{Review} OMENS by Kelley Armstrong

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

   EDEN CRAWLED INTO THE LIVING ROOM, the rough carpet burning her chubby knees and hands. As boots slapped the hall floor, she went still, holding her breath.
   Had he heard her? 
   The footsteps stopped. She leaned back around the doorway and peeked down the dark hall. There was no sign of him. Not yet. But he'd come for her. He always did. 
   She crept a little farther, resisting the urge to leap to her feet and run. He'd hear her if she ran.
(pg. 1, US hardcover edition)

Let me preface by saying I've never read a Kelley Armstrong book before. If you're looking for a review comparing her new Cainsville Series to her other bestselling series, you won't find it here. I'm not really into paranormal novels, so up until now, Armstrong's books haven't appealed to my personal preferences. After finishing OMENS, however, I would definitely read another Cainsville novel by her (The second book, VISIONS, will release in August 2014). I'm also eager to read her debut middle-grade novel, LOKI'S WOLVES, which she co-wrote with bestselling YA author Melissa Marr, and next year's YA release SEA OF SHADOWS. Her books with a more fantasy or mythological tilt are obviously more my cup of tea.

OMENS is tough to describe. It's in fantasy/sci-fi, but it's not really fantasy...or sci-fi...or paranormal. Not really. Not yet. It reads more mystery than fantasy to me, but this could be because I'm not all that familiar with the urban fantasy genre. To me, fantasy is epic/high fantasy and full of adventures, royalty, knights, fantastic beasts, etc. There are, however, hints at things to come in future books. Armstrong is laying down the groundwork for more fantastic elements. The town of Cainsville is hiding secrets, many of which seem to be Welsh in nature. And there are Town Elders. Hmm! Her main character, Olivia Taylor-Jones, is able to interpret omens, and her neighbor supposedly has "the sight." There are also obscure Druidic rituals at play. It's really hard to say where, exactly, the book falls on the spectrum just yet. To me, it's more about the mystery and intrigue at the moment.

Olivia spends much of the book teamed up with her lawyer, the enigmatic Gabriel Walsh. While she grew up believing herself to be the privileged daughter of the Taylor-Jones family, she's horrified to discover that she was adopted...and never told. Her real name is Eden Larsen, which makes her the biological daughter of notorious serial killers Todd and Pamela Larsen. She visits her birthmother in jail, where she is told to investigate the murders a little deeper. Pamela claims innocence, and says that the fourth set of murders proves it. Olivia and Gabriel decide to investigate, and in the process, unearth secrets that people will kill to keep quiet.

See? Totally a crime mystery thriller. Especially when the book is being blurbed by Lisa Gardner, Lisa Unger, Linwood Barclay, and Suspense Magazine. Not fantasy authors. It's interesting mix of two worlds. I've never seen fantasy combined with murder mystery in quite this way before (Then again, I don't read much of either genre). It was an intriguing new experience, and I'm dying to unravel more of the mysteries taunting readers throughout the novel. I'm especially eager to learn more about lawyer Gabriel Walsh. He's enigmatic and interesting. We've only scratched the surface of his character with brief but defining glimpses of his past. I'd also love it if he became a love interest at some point in the series, which is saying a lot, because at first, I really didn't care for the guy! He's developing nicely, and I'm eager to see him become more fleshed out. It's nice to have a book that isn't all about the romance. If things do develop, it will be slowly, naturally. Right now, Olivia and Gabriel find one another intriguing and have formed a tenuous bond of--dare I say it?--friendship. I can see a true partnership forming here, especially after Gabriel's end-of-novel proposition. It will be infuriating to us as readers, but I really like the idea of a slow-burn when it comes to romance, building and building until it's like, ALL RIGHT ALREADY! And then BAM! LOL. I'm also a fan of the mysterious writer Patrick, who knows, much, much more than he's saying. I don't see him as a love interest, but you never know. I'm wondering at his relationship with Cainsville and the Elders, and the fact that he knows so much!

OMENS is mostly told in first-person through Olivia's POV. At times, it switches to third-person through the eyes of secondary characters such as Gabriel, Patrick, and various Cainsville townsfolk. It's easy to go from one POV to the other, since they're not in the same tone. Each snippet adds a little more information that Olivia isn't privy to. It gives readers hints at more than what meets the eye and adds to the intrigue and suspense of the novel and the town of Cainsville. The novel felt very grounded in reality and believable; I wouldn't be surprised to see something like this happen in real life, or for a crime show such as NCIS to feature similar types of murder scenarios and rituals as killers are tracked. Plus, I so want to go to Cainsville on a Gargoyle Scavenger Hunt!! Armstrong opens OMENS with a note that she's sprinkled Easter Eggs throughout the book that can help you figure out secrets early. I recognized many terms, but wasn't able to put things together! Hobgoblins, pixies, (stone) gargoyles, ravens, changelings...something Welsh is coming, but I have no clue what! Hopefully VISIONS grounds the mysterious part of the world more and introduces a little more fantasy!
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I'm enjoying the fact that the cover has images on both the front and back of the dust jacket. This is Cainsville, a small, sleepy town. At a glance, there's nothing extraordinary about the buildings on the cover. The coloring reminds me in some ways of the small towns of the wild west. (I do wish you could see a gargoyle statue on the cover, but hey, they're hidden images anyway, right??) There's also a super-small image of a man walking on the sidewalk. Hmmm, intriguing!

I love the shiny green foil of the title. It shouts out the book's name, OMENS, and makes you wonder what is going on in this sleepy town that could possibly be ominous? 

This cover tells you so little, yet there's still something compelling about it!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Title: OMENS
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Release Date: Aug. 20, 2013
Publisher: Dutton Adult / Penguin
Received: For Review

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong begins her new series with Omens, featuring a compelling new heroine thrust into a decades-old murder case and the dark mysteries surrounding her strange new home. 

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 fiancĂ©, 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.