Review: Deja Who by MaryJanice Davidson

Posted August 22, 2016 by Lucy D in Urban Fantasy / 1 Comment

Review:  Deja Who by MaryJanice DavidsonDeja Who (Insighter #1) by MaryJanice Davidson
Series: Insighter #1
Published by Berkley on September 6th 2016
Genres: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
amazon b-n

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.


[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]This was a very interesting premise for a new series.  The only issue I had was in the writing style.  While quirkiness in a first person novel can be funny, when everyone is doing it, it becomes tiresome.[/box]

Everyone has fears and doubts, but maybe there is a real reason for them. Maybe you died from a fall in your past life and now you are afraid of heights? Maybe 100 years ago your mother kept you locked in a dark closet when you were naughty, and now you are claustrophobic? Everyone has past lives and what we learned, or didn’t learn in those past lives, might just be the reason you are messing up in this one.

In order to find out what is causing your problem, you might need to see an Insighter. They will be able to see all of your lives, the good and the bad, be able to help you figure out just why you do the things you do.

Do they really help or is it just an excuse? My husband cheated on me in my past life, so it’s okay if I cheat on my husband in this life. I was a serial killer in my past life, so it’s okay that I want to do it again. I can’t help myself. It’s who I am.

Leah Nazir is the best insighter in the business, and can see who you are and more importantly, who you were before. It is her job to counsel you through the problems of your life which are cause by your past; your distant past.

While Leah might be the best insighter, the one person she hasn’t been able to help is herself. Leah knows that she has been murdered in each of her prior lives and while the methods and perpetrators have all been different, she knows that she has never lived so long in any of her prior lives so mostly she is just waiting, waiting for her murder to strike again in this life.

This is a very interesting premise for a story. Obviously you have the reincarnation aspect, and the moral dilemma of whether or not who you were controls who you are now. While some characters will lead a life almost repentant of their prior lives (a criminal in the past might now become a cop), there seem to be more people who choose to commit the same wrongs life after life. Is going to an insighter just an excuse to continue your errors or do they do more and help steer someone away from old habits?

The one unsolved debate in the series is people like Archer. When Leah looks at Archer, she can’t see his prior lives. Insighters want to look at people like this as having some type of defect which blocks the insighting. The more desired thought is that these people are reborn with a clean slate. They finally got something right in their prior life so this time around, they aren’t burdened with their past mistakes. It could also explain why Archer is like a 4-year-old hyped up on sugar after a birthday party. He is as adorable as a Golden Retriever puppy, but it is hard to take him seriously.

Although it is a great premise, the problems that I had include the fact that there were too many references to famous people from a prior life, such as Leah counseling someone who was a well-known mass-murderer from a prior life. The author explained a bit of where she got her information for these past lives in her notes before the books begins. The joke over reincarnation is always how come everyone is Cleopatra in a prior life? In fact, one of the characters in the story addresses this when her prior life she was just a nobody who lived a boring but happy life and died an old man.  Nothing noteworthy.  If you are doing your own world building, you can certainly make up prior big headline characters, or just make up unsolved serial killer murders. Even Leah in a past life was one of Jack the Ripper’s victims.  When everyone who crosses Leah’s path has a notable past, it rings false and takes you out of the story.

I have enjoyed listening to MaryJanice Davidson’s other Urban Fantasy series, Undead, featuring Betsy Taylor, Queen of the Vampires.   This series is written in first person POV and having little side conversations with herself is part of Betsy’s shallow, flighty charm.

In Insighter, our point of view flips between Leah Nazir and Archer Drake.  The flighty aside conversations work well for the character of Archer who seems to have had dozens of part-time jobs and seems to fall instantly in love with Insighter, Leah Nazir, who most people detest as a cold-hearted bitch.  It gives Archer an unmedicated ADD quality. The problem is that Leah is a bit cold and clinical so her aside conversations don’t ring with fun, and the fact that both of the characters are constantly doing it is very distracting.

Archer is one of the few people who likes Leah. That is including the reader of the story on the list. Leah is very cold and clinical and that is not just a facade she shows others. First, her mother, a B-list actress, used Leah as an entertainment crutch since she was born, making her hock all types of products, and eventually making her act in shows and movies. All so she could keep her own B-list self in the limelight.  When Leah was old enough to say enough, she had to sue her mother for emancipation and the money she had earned, neither of which she received. Leah is already jaded by her past (both this one and the prior ones) by the time she trained and honed her natural gift as an insighter. Now all she does is listen to people use their past errors as an excuse why they still do wrong.  She hates people and has one friend who is a homeless lady who lives in the park.  By the end of the story you will come to accept Leah (don’t know that you will like her) and most of that has to do with Archer and his feelings for her, and her gradual acceptance of him in her life.

This series has potential in the world building but there are some things that I think need to be cleaned up. Hopefully we will see a more humanized and less cold Leah in the next story. I would be willing to read Book 2 to see where the author takes this premise in the next story.

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One response to “Review: Deja Who by MaryJanice Davidson

  1. Anne

    MJD is an author I had given up on. I used to find her books amusing, but they jumped the shark for me a while ago and simply became annoying. If I see this on the shelf at the library I might give it a try because it does sound different, but it would have to engage me fast or be a DNF.