Series: Cainsville #1
Format Read: print ARC
Source: Goldberg McDuffie Communications in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: August 20, 2013
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Blurb from goodreads:
#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.
I've been waiting for this book since Kelley announced it; news of the book helped ease the sting of her Women of the Otherworld series ending. Add in the fact that I'm a big fan of mysteries, and I was bouncing off the walls for this book. I was beyond excited to receive an ARC.
So, what is "Omens"? At its heart it's a mystery, actually there are several mysteries, but there's quite a bit more going on also. There's a hint of romance, family drama, the question of identity, some mythology and a hint of the paranormal, and action. That's a lot to fit into a book and the book is a long one to try and accommodate it all, almost 500 pages. Despite its length, "Omens" captivated me and kept me hooked. I took a few short breaks while reading and some time to sleep but otherwise, I didn't want to put it down.
Kelley does an excellent job of writing about a young woman whose life has come crashing down around her. Olivia never knew she was adopted so that was a shock for her but then she finds out that her biological parents are also convicted serial killers. Her fiancé isn't as supportive as she might wish, her adoptive mother pulls away from her, and the press is hounding her, so she runs away. She struggles to figure out who she really is and slowly realizes that dreams she's had over the years may be based on events in her early childhood with her biological parents. Olivia, understandably, doesn't want to believe that her birth parents are killers and questions whether she might also be capable of horrific behavior. Kelley explores, subtly, the question of nature versus nurture and the choices we make. Olivia discovers that she's emotionally stronger than she knew and that she's capable of decisions and actions that others might consider questionable or unethical.
Olivia reluctantly teams up with her birth mother's lawyer, Gabriel, to see if there's a chance that the Larsens, Olivia's birth parents, might be innocent. At first Gabriel seems like the stereotypical sleazy lawyer but Kelley develops him and gives him dimension. He is self-centered and ambitious but he has a conscience, albeit a tiny one, and cares for his aunt Rose. In fact, all of the characters are well-developed while still leaving room for further development. Patrick, a romance writer in Olivia’s new home of Cainsville, is intriguing and mysterious. I can’t wait to see where Kelley goes with his character and whether he’s good, bad, or neutral. Of course, I love The Cat; a mysterious black cat who has adopted and moved in with Olivia, against her wishes. She refuses to name him and calls him The Cat or T.C. Yeah, no naming going on there. :D He is definitely more than your basic domestic feline.
While there is a paranormal aspect to the book, and it certainly lives up to its title, this is not an urban fantasy. It is primarily a mystery and a thriller and a journey of discovery. Kelley said in her press release,
Since Bitten, I've been fascinated by issues of identity and the darkness within, and this premise is perfect for further exploring that. If you found out you were the child of serial killers, how would it change you? How would you re-examine your own dark side and behavior? How would the world see you and treat you?
That's an interesting premise, but it needs more. I want deeper secrets. Deeper mysteries. I want a strange little town with its own dark side, bound tightly to the mysteries and questions of Olivia's past.
And of course I want my story with a side order of the supernatural. Not werewolves and vampires. For this story, I want omens and superstitions, portents and second sight, folklore and legend.
She succeeds, absolutely.
Kelley is also an evil, evil author. There are many questions brought up during the book, only a few of which are answered. She does give us hints and I was happy to see that one of my guesses was correct when it was addressed later in the book. But, as I said, many things are left unanswered and Kelley dares us in the author’s note at the beginning of the book, to not look up “foreign words and phrases that are not defined or easily interpreted in context…But if you’re impatient, I’m sure the Internet would provide translation help…and a few early answers.” So now I can’t pull out my mythology texts or look up words via Google. I won’t cave; I will wait but, Gah!!!! I want to know!!!
“Omens” is excellent. It's complex, twisty, suspenseful, exciting, with tight writing, intricate plotting and has a mythological dimension I wasn't expecting but enjoyed very much. The book resolves one story line while setting into play further story arcs to be continued, presumably, over the series. I want the next book now. :D It's an excellent start to a new series.