Tuesday, August 6, 2013
ARC Review: Omens by Kelley Armstrong
Title: Omens (Cainsville, #1)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: August 20th, 2013
I doubt there is anything like discovering a book that, after a slow and disappointing start, finally hits its stride - and marvelously so. Armstrong's latest novel may not have the most gripping of beginnings, and I suspect a solid fifty pages could easily be cut off, but after roughly a fifth of the story, it truly takes off. Ever since I read Armstrong's DARKEST POWERS trilogy when it first released, I've been a die-hard fan of the author. I tried my hand at her other adult series, but was sadly unimpressed by BITTEN. In OMENS, though, it seems I've finally found another promising series from her.
Unlike most of Armstrong's novels, OMENS reads more like a murder mystery than a paranormal story. Olivia Taylor-Jones lives a rich and privileged life, until, that is, she discovers she's adopted and her real parents are Todd and Pamela Larson, notorious serial killers. Thus, fleeing her past and desperate for answers, Olivia turns to Cainsville and begins seeking the truth about the ritualistic murders her parents committed. With the help of Gabriel Walsh, a cunning lawyer, Olivia begins to investigate whether her parents continued claim of innocence is really true. If only superstitions and mysterious omens would stop following her wherever she went...
It is clear that Armstrong wanted to try her hand at a new type of paranormal/occult brand, one that didn't involve shapeshifters. While there are plenty of superstitions and ominous portents in this novel, I appreciate that they are toned down. Of preceding importance is the case against Olivia's parents and her own investigations to see whether or not they murdered all eight of the people they were charged with. One of the strengths of this mystery is that it is impossible to know whether or not these people are truly murderers. Of course Olivia hopes they're not, but the evidence against them is so overwhelming that we're kept guessing till the very end. And even then, there are so many unanswered questions - ones I am clamoring to find answers to in the sequel. Furthermore, though the novel is told primarily from Olivia's first-person perspective, the reader is given glimpses of multiple third-person perspectives that crop up and only add to the chilling element of the storyline. At first, I was increasingly confused by these but I grew to anticipate the insight they'd provide as the novel wore on.
Yet, OMENS shines because of its narrator, Olivia herself. As the daughter of two notorious serial killers, Olivia cannot help but wonder what truly wins out - nature or nurture? In OMENS, Olivia investigates more than just her parents murders - she investigates herself. From the beginning itself, Olivia is plucky, independent, and strong. Although she's engage, she doesn't hesitate to make it clear that her future plans are just as important as his. And later, when that engagement breaks off - along with many other relationships - Olivia doesn't hesitate to find her own two feet, move, get a job, and make a new life. Moreover, she slowly comes to accept that along with being prim and proper Olivia Taylor-Jones, she's also superstitious Eden Larson as well. I found that Olivia's growth was well-paced and gradual, something I loved because there is still so much room for her to change in a realistic manner.
Nevertheless, my favorite character in this story has to be Gabriel. A ruthless lawyer and closed-off individual, at first glance Gabriel seems to be nothing more than a ticket for Olivia to use. After all, she's not attracted to large and muscular men like him, and especially not ones who are used to getting their way...right? OMENS brilliantly sets up a relationship between these two, though, and as they become business associates and then business partners and possibly even unlikely friends, the sexual tension between them only starts to simmer. I am a total sucker for a slow-burn romance and this one has all the necessary - and delicious blue-eyed - components. Gabriel is complex enough to stand as a formidable character on his own, though. We've only peeled back a few layers of him in this installment, but it's enough to keep our interest piqued. More than anything else, I suspect I'm looking forward to reading more about this hunky lawyer in the books to come than anything else.
OMENS was, ultimately, a pleasant surprise. Armstrong has crafted a brilliant mystery plot line and an even more remarkable overarching storyline with plenty of clues to keep readers thirsty for more. With strong characters added to the mix and an intriguing small town, full of their own quirks and superstitions, it's safe to say that I will be lining up to have the next book in my hands - and soon! Welcome to Cainsville...indeed!