Diamond Eyes by AA Bell

Mira Chambers has an unusual gift for solving mysteries…

Blind, institutionalised and frustrated by her loss of independence, Mira has been driven to the brink of insanity by medications that make her life unbearable. When she astounds two medical scientists by ′seeing′ the impossible, they begin an exploration of Mira′s strange perspectives.

Together with Bennet Chiron, an enigmatic ex-con, Mira becomes entangled in a dangerous adventure of self-discovery that leads them to a killer - and exposed to a manipulative sociopath whose own unique talent is more than a match for Mira′s.

Layers of secrets are about to be peeled away... and no one will be safe from what is revealed.

A. A. Bell is an Australian author that I hadn't heard much of before, and I'm not quite sure why. Her non-fiction is some of the highest selling in the Australia, and her fantasy / sci-fi has been recognised with some rather prestigious awards. Diamond Eyes is the first book in her Mira Chambers trilogy, and it tells the story of a blind girl in a mental institution who can see visions of the past. This is a book that starts out as a medical mystery and develops into a murder mystery / thriller, and it was a lot of fun to read.

Mira Chambers is blind, or more accurately has been diagnosed with blindsight - a condition where all the extremities are still working, but the brain is not able to process the images being sent to it. A traumatic childhood and the visions caused by her blindsight lead to the institutionalisation of Mira, where, despite being blind, she is one of the most violent and conniving patients on site. When her new case worker Bennet Chiron discovers that she is not as crazy as the reports would lead him to believe, and that there may just be some truth to her visions, they both get caught up in a government conspiracy. Only by understanding Mira's special talent can they hope to get out of this in one piece.

This is a story that starts off slow and deliberate, introducing you to everything and everyone you need to know, before kicking into overdrive for a blistering climb to the finish. It made the story a bit hard for me to get into at first, and it took me a couple of sessions to really get going, but once the ground work was established and the real story began I found it harder and harder to put the book down. The early story is not bad at all, not by a long shot, and I found the exploration of a mental institution through the eyes of a blind patient to be absolutely fascinating - it was just not what I was expecting. What I really loved about this story was Bell's take on time and the ability to see echoes of the past. I wouldn't call it "hard sci-fi", but it is obvious that Bell did a lot of research making sure she got the basic science right before proposing her take on time. If I had one criticism it's that the book tries to be too smart at times, as if it has a big ego and likes to brag, but there aren't many scenes like this, and the complaint is quite minor compared with how good the rest of the book is.

The characters of Mira Chambers and Bennet Chiron, and even the supporting cast of Freddie Leopard, the defence scientists, and the mental institution staff, are some of the best I have read this year. Especially Mira. Bell provides such an authentic voice for Mira, and managed to build so much empathy for her. It is the job of Bennet to slowly peel away the layers and layers of defence that Mira has built up throughout her life, and as each layer falls away you get to see more and more of the real Mira, and you start to see just how much pain she has been put through. The relationship that develops between Mira and Ben is heart-warming, built on positivity, and just makes you feel good from start to finish as you see these two become closer and closer.

Diamond Eyes is a fantastic read, one that I think will appeal to a lot of sci-fi and fantasy readers. It is a book that has a bit of everything, and at times it tries a little too hard, but I have to applaud it for taking a risk and trying to push boundaries. This is a great start, and I have high expectations for the rest of the trilogy.

9/10 A fantastic read, one that will appeal to a lot of sci-fi and fantasy readers.

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