Rachel Caine

The first book in a new fantasy series set in modern US. I enjoyed Caine’s Weather Warden series and so I was eager to try her new series even though I’m not a zombie fan.

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Running Time: 11 hrs and 59 minutes

Bryn Davies is a former soldier and now she’s a mortician. She’s just been hired as a funeral director to Fairview Mortuary, which has a reputation for going through funeral directors quickly. Bryn soon finds out why. Even though her immediate boss, Mr. Fairview, is nice enough, Bryn realizes that he sells drugs. And not just ordinary ones, but the one drug which will restore life to a corpse. Soon after, the villainous Fairview kills her.

However, Bryn is revived with a shot of the drug, Returne. The two men who brought her back work for Pharmadene, the company which developed the drug and they want it back. They decide to use Bryn as a way to track down the black market seller. Because Bryn now need a shot of the drug every day, she has no choice but to agree.

Bryn is very different from Joanne, who is the lead in the Weather Warden series. Bryn is a serious woman and she’s also quiet and contemplative, unlike Joanne. Unfortunately, this makes her somewhat flat and the other characters aren’t remarkable, either. Her situation is also so grim that there’s not a lot of humor in book.

The leader of Pharmadene is a ruthless woman and she makes clear that as soon as Bryn isn’t useful to her, Bryn won’t get the drug anymore. Returne is based on nanotechnology. In addition to restoring a corpse to what it was during live (needing to eat, breath, having same emotions etc.) it also sets up a code word in Bryn’s system (and the systems of everyone else who has been injected with the drug) and when that word is said, Bryn has to obey.

The book has a very dark tone; Bryn is dead and nothing is going to make her alive again. She can’t have a normal life. Even her romantic interest McCallister is cold and aloof. I wasn’t interested in him at all and couldn’t see what Bryn sees in him, except that he’s the only eligible man around. I would have liked the book more without the mandatory romance.

The book doesn’t end in a cliffhanger but it does leave the future open for further adventures. At any case, Bryn has to have Returne or she will literally decompose.

It wasn’t bad but I don’t think I’ll continue with this series.

The sixth book in the Weather Warden series.

Publication year: 2007
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Dina Pearlman
Running Time: 10 hrs and 24 minutes

Joanne wakes alone nude, and almost freezing to death in the middle of a winter forest. She doesn’t know how she got there and she also doesn’t know who she is. When a man finds her, she doesn’t know who he is even though he says that he is Jo’s old friend Lewis. When Lewis heals her with his bare hands, she’s puzzled and afraid. She’s even more scared when Lewis talks about how they need her to help them. Then, a man with inhuman eyes and skin appears and Jo realizes that there are a lot of things she doesn’t know about…

This time Caine takes the story in a different direction. Jo has to get to know the situation, her powers, and the other characters all over again. She has vague feelings about characters whom she had strong feelings for, though, so the relationships aren’t really rearranged. However, Jo is in a very vulnerable situation, especially when she has to fight against the person who has taken her memories. For me this was a refreshingly new spin and I enjoyed it when Jo would assume things where one way and in reality they were in another way, such as Jo’s sister’s situation. However, Caine could have changed things around more, too. There are also some pretty convenient things in the book, too.

Most of the characters return and a few had even had to pay a price for their earlier adventures. Lewis is as supporting as ever and this is the first time that Jo and Lewis discuss the attraction between them. The situation with the Earth mother has cleared up and David is almost back to normal. However, he has become a leader among the Djinn and some of them don’t like that David is involved with a human, so David and Jo aren’t in the clear yet, even if Jo regains her memories. Jo’s sister Sara is in a bad place. Jo’s mundane friend Cherise has apparently found a place for herself in the supernatural world. Even a couple of old enemies return.

Caine ties up almost all of the plot threads in the series and only minor things are still left up in the air.

The fifth book in the Weather Warden fantasy series.

Publication year: 2006
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Dina Pearlman
Running Time: 10 hrs and 24 minutes

The epic war escalates. On the one side is humanity and their protectors, the battered Wardens. On the other side is the slowly-awakening Mother Earth who isn’t happy about what the humans have done with her place. She has enslaved the Djinn to her will. The Earth isn’t yet fully awake, so the Djinn aren’t waging war all the time. If they did, the Wardens would have lost already.

There’s still be time to try something desperate. Joanne is trying to rally the Wardens and gather enough information that she, or someone else, can convince the Earth not to destroy the humans. The stakes are high and the situation is dire.

Also, a villain from the previous book returns. I wasn’t thrilled about that since I didn’t really care for him at all. He still wants Jo to give him a Djinn even though they are all now under Earth’s control. He seems to be just too stupid and self-absorbed to realize that it’s no longer possible to own a Djinn.

Most characters from the previous books return and a couple of new ones are introduced. One of the new characters is very interesting but talking about that would spoil too much. I enjoy this cast of characters but sometimes I can’t help but to hope that they could get a breather at some point.

Jo’s love is the Djinn David so there’s lots of angst. David isn’t under Earth’s control all the time so they have a few sweet moments, too. But the bottom line is that she can’t trust him right now. There’s also another love interest, Lewis, who is one of the most powerful Wardens. Luckily, this isn’t a focus (yet?).

Like before, I like the dialog, character interaction, and the writing style a lot.

Firestorm also ends in a cliffhanger that forced me to download the next audiobook right away. Sadly, Thin Air is the last book available on Audible currently. The series has nine books.

The fourth in the Weather Warden fantasy series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Dina Pearlman
Running Time: 11 hrs and 24 minutes

After the end of the previous book, Chill Factor, Joanne was out of work. Saving the world just doesn’t pay the bills. So now, she’s been forced to become a sidekick to a local weatherman. Jo is fed up with her job where she wears one ridiculous costume after another, freezing water is dumped on her on live TV, and the sleazy weatherman tries to squeeze her at any opportunity. One good thing is that she’s managed to find a good friend in the other Weather Girl: Cherise. She’s an UFO buff and a extremely fashionable and pretty. She also drives a Mustang.

Also, Jo’s love the Djinn David is almost drained of power and is on the verge of becoming a mad Ifreet. The most powerful Djinn in the world, Jonathan, threatens Jo that she has to fix David or he’ll kill her. Unfortunately, David continues to draw power from Jo so she’s pretty weak and since she’s pretty much cut off ties with the Wardens, her only option seems to be her old friend and incredibly powerful Lewis, who is also on the run from the Wardens.

To make things worse, policeman Rodriquez starts to shadow Jo. He’s convinced that she’s responsible for killing his friend… and she is, but that’s only because the man was a rapist and a murderer, and of course Rodriquez can’t believe it.

To top things off, Jo’s sister comes to her small apartment. Sarah was the more fashionable and beautiful from the Baldwin sisters and she married a rich man. Unfortunately, she found out that he cheated on her and he kicked her out. Now, she’s broke and depressed, and moves in with Jo. She’s also used to buying lots of expensive stuff while Jo is currently barely making the rent.

Poor Jo’s life continues to be as chaotic as ever. She’s barely able to get a breather and with both her non-magical sister living with her and a normal cop shadowing her, she’s hard pressed to keep all the magical stuff a secret. Also, her relationship with David has changed from love and sex to Buffy/Angel level angst.

Most of the secondary characters we meet here are familiar from the previous books, such as Lewis, Rahel, and Jonathan, but there are plenty of new characters, too. The cop Rodriquez seems to be a decent guy if misguided and Cherise is a hoot. She and Jo do banter very well. Sarah starts out as a comedic relief, especially considering how ridiculously easily she snatches up a new boyfriend. However, there more to her than meets the eye.

Windfall is a great continuation to the series and the stakes are raised yet again, now to epic levels. So, all of you people who want to read an epic urban fantasy: it’s right here. Just start with the first book, please.

The third in the Weather Warden series about weather controlling Joanne Balwin.

Publication year: 2005
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Dina Perlman
Running Time: 9 hours, 34 minutes

The former Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin and her Djinn lover David are trying to sort out the mess they were left with in the previous book. The world’s most powerful Djinn, Jonathan, is in the hands of a petulant teenage boy, Kevin, and they are wrecking havoc. They are in Las Vegas and Jonathan is keep the city off limits from Wardens and the other Djinn. Unfortunately, he’s doing it by manipulating weather and creating earthquakes. Jo and David have been driving around Las Vegas for a few weeks trying to get in but without any success. Kevin has also stolen the powers of Lewis who is one of Jo’s oldest friends and is now near death because of the power loss.

However, the Weather Wardens want Jo to back off. She really has no choice but to agree and the Wardens even take away David’s bottle from her. Then, one of Jo’s friends betrays her horribly. She’s shot and transported to Las Vegas where she’s resuscitated back to life. That’s pretty crappy way to get into the city but things turn only to worse when she finds out that another group (of old men) is really interested in her: the Ma’at are a group who are convinced that the Wardens are corrupt and it’s now up to them to start controlling not only the weather but the Djinn as well.

There’s an additional story which starts as a side plot when Joanne thinks back on one of her earlier jobs six years ago. She was sent to Las Vegas to investigate a fellow Warden who was suspected of misusing his powers. She thought that it would be an easy job but of course, it wasn’t. First, the male Warden tries to sidetrack her by seducing her and when that doesn’t work, he simply won’t see her. That didn’t stop Jo, of course. This story first ties up thematically with the rest of the book; it shows how a corrupted Warden works and shows also that Jo is familiar with the concept of less than innocent Wardens. The story turns really dark, later, and ties in with the main plot, too. I wasn’t really thrilled with some of the things that happened in it.

I really like Jo and David. They’re a good couple despite the fact that they still have the annoying habit of not telling important things to each other. They say things like “Trust me” and then they do things that the other person really should have been told about beforehand. Also, David does something which really, really should have been discussed beforehand!

Jo is a stubborn and contrary person. Luckily for her, she tends to be right most of the time. Considering all of the hard and awful stuff Jo goes through, she has to be tough, though. People around her seem have the tendency to betray her and she can’t really trust even David.

I’ve gotten used to David as the unshakably loyal lover. Of course, when Jo has David’s bottle, he can’t be anything else since a Djinn has to obey his or her owner. And of course, when you start to think about that power dynamic, it is, or can be, horrible. So much power of the one you love. And yet, can you trust anyone else with your lover’s bottle? Would you want to? Jo and David are really sweet together so I couldn’t see that Jo would mistreat her power. However, she is uncomfortable with it and so are some of the other characters around them.

Most of the characters from the previous books return, even one whom I didn’t expect to see anymore. I was delighted and horrified by the character’s transformation. Jo’s old friend and crush Lewis has always seem to be a really good guy but here we find out that he has a real bad side, too. On the other hand, Jo’s sort-of enemy and a hard ass Warden Marion Bearheart is revealed to have a surprising past which made her a more sympathetic character. We’re also introduced to a lot of new characters. Most of them seem to be people who believe they are doing good but aren’t too squeamish about their methods. I tend to like them, because they can be more complex than other villains, not to mention having redemption potential.

The pace is very fast and Jo doesn’t really get a breather at all.

Oh, and once again, lots of stuff is unresolved at the end as usual for a series with a continuous storyline. I’m dying to know what happens to David and the others next!

I really enjoyed Perlman’s reading. For me, her voice just clicked with Joanne’s inner voice, somehow. She reads often with a chatty style which is perfect for the writing style for Joanne’s thoughts. She doesn’t really do different voices.

The second book in the Weather Wardens series.
Lots of spoilers for the first book, Ill Wind.

Page count: 352
Publication year: 2004
Format: Ebook
Publisher: ROC

The former Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin is getting used to her new life as a Djinn. It isn’t easy but at least her boyfriend is there to help her out. David is a very old and very powerful Djinn but his decision to make Joanne a Djinn made him very unpopular and also weakened him significantly. In addition, Joanne is drawing on his power to stay alive, so he’s weakening all the time. Of course, he hasn’t told that to Joanne.

Soon, the most powerful Djinn in existence wants to meet with Jo. Jonathan tells Jo a few facts about her life and gives her a week to control her powers or both she and David will die. Of course, Joanna is determined to learn things fast. Jonathan assigns her a teacher, Patrick, who is the only other human who has ever survived becoming a Djinn. Joanne starts to learn the ugly truths about herself and both her and David’s probable future. However, she doesn’t have much time to muse on things because she finds out that something weird is happening on the aetheric plane that could threaten the whole Earth. And as if that isn’t enough, David’s past has come back to haunt both him and Jo.

The book starts slowly with Jo and David happily having sex and Jo trying to control her new powers. Then they attend Joanne’s funeral where we meet the surviving characters from the previous book and one sinister character from David’s past. However, when things start to happen, the pace becomes very quick. The book has some closure but it ends in a cliffhanger.

This time we learn more about the Djinn: their powers, history, and hierarchy. It also raises some questions about if it’s right to essentially enslave other people who have their own moral code and history; after all, the Djinn has to do anything the human commands. When a human get his or her hands on a bottle with a Djinn and commands him or her to do something, the Djinn draws power from the person who commands him or her. The Djinn is only as powerful as the potential of the human. However, the Djinn have their own power as well which they seem to use the rest of the time.

A couple of new characters are introduced in Heat Stroke. Jonathan is the leader of the Djinn because he has the most power. He seemed to be a good leader; he cares about his people but he’s not afraid to draw the line and might even kill to keep things in order. (Unfortunately, the name conjured up an image of Buffy’s Jonathan which was a bad, bad thing.) He has also a sense of humor.

Patrick is Joanne’s new instructor. Unfortunately, I found him quite immature. If he’s lived for hundreds of years I would have expected him to have had enough sex that he didn’t need to focus on it all the time anymore. His method of teaching Jo is through battle. He has a Ifreet whose job is to attack Jo when she’s trying to learn something. Patrick comes across as pretty coarse at first but he does have a few other sides to him as we learn later.

We also get a new femme fatale character who was quite chilling. She tries to constantly seduce the most powerful males around her and uses them ruthlessly.

Heat Stroke is a solid continuation to the series and I’m likely to continue with the series.

“Real life,” he said, “is always more interesting. You just never know what will happen.”

Since my ebook challenge is still two books short, I’m adding this one.

This is the first in the urban fantasy series Weather Warden. It’s written in first person and the main character is Joanne Baldwin, who can control weather. She is part of the Wardens Association which is in charge of keep Earth habitable to humans by keeping storms, fires, and earthquakes down to a bearable level. It seems, though, that the Wardens are a secret from ordinary humans and human organizations. On the other hand, some teenagers manifest quite flashy powers before they are taught to control them and at least Joanne didn’t have to keep her powers a secret from her mother. Also, Wardens are taught in otherwise ordinary collage where they just seem to have their own classes. So, I get a bit mixed signals here.

Unlike most urban fantasy, Ill Wind doesn’t have vampires or werewolves in it. Instead it has Djinns who work as the magical assistants for the more experienced Wardens. Djinns are uncommon, very powerful, and therefore valued. Well, as long as they are the good little slaves they are supposed to be. Jo had still six months of work ahead of her before she could get her own Djinn.

Good: the Djinn, the different powers and their usage, the short weather reports at the start of every chapter, and romance is really a subplot and doesn’t drag too much.
No-so-good: too little settings info, human characters are pretty average.
Bad: –

Joanne is on the run. She has acquired the Demon Mark which Djinns can see but the Wardens can’t. The mark targets her as an out of control witch who has had dealings with demons. Except that she hasn’t dealt with demons. So, she’s trying to get help the best way she knows how. First she tries to go to the house of Lewis Orwell who is the most powerful Warden in the world and also Joanne’s old friend. Unfortunately, Lewis himself is currently on the fun from the Association. He also has three Djinns to himself. One of the Djinn meet Joanne at Lewis’s house and later gives her directions to drive to Oklahoma City. So, she doesn’t have another choice but to get in her midnight blue ’71 Mustang called Delilah and start driving.

Joanne decides to call and later visit her best friend and a former Fire Warden Esterella Almondovar alias Star. Star is worried about Joanna and after some friendly bantering she invites Jo to visit. Joanne is also worried about a dark storm front which is chasing her menacingly. Even though she could have the power to disperse it, that takes concentration and time which she doesn’t have. Also, dispersing a storm from one location could create serious weather trouble in another location so Wardens are very careful or they could easily hurt others.

On the way, Jo takes up a traveler, David, to whom she is instantly attracted. She can’t tell much to him about her situation but David is okay with that. He would much rather read a book from his back bag, anyway.

Interspersed with the current-day story are Jo’s previous experiences: how she found out about her powers, how she met Lewis, how she met Star… This is a very good pacing since it gives just enough current plot to keep interested and enough background no to get confused.

Joanne is very much a girl next door type: interested in cars, shoes, expensive clothing, handsome men and keeping in good standing with her bosses. She wants to have fun but not at the expense of her job. She’s also very loyal and responsible. In fact, she’s very much a standard fantasy hero and so doesn’t stand out of the crowd too much. Unless, of course, you’ve been mostly reading about extraordinary heroes. Then again, I’m not really interested in shoes or cars.

The pacing is good and the characters are good enough for one read. I was rather enjoying the friendship between Joanne and Star. Sadly, most books tend to have only one strong female character or at most two who hate each other.

I was really hooked by the ending, though, which turned Jo’s situation completely around. I can’t wait to see what Caine will do to her next.

Characters: 6,5, setting: 6 (very little info again), plot: 7
Overall: 7