Thursday, September 19, 2013
Review: Omens (Cainesville #1) by Kelley Armstrong
#1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong begins her new series with Omens, featuring a compelling new heroine thrust into a decades-old murder case and the dark mysteries surrounding her strange new home.
Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.
But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.
Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.
Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her. ~ Goodreads
Source: Finished copy provided by Dutton Adult books for my honest review
I have been a long time fan of Armstrong's writing. Most readers know her from the, just concluded, Women of the Otherworld series and her YA Darkest Powers/Rising trilogies. My personal favorite is the non-paranormal Nadia Stafford trilogy. I'm going to get back to that series later on in my review.
Omens is not so much paranormal as mystery with a touch of paranormal elements. I didn't have a problem with that but it might be jarring for hardcore fans of the Otherworld series that are missing Elena and all her supernatural friends.
This is a fascinating start to a series and the author does not just hand you the story with one big info-dump. Omens unravels slowly - sometimes too slowly - leaving you with more questions than answers.
Olivia starts out as a somewhat pampered young woman from a prestigious family with a high profile boyfriend. Her life seems perfect until her world is turned upside down by the revelation that she was adopted and her real parents are notorious serial killers. When the news goes public people she thought she could count on abandon her and she has to unravel the secrets of her past on her own and without the money that has afforded her such an easy life.
I have mixed feelings about Olivia, and the story in general concerning her. Even though she's wealthy, she's not a brat. Quite the opposite. She cares for others and is extremely intelligent and loyal. I really admired her. When she finds out the truth about her biological parents, it shakes her to the core but she pulls herself up and strikes out on her own to learn the truth about her parents and childhood. Her inner monologue often leans towards whiny and repetitive in the first half. She makes a few very dumb mistakes, yet still considers herself self reliant. She's a little cocky at times but she's learning though so I was able to cut her some slack.
From the earlier publicity surrounding this title, I thought this was going to be more about Olivia grappling with what it was like to be the child of serial killers. Of thinking you're one kind of person because of how you were raised - then wondering if your genetic makeup could have more of an influence on you as a person. Nature vs nurture. I adore those kinds explorations. I was also very on board with the uber creepy town of Cainesville!
Unfortunately, both of those elements, although touched on, aren't the focus of this story. This is almost straight up mystery and that's just not a genre I enjoy much. I feel that Omens tries to be all things and as a result felt scattered, especially with the multiple POV’s (although it’s mainly form Olivia’s). I do think it's all groundwork begin laid down and will all come together and be something amazing.
I really think this is a series you will need to be patient and stick with for the long haul. It's quite complex, there are an endless cast of intriguing characters and we've just touched the tip of the iceberg as far as Cainesville is concerned. The story could head in dozens of different directions which is always exciting.
One thing I did notice though is a striking similarity to a few plot elements from Armstrong's Nadia Stafford series. That sort of pulled me out of Omens a bit because I kept thinking - Hey! Didn't something like that happen with Nadia? I can also see a set up in the romance department that again, was in the Nadia series. I could always be wrong on that front and if you've never read that series it won't bother you at all. I kept getting a sense of deja vu.
Final thoughts: Omens is a well written and promising start to a series that's full of mystery, complex characters and the potential for some shocking twists. Personally, I'm not a fan of the mystery genre, so I wasn't as engrossed as I had hoped but I still highly recommend it to those who are.
I also want to point out that Omens is light on the romance. I know I have quite a few followers who enjoy a more plot based/world building heavy story without a lot of steam and this is it.
Author: website | goodreads | twitter
Buy the book! Omens