Saturday, November 26, 2011

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey - review

Santa Olivia

fantasy/dystopian/SciFi/futuristic? actually this book fits in all of these categories...while looking around (a little, not a lot) I didn't see what it was considered...guess I could look on the spine of the book...(I looked, it doesn't have a genre listed) Whatever it is, it's a damned fine book. :)


cover- this cover is straight up sexy. I'm not sure why I think so, but I wish I were this young again, with that type of figure (I never appreciated by body's figure 'til it changed), standing there with a sexy long coat blowing in the wind....I don't want the rest of this character's life though. Nope, it's too hard. But the cover....Bellissimo - Anyway, nostalgia and wishful thinking aside, the cover matches a particular scene of the novel...

When I first heard about this Santa Olivia, it first came out in 2009, I was kind of interested in it. Interested in a casual sort of way. For some reason I had the impression that it was a teen book, written with teens in mind; it may have been, it's definitely about young people and their young yet mature lives. I thought about buying it, but I have read one of her other series, and while I enjoyed the other book, I didn't enjoy it enough to continue reading the series. So I kind of forgot about Santa Olivia, knowing that yes, Jacqueline Carey is a pretty good writer, but I wasn't ready to actively search out this new (at the time) novel.

The other day, while cruising the shelves at my newest bookstore that I hate to shop at, (yet it's the only one available to me when I'm able to go bookshopping) I saw this book titled Saints Astray. The blurb sounded very interesting....and a bit familiar...I realized that this was a sequel to Santa Olivia. I almost bought it anyway, but then I though I should read the first one first. So I looked around and there it was - not in the teen section, but in the regular SciFi/Fantasy section. I picked it up and bought it. I took it home, finished a couple books I was reading then picked it up....

About 18 hours later, I was finished with it. Pretty much read it all night long. Very hard to put aside, kept wanting to read it until I was finished.

The characters...they are amazing. The plot was a bit different than your average plot, but interesting. There's this huge epidemic, and in order to stop the spread of disease, the government has erected a wall between countries, and in one particular area the wall has two sides - both enclosing a town - the town of Santa Olivia. The residents at the time were given the option of evacuating....some of them. Some of them, the ones who didn't have anywhere to go, or the money to leave with stayed...and were forgotten by the rest of humanity. Forgotten by everyone except the soldiers on duty guarding the border against this ghostlike revolutionary...

That's the back story and continuing thread of plot. The main plot involves a young girl born to a waitress with an older son (at the time he's five or six) The girl's father has special abilities, and the young girl inherits some of his strengths and lack of fear. As she grows up, she and her brother lose their mother, and she ends up living in the formerly catholic type of orphanage, which is run by a nun who's not really a nun, and a priest who is not really a priest, along with a former student. These characters are a trip. If you're easily offended by characters who are not your perfect religious figures, then these characters are going to bother you. I enjoyed them - they were keeping up the good work that they could, feeding the poor, looking out for orphans and the people, doing the best that they could with what they had, and with the betrayed faith that many of the town were dealing with. If you aren't easily offended, then you'll get an amazing kick out of these religious figures. Their language and behaviour - great.

Loup - the girl (pronounced Lou) has grown up having to hid what she is, even though she really doesn't know what she is. Half of her childhood is with her older brother and her mom, the second half of her childhood is spent with her fellow orphans at the orphanage with the not quite nun, and the priest who isn't really a priest. The residents of Santa Olivia live under the eyes and thumb of the soldiers, as an occupied town that's been forgotten by the rest of the country. Something is off with this, and some people quietly question this existence. Her brother becomes interest in boxing and life goes one until tragedy strikes. Mean while, Loup and her friends come up with harebrained idea to wreak some vengeance on a few of the soldiers that have hurt one of them...and a hero is born. Of course things don't always go as planned.

Santa Olivia has some comic book hero flavor mixed in with revolutionary tales. It's a mix of coming of age, dystopian background, military and SciFi/Fantasy. I enjoyed the blend of writing styles, it ended up to be quite a novel. In a twist, the main character grows up, trying to find a true love with one of the boys that she's grown up with, and her one and only turns out to be a female; so she has that added twist to her coming of age. Loup's love life isn't a smooth road either - neither her nor her girl were planning for a same sex relationship, and they have their issues to work through. I thought it was handled nicely - the build up, the giving in, the surprises, heartache and then the ending....Was is a happy ever after? you'll have to read it to find out, if you haven't already read it. Does Loup and her girl end up together? Do they finally get out of town? does only one make it out or do they both manage? Do they stay together?

This novel had a lot going for it. Believable variety of dialog and speech patterns, love and betrayal, broken hearts, new love, SciFi, occupation by military forces, the growth of not only children, but young adults, iinprisonment, etc. After reading Santa Olivia, I am looking forward to getting a copy of the sequel - Saints Astray.

Jacqueline Carey is known for her Kushiel's Dart series, the high fantasy series that spans not only one character's life, but also her offspring. I know this - even though I've only read the first book of that series. She has also written another series, beginning with Banewreaker titled The Sundering. I haven't read those at this time.


  1. wow, sounds good... :) I've read some of the Kushiel's Dart series and it was all right. She's a good writer I just couldn't quite get into all of it. I read several though.

  2. LOL - Julie, I couldn't get into the Kushiel series either. The writing is good, Carey obviously pays attention to detail and does her research. She's good at writing a classic style of novel complete with intricate plots, intrigue and betrayals and all sorts of machinations = handling multiple players with ease. Even her characters are edgy and different - and yet after reading the first book, I wasn't interested in buying and reading the others. However with Santa Olivia, I want to go right now to the bookstore to buy the sequel. Only thing holding me back is 1 - it's probably closed right now, and 2 - I know Ilona Andrews' third Edge book is coming out, so I'm waiting for the bookstore run until Tuesday-maybe-Wednesday.