fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsVisions by Kelley Armstrong urban fantasy book reviewsVisions by Kelley Armstrong

It always feels weird to write a DNF review for a book that’s not actually bad. There is nothing objectively wrong with Kelley Armstrong’s Visions, at least in the portion of it I finished, and it would be a perfectly fine read. For someone else. For me, it felt like I’d boarded a train that I thought was going to Albuquerque, and it turned out to be headed for Chattanooga instead. There’s nothing wrong with Chattanooga, but I’ve been there before, and I was really looking forward to that trip to Albuquerque, so I’m getting off this train in the hopes I can still catch the other one.

Visions, the second book in Armstrong’s CAINESVILLE series, begins with Olivia finding a corpse in her car, dressed to look like her. The corpse then disappears, and with Olivia’s talent for seeing omens, she’s not initially sure whether the dead woman was ever really there, or if she was just a portent. The woman does turn out to be real, though, and she was from Cainsville. Who killed her and why, and why did the killer leave the body for Olivia to find, and what about these weird dogs Olivia keeps seeing? These questions, along with the continuing mystery surrounding Olivia’s birth parents and their guilt or innocence, were what I thought would form the backbone of the novel.

Unfortunately, Visions gets sidetracked into a love triangle. It’s not that I hate this plot device per se; it’s more that I started reading this series because I was interested in the murders, and they just disappear from the story for a while as the romantic plot picks up steam. It doesn’t help that I don’t really like either of the guys much yet. Ricky is uninteresting, and is also literally involved in organized crime. Gabriel is the more likable of the two, but exhibits some annoying dominance behaviors (I got fed up with him when he walked out of a room and expected Olivia to follow him automatically; he was grumpy when she didn’t). It also doesn’t help that, while neither of these guys are werewolves*, they both kind of… seem like werewolves. Ricky has a pack (his biker gang), while Gabriel does the brooding alpha thing.

Again, love triangles are not inherently bad, and some readers will really like these developments. For me, though, it made CAINSVILLE feel more like many other urban fantasies I’ve read, when it had started as something unique. Hence the DNF. Though I can’t promise I won’t read spoilers when the series ends, because I do still want to know whether Olivia’s folks are guilty.

*I do think the cat is a shapeshifter, though I haven’t checked his appearances against anyone else’s to prove or disprove it.

Cainsville — (2013- ) Publisher: 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.

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  • Kelly Lasiter

    KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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