Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Omens by Kelley Armstrong - review

Cainsville #1
Kelley Armstrong
mix of supernatural and mystery
August 20, 2013 (pub date)
******  six out of six

cover -   If I knew a little more about superstitions, or omens, I get the feeling that I must might notice some portentous  signs pictured on the cover....but since I don't, all I can say is that the full moon, the quiet streets, and the cloud formations in the sky make for a subtly spooky cover.  Which is good.

As Kelley Armstrong fans know, she has written her last Women of the Otherworld novel, which has no doubt left some bereft, but never fear - she hasn't stopped writing, she's turned her attention elsewhere.  As we've seen with a few of the long running series floating around out there, sometimes it's good to end a series, and it's even better to end a series when your fans - especially the ones who have been fans from the beginning - STILL enjoy your work. Kelley Armstrong has written a very strong first of a series with Omens.

Whenever I'm given the chance to read a novel before publication, I feel fortunate.  When I end up loving the novel I'm always happy about that (of course).  I REALLY enjoyed Omens.  You can read the synopsis on Amazon, Goodreads, and Armstrong's website - but basically, a very rich young woman, Olivia (Liv) Taylor Jones is hit out of nowhere with the knowledge that she isn't who she thought she was.  Her story is told in the first person; she finds out in one moment that she's been adopted and that her birth parents are currently in prisons, serving life sentences for the murders of eight people - they're the notorious Larsons - the serial killer couple.  Her mom is suddenly cold, her fiance doesn't handle things quite right after this, and Liv ends up running off, with hardly any cash, trying to find a job and stay under the radar, away from the paparazzi.  Things don't go so well, and she ends up steered to a small town outside of Chicago where she thinks the inhabitants aren't aware of who she really is....turns out she's wrong about this.

The town she ends up in is Cainsville, and has its own quirks, with some very strange inhabitants.  During the novel, you're given a peek of the characters, with a short chapter told in their pov (third person) with just a tease of their motivations, or thoughts about Liv/Eden.  Throughout the story, even by the end, there's a few of the characters where I wasn't quite sure if they're the "good"guys or the "bad"guys, or even if there is a distinction.   What I enjoyed about Omens, is that not one character could be considered completely without fault.  Even the lead character found herself doing some things she wasn't quite comfortable with - and best of all, didn't angst about it for pages after, but she did acknowledge her discomfort and then deal with it quickly.  

After a series of events, she ends up working with Gabriel Walsh, a lawyer unashamedly money motivated.  She's completely aware of his motivations, and seems to find that almost comforting - the fact that he doesn't hide behind altruistic reasoning, but just puts it out there.  She ends up working part time in a diner, and helping Gabriel investigate some leads regarding her birth-mother's case, after meeting her mother in prison.

The town of Cainsville is almost a character in its own right - there are gargoyles all over, and seem to be very important to the town and its inhabitants.  The townies are an interesting mix of people - most of them are people who have lived there for generations, some moving away, then coming back  -  some never leaving.  One of them seems to be very old, indeed.  There is Gabriel's aunt, who works as a psychic- something she admits is part con and part for real. Liv's landlady - Grace is a rather grumpy woman who is most likely a mix of some fae and human.  A regular of the diner - seems to be a young man, but even the town elders defer to him;  In fact, the town elders also seem to be extremely powerful, especially for a town in the 21st century.

Omens is a blend of supernatural and mystery/suspense.  However, the supernatural elements begin very subtly - with Liv suddenly knowing superstitions, such as a black cat really being lucky.  The supernatural elements slowly gain importance, and even by the end of the book is still low key.  I'm looking forward to reading more of this series to see if this aspect is developed further.  I enjoyed the gargoyles, the odd feel of the town and the townies, the hints of their true selves.

If you're an Armstrong fan, I've pretty sure you're going to enjoy this - even though it isn't as strongly UF or fantasy as her other novels.  If you've never read a Kelley Armstrong book because you're not really into fantasy or Urban Fantasy, then I suggest you give it a try anyway, because there is a good strong mystery being investigated here, and an overall story arc that will probably involve more investigations with Gabriel and Liv teaming up together.  Afterall, they figure out a small part of birth-mom's mystery, but not all.

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