Omens by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Cainsville #1
Published by Random House
Published on: August 20th, 2013
Genres: Urban Fantasy
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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.
When Kelley Armstrong’s best-selling Women of the Otherworld series came to an end last summer I couldn’t hold back my tears. Clay and Elena will forever hold a special place in my heart but, after I finished mourning the loss of these beloved characters, excitement at the prospect of diving into something new from one of my favourite authors began to replace my sorrow. I approached Omens with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation only to have the first emotion fizzle and the latter transform into disappointment. Armstrong’s writing is as strong as ever but I struggled to find the paranormal elements in this psychological thriller and the ones I did uncover, were more confusing than anything else. For the first time ever, I’m on the fence as to whether Armstrong will remain on my auto-buy list.
The supernatural elements in this story are minimal at best; Olivia sees omens, her neighbour has the “sight” and, there’s some talk of Fae and the Tylwyth Teg. The heroine’s ability is tenuous and other than providing her with a few cryptic clues; it comes across more as survival instinct than an actual power. You know when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? Yeah, it’s like that. I’m confident that Olivia’s talent will grow as this series progresses but as far as first impressions go, it was lackluster. As for her neighbour, I never figured out if she actually does indeed have the “sight: or if she’s just a scam artist preying on people’s beliefs. And the Fae? I have no idea where they fit in; they are loosely referenced a couple of times but other than that, their mythology comes across as an old wives tale.
The murder investigation is captivating with its countless subplots and never-ending list of suspects; I marveled at Armstrong’s ability to masterfully weave an unravelable tale of murder and deceit. The villain is extremely difficult to identify which means that this story is as unpredictable as they come. I enjoy a good intrigue and Omens certainly delivers on that front. Olivia has her lawyer, Gabriel, in tow for the better part of this novel and I struggled with all of the legal jargon and “smart” narrative. I found that the dialogue was on the stiff side; it didn’t feel natural nor did it flow overly well. I felt like I was sitting in a room full of attorneys and they were talking circles around me. This book reads more like a textbook with a bit of fiction thrown in rather than the other way around.
The two main characters didn’t really do anything for me either. Olivia’s personality was lacking; she doesn’t come across as a socialite or a vibrant twenty-four year old woman. Other than a few quirks, I found her to be very two-dimensional. She just found out that she was adopted and that her biological parents are infamous serial killers yet she barely reacts. Olivia seems more upset by the press coverage than by anything else that’s going on in her life. I enjoyed Gabriel slightly more because his mask of indifference fits his profession so I had expected it from him. This is the first installment of this series so I didn’t foresee insta-love but I did hope for a little light flirtation. Unfortunately, Omens is strictly business, the characters don’t get to have any fun.
At the moment, I’m torn between my love for all things Kelley Armstrong and my first impression of this new series. Undoubtedly she’s a talented author and I’ve loved her writing in the past; I’m just not convinced that Cainsville is for me. Omens has more in common with Dan Brown’s books than with her Otherworld novels; although both have their merits, I like my reads to be heavy on the paranormal with a dash of psychological thriller on the side. Armstrong is straddling genres with her latest book and I’m not sure if I’m prepared to follow her to the other side. There’s no publication date yet for the second installment so I have some time to mull it over.