Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Contemporary Fantasy
Publication Date: February 2010
Paperback: 308 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the Outcast Season series, a spinoff of Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden books
My name is Cassiel, and I was once a Djinn — a being as old as the Earth herself, rooted in her power. I cared little for the small, scurrying human creatures who busied themselves with their small lives.
Things have changed. Now I am a small, scurrying human creature. In form, at any rate. Thanks to a disagreement with Ashan, the leader of the True Djinn, I can only sustain my life through the charity of the Wardens — humans who control aspects of the powers that surround us, such as wind and fire. The Warden I’m partnered with, Luis Rocha, commands the powers of the living Earth.
I have made mistakes, in my short existence as a human. I have made promises I could not keep. I have lost those I learned to love.
I will not let it happen again.
Even if every instinct tells me I must.
Living among mortals, the djinn Cassiel has developed a reluctant affection for them-especially for Warden Luis Rocha. As the mystery deepens around the kidnapping of innocent Warden children, Cassiel and Luis are the only ones who can investigate both the human and djinn realms. But the trail will lead them to a traitor who may be more powerful than they can handle…
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publisher
Why did I read this book: I am a Rachel Caine-a-holic. Seriously. The Weather Warden books rank in my top 3 all time favorite Urban Fantasy series’ and this spinoff is seriously awesome. I loved Undone, so it was with immense glee that I voraciously tore into Unknown.
In this second installment to Rachel Caine’s ongoing Outcast Season series, the former Djinn Cassiel is thrown back into the fray. One of the Old Ones, cast out by Ashan for her refusal to destroy humanity, Cassiel has come to rely on the Wardens for her very survival. And, she’s even begun to care for them – even love them. After the murder of her former Warden conduit, Manny Rocha, and his wife, and the subsequent abduction of his five year old daughter Ibby, Cassiel – once cold, distant, and disinterested in the lives of puny mortals – is hungry for vengeance. Teaming up with Luis Rocha, Earth Warden and brother to the late Manny, the two will stop at nothing to get Ibby home safely. But much more is at stake than the life of a single young girl – Ibby’s abductor and the murderer of her parents, the deranged, powerful, former Djinn Pearl, is kidnapping other Warden children around the world and brainwashing them, ruthlessly awakening their latent powers. Pearl has no scruples in destroying these children, using them to fight the already-stretched-thin Wardens and unsuspecting humans, burning out these children like so much disposable rubbish. Cassiel finds herself at an unimaginable crossroads. Pearl must be stopped before she destroys the planet, and the Djinn – and the only way to stop her is to destroy all of humanity. But, as Cassiel becomes more human and less of a Djinn each day, the burden of her grave responsibility grows ever heavier.
Let me start off by saying, yet again, how much I *love* the Weather Warden and Outcast Season books – and I love how closely connected the two series’ are. For a bit of context, Unknown takes place concurrently with Cape Storm (book 8 of the Weather Warden series), though Jo, David, Lewis and company are nowhere in sight. The crisis in Florida, however, is certainly felt in Unknown, as the New Djinn are fragmented without David as their conduit, and the Wardens are confused and weakened, unable to help Cassiel and Luis. While Jo and company are battling Demon Marks and Bad Bob, Cassiel and Luis fight on another front in an entirely different – but no less cataclysmic – war. One thing I adore about these linked series’ is how high stakes everything is – the world is in constant peril, and these poor characters are always operating at full capacity, at the edge of their limits. There are so many ways the world can be destroyed between Unknown and Cape Storm, and only these magnificent, flawed characters can stop the inevitable end of the world. Nailbiting doesn’t even begin to cover how intense these books are.
Per Ms. Caine’s usual, the plotting in Unknown is a white-knuckle thrill ride from opening sentence to bittersweet end; and it’s addictive as hell. There’s a lot of plot – the abduction of children, the missing Ibby, Pearl’s actual goals – and it’s all expertly done. (An aside: If you haven’t read Caine yet, you should know that you absolutely cannot skip around – you gotta start at the beginning, and make sure you have ALL the books close at hand, because I guarantee you will finish these bad boys in one big reading binge.)
And, as per Ms. Caine’s usual, the characters are made of awesome. I love Cassiel – on the same level that I love Joanne Baldwin (and that’s saying something). I love how she is ever changing. Cassiel’s narrative is so memorable because she is so alien – as a Djinn, she’s disconnected, even cruel by some interpretation – but she’s starting to feel human. Love. Anger. Fear. Pain. Cassiel is utterly believable because of this sense of change from immortal, immutable Djinn, to fragile flesh and bone mortal – and it makes her irresistible as a heroine She’s the complete opposite of Jo, but she’s no less memorable or unique. And then, there’s Luis Rocha – former gang member, Earth Warden, and Cassiel’s new conduit…and more. The relationship between these two characters is fraught with sexual tension, and a budding, deeper attraction. It’s intoxicating stuff. Luis is strong without being your typical hero/macho UF character, and I love the understanding he and Cass have in their relationship with each other. Both are in constant Mortal Peril, but they aren’t melodramatic or overprotective of each other – which is a welcome relief.
What else can I say about this book? Unknown is yet another winner from Rachel Caine. Fast-paced, high stakes, and danger-laden, this series keeps on going strong. If you’re a fan of Rachel Caine’s, you will not be disappointed with Unknown. The only drawback – as other Caine fans can attest to – is the long wait between fixes. Luckily, book 3 of Outcast Season, Unseen, is only a year away.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
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.
You can read the full chapter online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: Though book 3 in the Outcast Season series, Unseen, won’t be out until early 2011, fellow Caine-ites have something else to hold us over in the meantime – check out the cover and teaser excerpt…
The Port of Miami looked weatherbeaten, but under repairs, and as far as I could tell, life was going on just fine. That seemed … odd. I stood at the rail and watched people strolling the boardwalks, coming in and out of shops with hands full of bright-colored bags, eating at outdoor cafes. It seemed so normal.
It didn’t seem like the end of the world as we knew it. In the movies, everybody’s looking up at the skies (conveniently, all at the same daylight hour, everywhere in the world, all at once) when the big disaster is coming. In real life, people just carry on until the disaster’s in their face, and sometimes, even after. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve personally fished out of flooded homes and businesses during hurricanes, for instance – and the ones that the Wardens couldn’t save. All because they denied the ability of the world around them to destroy them.
There were potentially big losses of life brewing everywhere around the world, but so far they were just breaking news stories happening (for most people) somewhere else. Interesting and tragic, not personal and panic-bringing. Nothing to interrupt dinner at Pascal’s on Ponce over, for sure.
That would change, very soon. I knew it, even though I couldn’t sense the aetheric disturbances anymore. Wardens were talking about it, and I could sense the suppressed anxiety in their voices.
This lovely day in Miami was the last we might ever see. I had a sudden, crazy impulse to start yelling like some wild-haired, sandwich-board-wearing street preacher, but I held my breath until it passed. Doomsaying wouldn’t make anybody’s day better. Or postpone the inevitable.
The ship was maneuvering up to the docks, and I could see, in the distance, a massive presence of cars, vans and trucks. I nudged Lewis, who was standing next to me at the railing. “What is that?”
“The transportation you arranged,” he said. “Cars and vans to shuttle people where they need to go.”
“All of that?”
“Plus the press.”
My palms immediately got damp, and I scrubbed them against my blue jeans. “What’s our plan to handle them?”
“Benign neglect. We’re going to be neck-deep in Apocalypse tomorrow. I can’t see how issuing a press release is going to make a damn bit of difference, so we’re not talking.”
Worked for me. “David’s going with me. To the Oracles.”
Lewis didn’t take his eyes off the docking process. “Good. I didn’t like sending you alone.” He paused, and then said, very quietly, “I don’t like sending you at all. You know that.” Yeah, and I knew why. So did David. Uncomfortably personal territory, so I skipped it.
“It’s a dirty job, but that’s why you picked me to do it,” I said cheerfully. “Besides, if I can pick up some of my powers along the way, this might not be the rush to martyrdom you think.”
“It’s a big if, Jo.”
“It’s a gi-normous if. Not to mention an embarrasingly large how. So let’s not dwell on it. Besides, you’re the one going up against Djinn and insane planets with a grudge. I’ve got the easy job.”
He shrugged, because I wasn’t wrong; nobody was guaranteed to come out of this thing with a whole skin – Lewis, the most powerful Warden in several hundred years, least of all. The most powerful you were, the more the bad things tended to want you dead. At least, in my experience.
Which meant I was practically bulletproof right now, ironically. I literally wasn’t worth noticing. Was that a comfort? I really wasn’t sure.
“You’ve been taking the hits for a long time,” Lewis said. He hadn’t even glanced at me, but he could read me just fine. “Let the rest of us get the battle scars for a change. We’re big kids.”
“Did I ever say you weren’t?”
“No, but your hero complex scares the crap out of me,” Lewis said, and straightened up. “Here we go.”
I thought he meant that we were ready to disembark, but he turned toward me, and before I even knew he was intending to do it, he kissed me. Not one the desperate kind of kisses he’d given me in the past, none of that longing or anguish or pure lust I knew was still locked up inside of him. This was surprisingly … pure. Chaste.
It was a goodbye kiss.
I didn’t fight it.
He didn’t say another word, and it wasn’t necessary. I watched him stride away, already calling orders to Wardens who flocked around him like birds, swooping in to get instructions and then breaking off on their own.
That left me alone at the rail, until I sensed a warm presence next to me, and looked over to see that David had joined me. He had no particular expression on his face. It was just – studiously neutral.
“You saw,” I said.
“Yes. I know what it was,” he said. “And he’s right. We might never see him again. I’d kiss him myself, but he might kill me.”
Which made me laugh, as he intended. Though, knowing how ancient David was, I wasn’t entirely putting that kind of flexibility past him, either. “You’re a good man,” I said.
“Am I?” He frowned down at the docks, as if it was a difficult question. “Maybe I was, once. Maybe I can be. But I’ve done a lot of things that wouldn’t qualify as good. I think – I think this is a chance to remember what that means.”
“Bullshit,” I said crisply. “We’re not in the navel-gazing business, my love, we’re in the world-saving business. Don’t you forget it.”
That surprised a smile out of him, a spark that reminded me of the fire he’d had before … before the island, and that black corner. “I won’t.”
You can read the full excerpt online HERE. (Beware. Crappy cliffhanger ensues!)
Rating: 8 – Excellent
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