Title: Visions (Cainsville, #2)
Author: Kelly Armstrong
Rating: 3 Stars
Release Date: August 19th, 2014
Note: Mild spoilers for Omens, the first book in this series follow. I do not believe that the brief spoilers will ruin the series but you can read my review of Omens here.
In Omens Olivia, the protagonist of our tale, discovers that she has been adopted and that her biological parents are notorious serial killers, the Larsens. Working with her attorney, the elusive Gabriel Walsh, the two prove that the final two of eight murders committed by the Larsens were falsely accused. Thus, when Visions was announced I immediately assumed that the course of the series would be to continue to prove that Olivia's parents had not, after all, committed a single murder and their daughter would work to contribute evidence to that cause. Instead, Visions presents us with a different sort of mystery on our hands, one far removed from Olivia's true parentage but linked, rather, to the small town she loves: Cainsville.
When Visions begins Olivia witnesses a dead body in her car. One which bears an uncanny resemblance to her. Yet, when Gabriel arrives on the scene the body is missing and no evidence can be found. This body continues to plague Olivia, its head turning up unexpectedly in her bed one night only to vanish just as quickly. Soon enough, Olivia is able to identify the body as belonging to Ciara, a young girl who is distantly related to the town of Cainsville. But as Olivia begins investigating the truth behind Ciara's death and its unexpected link to her, she stumbles upon a secret she just may have been better off knowing. Because both Cainsville, and its residents, are not as they seem...
While I found that aspects of Visions could have easily been omitted--this book is, after all, a hefty volume--the plot is impeccable as always, well-timed, atmospheric, and unique. Perhaps what I love most about Visions is that it reveals a plethora of layers, both the characters we've come to know and the story line we've come to love. Since it touches only briefly upon the subject of the murders Olivia's parents are accused of it can be difficult to find ones bearings amid this novel. While Olivia is diligently tracking down the truth behind Ciara's murder, I couldn't help but seek the connecting draw behind the entire tale. It isn't until the end of Visions that Armstrong hits us with explosive reveals but the hints are present over the course of the narrative and the manner in which Omens bleeds into Visions, creating an even stronger story line than the one before, is remarkable.
Yet, while Armstrong excels in plot she sadly fails in the romance department. Omens seemed to establish a slow-burn romance between Olivia and Gabriel--my absolutely favorite kind--but early in Visions their friendship takes a deep setback. At this point in the tale, Olivia is no longer in shock or grief regarding the truth of her parentage. Thus, as a young woman, she is once again prepared to fill her life with the social standings she needs, boyfriend included. Gabriel, on the other hand, who remained an aloof enigma in Omens, is, by no means, prepared for a relationship as yet in Visions. We grow to learn of his traumatic past and the emotional scarring has left him in a position where he doesn't even view Olivia in a romantic light. While Visions continues to establish the strong connection forged between them and the strength of their friendship shines through and overcomes hurdles, neither Gabriel nor Olivia view each other as anything more than a close, reliable friend.
Consequently, it should come as no surprise to find that Olivia becomes romantically involved with Ricky, the biker we briefly met in Omens. Only, I was surprised. Rationally, I can reason the need for this romance and, certainly, Ricky is a balanced counterpoint to Olivia. Not only does her respect her independence but he never becomes jealous and supports Olivia's friendship with Gabriel. Yet, I honestly felt as if the love scenes in Visions were more than just a little unnecessary and theirs wasn't a romance I enjoyed, frankly. What I do appreciate about Armstrong, however, is that Ricky plays an important role to the plot as a whole beyond simply being Olivia's boyfriend. Moreover, the citizens of Cainsville are against Ricky and Olivia's fling and it is made evident that Ricky and Olivia are not a couple who are here to stay. Thus, while Visions lacks a love triangle the focus on the romance lacked authenticity and I couldn't engage as thoroughly as I'd wanted to as a result of it. Moreover, it completely took me by surprise so, hopefully, future readers can better prepare themselves for an assault of romance in this installment.
Ultimately, Visions excels as the paranormal thriller it is. Armstrong's research is on-point and enriches the atmospheric quality of these novels and, with the manner in which this installment wrapped up, I'm certainly expecting to see both the murder mystery of Omens and the paranormal twists of Visions converge in the next novel. While I remain a twinge nervous about the direction these characters are headed in, I look forward to their arcs; their growth is genuine, their personalities memorable, and their relationships authentic. Not my favorite Armstrong novel by a long-shot but, obviously, a must-read for fans of Omens.