Omens (A Cainsville Novel)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Published By: Dutton Books
Reviewed by Justine Manzano
When Kelley Armstrong announced that she was closing out her Otherworld series to pursue a new series, I wasnít happy. I had fallen in love with that series and her writing through it. She had become my favorite writer and introduced me to the genres of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, genres that now feature prominently in my own writing. I went through the stages of grief at losing that series (naturally, because Iím insane), but eventually I reached acceptance. I began looking forward to the new series. Hell, I became eager for it. That new series was Cainsville and its first installment, Omens, was released late this August.
Omens follows Olivia Taylor-Jones, a woman of privilege whose life takes a surprising turn when she discovers sheís adopted. Suddenly, her world is swarmed with reporters, her mother is distant, and her would-be senator fiancť is urging her to take some time away from the public eye until it all blows over. Being adopted isnít that big a deal though, right? Well, it is if you are the long lost daughter of Pamela and Todd Larsen, notorious serial killers who were sentenced to life in prison over twenty years ago.
Besieged by the supposed sins of parents she never knew she had, Olivia is forced to lie low from her high profile life. She temporarily moves to the tiny town of Cainsville where everybody knows your name - and your secrets. Driven to investigate the murders her biological parents may have committed, she enlists the assistance of her motherís former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, a man whose reputation for lacking morals precedes him. As they work together, and sometimes, against each other to uncover some hidden truths behind the murders, Olivia attempts to lead a normal life in Cainsville - but Cainsville quickly reveals itself to be pretty far from normal. And she fits right in with the place, suddenly discovering that she has abilities that could only be viewed as normal in a place as abnormal as her new home. As her investigation and understanding of the town progresses, Olivia discovers that the biggest questions in her life have little to do with murder or the supernatural, and much more to do with who she can trust.
This book left me with me exactly how any good series installment should - satisfied with the ending and still yearning for more. Readers who are more accustomed to Armstrongís werewolves, spellcasters and necromancers will barely miss them with the new, intriguing mythology that is slowly revealed throughout the course of this novel and promises to be further revealed through the rest of the series. The town of Cainsville is filled to the brim with a varied and compelling cast of characters that I am eager to learn more about. Gabriel is a refreshing take on both the soulless lawyer and the romantic hero tropes, falling somewhere between - much closer to the soulless lawyer side than one would expect. As a person who dispassionately believes that everyone is a pawn, Gabriel is an inspired foil to the immovable Olivia, and the slow development of even a friendship between them is a joy to read, despite the fact that you will question your opinion of him right up to the closing sequence of the novel.
Olivia is an appealing heroine, a perceived spoiled rich girl who has never really fit into that mold, but has trouble breaking out of it as well. She is stubborn, believably strong, believably weak and believably terrified at the appropriate moments. The story is largely told from her point of view, but benefits from several third party jaunts with others around the town, including Gabriel who made me laugh out loud on one occasion.
The most surprising part of reading the book, for me, was the murder mystery. As invested as I was in the supernatural roots of the strange goings on in Cainsville, I found myself doubly interested in the mystery, which almost never happens with me. Armstrong predictably creates a strong mythology, strong mystery, strong characters writing and storytelling. At one point, someone tells Olivia that Cainsville canít protect her - Iím chomping at the bit to explore the validity of that statement.