Saturday, 11 January 2014

A Whistlestop Tour of Cainsville (In Brief Series)

"A life shattered in one moment

Olivia Jones has lived a life of privilege and good fortune.  But on the eve of her wedding she discovers two shocking facts.  One – she was adopted.  Two – her biological parents are notorious serial killers.  And now the secret’s out, she’s in immediate danger.

A young woman forced on the run

Running for her life, Liv must face reality in the most brutal and terrifying way.  But then she is confronted with a tantilising hope – is it possible that her parents weren’t guilty of the murders after all?  And if so, who did commit them?

And the mysterious town that gave her sanctuary.  At a price.

Arriving at the remote town of Cainsville, Liv believes she has found the perfect place to hide while she uncovers the truth.  But Cainsville is no ordinary town – and Liv’s arrival was no accident.”

Kelley Armstrong's Omens is, at first glance, a departure from her Women of the Otherworld series – soon to be seen on TV in the form of a serialisation of the novel the series began with, Bitten.  As opposed to the urban fantasy we might expect from the author on the basis of past performance, here the world of Cainsville provides its reader with a melting pot of genres, blended to form a hint of paranormal by way of mystery via thriller.  As someone who is all for an amalgam of elements when given the opportunity to experience something new, this is all to the good – especially given the initial adopted child on a voyage of discovery premise places us on all too familiar ground in terms of premise.  Thankfully, the original set up of the wealthy, beautiful heroine is given a subtle twist before the character arc progresses significantly to introduce the serial killer/crime aspect of the mystery arc.

The author’s note states that “the town of Cainsville has many secrets, and it is loath to part with them a moment sooner than necessary.”  That this is clearly the case becomes apparent as the narrative progresses, given that the build up to Olivia’s discovery that she can see and interpret omens (for as yet unknown reasons) is, like the remainder of the novel, subtle, with considered pacing, as opposed to a ratcheting up of tension.  This holds true for both aspects of Olivia’s sleuthing – that of her “real” identity and who was really responsible for the murders her parents were convicted of.  For some, this will prove problematic, given we receive partial answers to these questions only. 

Whilst the killer aspect receives a necessary “reveal” prior to the conclusion of the novel, allowing it to function partially as a standalone narrative arc, Olivia’s true identity is hinted at only.  Such hints are reasonably few as far as the 486 page page count is concerned, suggesting there is a reasonable amount of ground to be covered by the other novels to follow.  As a result, Omens is arguably only capable of being judged in conjunction with its series companion novels.  It does, however, provide a suitable hook in terms of mystery via which the overarching narrative can continue and demonstrate genuine development.  Ditto in terms of affording room for the world building aspect surrounding the town of Cainsville to gain momentum.

A solid, albeit subtle, start to a new series in different territory, which provides a tantalising glimpse into what – hopefully – will follow.  

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