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!


  1. Great review! I really liked her Darkest Power trilogy! This one has such an interesting premise - serial killers and the supernatural! Hopefully the slow start won't stop me though!

  2. I'd encourage you to keep at it, Ning, despite the slow start. It really was worth the ultimate pay-off by the end. :)

  3. This is another author that I've not read, but have heard great things about. I like that this one is adult, and murder mysteries are always fun. Like you, I'm a sucker for slow-burn romances. Love the tension and build up. As this one just released, I wonder if I'm better off waiting until the next one to start the series? I know her other series tend to all run together like one big plotline. Thoughts?

  4. It's really up to you, Lauren. I know you like reading a series altogether as a whole, mostly because you get answers to the unanswered questions quickly, so in that manner, this book definitely has a LOT of unanswered questions. I didn't mind reading it, though, and nor do I mind the wait, but that's just me. :)

  5. I was curious about this book. I really enjoy her writing, but it sounded different. Looks like I didn't have to worry. Must get this book! :D

  6. OMG, I was just debating whether i should read this or not, because I really enjoyed Armstrong's Darkest Powers series as well. You have me sold! I love that it showcases a different paranormal aspect and that it is essentially a murder mystery type storyline. Plus, I really like Olivia's character. She sounds kick-butt, and seems to be an interesting character, worthy of investing time in. I can't wait to meet her..ohhh...and Gabriel! He sounds yummy! lol ;p Glad you enjoyed this, Keertana! I know I'm going to be reading this now! Awesome review! :D

    ~ Maida
    Literary Love Affair 

  7. Same as you I really love The Darkest Powers series, but then Bitten wasn't for me. For once I'm so happy that Kelly is writing some new ideas and I'm even more happier to hear that they're good. I can't wait to read this book. Great review Keertana :)

  8. I haven't read anything by Kelly, but it sounds like this is a winner. I love a good mystery, and when the author can add engaging characters and a great backstory to the mix, I'm totally sold. Wonderful review, Keertana!

  9. Ooh I'm REALLY looking forward to reading this one. I've enjoyed pretty much all of Armstrong's books in the past, so I'm feeling quite confident that I'll like this one too. And you know me, I'm a sucker for a slow-burn romance too. I can't wait to meet Gabriel! ;) Really glad you enjoyed this, lovely!

  10. I believe Armstrong is pretty prolific, but all I've read of hers thus far is her Darkest Powers trilogy, which I enjoyed well enough. I cannot devote enough time to reading her super long Women of the Otherworld series, but maybe starting a new series of hers is the way to go. At least no catching up would be required!
    And this sounds like a welcome relief from paranormal shapeshifters. After all, I do think paranormal stories can exist without them. That's too bad the beginning was slow, but it sounds like after that you found this to be a pretty strong book. I'll have to keep this in mind for a future adult paranormal fix. Lovely review, Keertana!

  11. I loved Kelley's Darkest Powers series as well, Keertana. I love murder mysteries and this sounds exactly like my kind of read. Thanks for the warning about the slow beginning. Another TBR add. Excellent review, Keertana. :)

  12. I have read Armstrong's Darkest Powers series and the first book in her Darkness Rising series, and while I liked those books well and fine, I've never really been that invested in them. I think it may be because they feel SO episodic in nature. I really think the Darkest Powers series could have been combined and edited a bit to make one kick-ass standalone. But, this new series seems different--more mature, more UF, I guess? I think I may have to put these on my TBR list and give Armstrong another shot after all.

    Plus serial killer parents? Yes! That's good stuff there:)

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