by Rachel Caine – This book is full of surprises. And while I won’t pretend I didn’t figure out a few of them before the author revealed them, I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised by the dénouement. It was unexpected and clever and yet entirely logical in the framework of the book.
Set in modern America, the story is technically urban fiction, what with the introduction of a magical layer to human existence that most people never experience or even recognize. In this other dimension, there are people who have affinities for the weather, the Earth, fire and water, and these few are trained and expected to work to keep the planet relatively quiescent… or at least to keep it from killing the human population. There is no gentle Gaia here; rather there is an almost incomprehensible consciousness and awareness that is, at best, unconcerned about our welfare. At worst, it would let the forces of nature run amok. After all, the planet itself isn’t going to cease to exist, even if the current dominant life forms on it do. The wardens use small tweaks of power to work with the chemistry and physics of the world, reducing big disasters before or as they happen.
We are introduced to this world from the first page of the book, as our intrepid heroine Joanna, a young weather warden, is fleeing a storm that is trying actively to kill her. It has chased her across half the North American continent and it doesn’t care who else gets hurt, as long as Joanna dies. As she races ahead of the storm, Joanna is also fleeing the authorities in her own organization, as it appears Joanna has killed one of the most powerful of their order. And if that weren’t enough, she’s been marked by a demon, which will destroy her from the inside out… if she lives long enough for it to do its thing.
Joanna is racing to find Lewis, a former warden and academy friend, a man with even more power than she has, hoping he can help her remove the Demon Mark by giving her a djinn, the only nonhuman creature she knows of that is strong enough to take it from her. On her way, she meets David, a gorgeous and mysterious hitchhiker who draws her like iron shavings to a magnet. She wants him, but is afraid to trust him, especially since non-magical people aren’t supposed to know about the true nature of their world. And he’s no warden, of that she’s sure.
I really liked this book and look forward to reading the next one in the series. It’s a fun new concept, blending real-world problems and science with magical creatures and powers. And the first-person narrative, told by Joanna, is a blast, too. She’s snarky, smart, funny and oh-so-human. Highly recommended. (finished 8/18/2012)