Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Book Review: "Unknown: Outcast Season" by Rachel Caine

So many missing children. Their faces looked at me from the flat surfaces of posters and flyers, tacked to a long board opposite the row of chairs — a sad parade of even sadder stories. Although several young girls with brown hair and vulnerable smiles looked back at me, Isabel Rocha’s picture was not on the wall. I found some comfort in that. I will find you, I promised her, as I did each day. On your mother and father’s souls, I will find you. I had allowed her mother and father to be murdered. I would not allow Isabel to share the same fate. I sat with Luis Rocha in the hallway outside of the offices of the FBI, which he had carefully explained was a place where I could not, for any reason, cause trouble. I failed to understand why this hallway should be any different from any other in the city of Albuquerque, but I had agreed, with a good bit of annoyance. Luis was in no mood to debate with me. “Just do it,” he’d snapped, and then fallen into a dark, restless silence. I watched him pace in front of me as his dark gaze took in the wall of photos, a tense, revolted expression on his face. He stopped, and the expression altered into a frown. He pointed one flyer out to me. “That’s Ben Hession’s kid. Ben’s a Fire Warden.” I nodded, but I doubt he noticed. He lowered his finger, but his hands formed into fists at his sides, emphasizing the sinuous flame tattoos licking up and down his arms. Once again, I wondered at the choice; Luis Rocha controlled Earth, not Fire. In that, he and his brother Manny had been alike, though Luis’s power outstripped Manny’s by leagues. Manny had been my Warden partner, assigned to me by the highest levels of his organization to teach me to live as human, and use my powers — for I still had some, although nowhere near as many as I had as a Djinn — usefully. How to become a Warden in my own right. Manny had been a sweet, patient soul who had given of himself to sustain me in this new life. And I had let him die. Now it was Luis’s responsibility to look after me. And mine to never allow such a thing to happen again. A tired-looking man in a rumpled suit stepped outside of his office and gestured to us. As he did, his coat swung open to reveal the holstered butt of a gun attached to his belt. For an ice-cold instant I had an unguarded memory, a sense-memory of the shock and rage washing over me as I watched the bullets strike Manny, strike Angela … It’s a memory I don’t care to relive. ~Excerpt from Unknown: Outcast Season by Rachel Caine Rachel Caine is one prolific author. She writes three different series' of books, all within the urban fantasy genre, and she manages to put out sequels to all three yearly. And while the quality of her books is quite good in comparison to most, there are signs that Caine's writing is getting a bit formulaic. In "Unknown," the second book of her Outcast Season series, Caine continues the story of Cassiel, a Djinn that has been cast to Earth and stripped of her powers. Forced to rely on the Wardens for her survival Cassiel is first assigned to Manny Rocha, but after a tragic series of events that kills Manny, she teams up with his brother Luis as she hunts down the rogue Djinn responsible for Manny's death and the abduction of his daughter. When Cassiel is first cast out she struggles to integrate with humanity. She is no longer a powerful Djinn but carries their immortal arrogance. But Manny and his family somehow penetrated her wall of indifference and now she's determined to avenge the family she feels she failed to protect. The first book in the Outcast Season series was good for two main reasons: a unique plot and interesting characterizations. But "Unknown" doesn't quite capture the essence of the first book and it seems as if Caine has reached the point where she is writing her stories by rote. Paranormal fantasy seems to have become the genre of non-stop action with a little magic thrown in for good measure. A very common trend is for the story to have a strong female lead character, lots of busy work for her to do and approximately 300 pages to do it in. Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs and Caine-- among others-- follow this pattern to the letter. Sometimes this formula works but when it doesn't the reader is just ingesting mindless action without any real character development; and I'm afraid that's the trap "Unknown" falls into. The problem with "Unknown" is that the only character that seems to have any arc at all is Cassiel herself. Sometimes that's enough, but in this case Luis Rocha is giving a prominent role in the book, but has virtually no backstory of his own. Another issue is that the story hasn't really progressed from the last book to this one. It almost feels as if the same plot line has been regurgitated for an extra book and once it ended, I'm still not sure that we won't be treated to a nearly identical version of this tale next time around. Maybe I'm getting a little jaded. I've read several other reviews of this book that give it the thumbs up. But by the end I felt as if I was being led on a frantic journey that couldn't quite keep me interested because I had already read this book. I like the idea of the story, but wasn't enthralled with the execution.

1 comment:

Sullivan McPig said...

Haven't read anything by this author, but might pick up the first book in this series.