pretty high expectations since We Are the Catalyst just blew me away; there’s nothing with I Am the Storm, but I had trouble getting over how much more I happened to like Catalyst. (While Storm is officially the first in the series, it serves as more of a prequel; there’s a good bit of worldbuilding and it follows two characters who play significant roles in, but aren’t the center of, Catalyst.) 

That’s what powers will get you. Total idiocy and inability to think like a regular person.

Sam and Serena are solid protagonists: highly likable, relatably flawed teenagers. I had a bit of trouble really empathizing with either of them, which I think is actually just a sign of how much their characters are influenced by their environment and upbringing (aka really great character-building on the author’s part!). On the flip side, it’s even harder to avoid feeling sympathy and emotional investment.

Both are fighters, literally and metaphorically, but after all they go through I just want to wrap them in blankets and lock them in their rooms to keep them warm and safe. Alas, their world needs them. And they’re going to do great things.

Power. It all comes back to power — holding on to it and pushing down those who are at the bottom in order to keep themselves on top.

Since dystopian YA has been making a comeback (between the upcoming Hunger Games prequel and the general recent political climate), I think a lot of readers will enjoy I Am the Storm. It’s an action-packed read that definitely sets the tone for the rest of the series, with a well-explained and thoughtfully created world, memorable sympathetic characters, and lots of excitement.

Kidnapped and imprisoned, telepathic children are forced to gather military intelligence. Repeatedly stripped of their memories, they live in ignorance of the world above. You can’t tell anyone a secret if you don’t remember it. It’s not child abuse if no one knows you exist. 

Epsilon 17 appears to be just another mindless tool, empty of thought. But it’s a lie. The carefully constructed shell she hides behind protects her from their mind wipes. One day she will destroy the Institute. All she needs is a chance. 

That chance could be Toby, if he doesn’t die first. He should never have left the safety of the suburbs, but cornered in an alley by a gang, he’s out of options. Of course, if he realized he had superpowers, he probably wouldn’t have been so worried. Unfortunately, they come at the cost of a finger, and his old life. Injured and panicked, he would have stayed on the dirty ground until the Institute came for him, if it wasn’t for Serena. Name-taking, ass-kicking Serena. She can punch through walls and practically fly, surely she can keep him safe… 

But the Institute is sending Epsilon 17 to hunt him down, and she’s never lost a trail. 

Can ARC, the mysterious group Serena works for, protect him? He has to get his powers in order, fast. It’s time for Toby to stand up for himself. An underground war is raging, and Toby’s just been drafted.

Genre(s): YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopian
The Psionics #2
NineStar Press
Release date:
February 25, 2019
Book links*:
Goodreads | Book Depository | IndieBound

Representation: F/F relationship, bi/pan MC, implied-NB/questioning MC, Asian supporting character, Black supporting character, WLW secondary character, bi/pan supporting character

Content warnings: (click to show)

graphic violence, major character death(s), child abduction, memory wipe, PTSD, dissociation, suicidal ideation

*These include affiliate links, which means that if you click through and buy a book I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. [Full disclaimers here.]

I received a review copy from the author through #ReviewPit. This does not affect my rating or opinions.

4.5 stars

Mindreaders. Telepaths. Psychics. There are many names, but here at the Institute, they like the scientific terms. We are the Psionics, and they use us without shame.

One of my very first thoughts was that this story flows incredibly well and is immediately engaging: in just a few paragraphs, I was hooked by the action and deeply invested in the protagonists. I don’t generally enjoy action scenes, but the ones in this book were so well written. Seriously, I just couldn’t put the book down.

It’s disconcerting to find yourself rooting for multiple sides in a conflict, and it takes masterful writing to pull off — which this book definitely exhibits. The juxtaposition of soft wholesome human interactions with fancy tech and violent conflict kept me on my toes; it was the epitome of an emotional roller coaster, and if your mental state is right, it’s an incredible ride. (But if you’re a mood reader and/or sensitive to certain topics, please be aware and take care of your own mental state. Content warnings are listed above.)

I think this is what happiness is. Making your own decisions, feeling safe as you do whatever you want.

The plot is nuanced and the worldbuilding detailed, but at its heart this narrative felt refreshingly straightforward. This book really struck a chord with me, and I’m so so grateful to have had the chance to read it. It’s poignant and memorable. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

(This review was so hard to write because honestly, this just blew me away. As much as I would love to elaborate on what exactly I loved, that would really just be about fifty pages of keyboard smashing.)

Book Three of the Psionics series, They Are the Tide, picks up after the events of We Are the Catalyst and was released June 17, 2019.


18 thoughts on “[Review] The Psionics #1: I Am the Storm & #2: We Are the Catalyst by Tash McAdam | Spoiler-Free

  1. These books sound extremely interesting and I’ll be sure to add it to my TBR.
    Great characters are what make a book for me and going by what you said, I think I’m going to enjoy this book quite a bit!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I Am The Storm sounds like a nice solid start, and the next book really has me intrigued, and what can I say? I am a true schmuck for dystopia! [Collins new books already have me dinosaur screeching around the living room on a daily basis and they’re not even out yet] Great reviews, and I think We Are the Catalyst will blow me away, so, here’s to more books on my TBR

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes when you compare a book in a series to another one, you can’t help but feel like one is better than the other and let down by default. But I am glad that We Are the Catalyst was amazing and that you could love that one in particular so much ^.^

    Liked by 1 person

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