The Competition (and clear choice for winner) – Omens by Kelley Armstrong

So by now, you may have seen four posts for “The Competition”.

In case you haven’t read previous posts about it, “the competition” is a local Canada Reads type book debate that I have been asked to participate in as a Defender. The purpose of the debate (aka The Competition) is to inspire the masses to read a great Canadian novel!

My end game is to WIN!  I have the best book, so I deserve it.  😉  Ultimately, my job is to convince the audience it is the best read of the bunch.  I get a second chance to reel them in with the People’s Choice Award, thus the creepy ballot box!

Easy to defend a truly great author and a fabulous read.
Easy to defend a truly great author and a fabulous read.

The Book:

5 words to describe this phenomenal new series opener by Kelley Armstrong:

Suspenseful       Mysterious       Betrayal       Conspiracy

Intense (yet still subtle if that’s even possible)

Kelley, you’ve done it again – loved it!  Truly.  Thank you for creating a book that is a clear winner without my meandering diatribe to prove it so.

This is an excellent introduction to a new series and a new genre – Contemporary Gothic (not her usual urban fantasy).  I read all 500 + pages in one sitting; I simply couldn’t put it down.  This is a novel that will transcend the boundaries of its genre and appeal to die-hard mystery, fantasy and contemporary adult lovers alike; just a hint at the supernatural – this book was written for your imagination!

Smoothly written in a combination of first person and third; I appreciated the brief chapter asides of third person narrative that created additional weight in the development of the suspense.  What the heck is going on in Cainesville??

Let’s talk about structure:

Suspense is well built from start to finish; the conclusion of the mystery aspect was wholly satisfying, yet the final chapter left me hanging enough to beg for the next installment.  Not a series reader?  No problem:  this was excellent as a stand-alone too (but I guarantee you’ll find  yourself picking up Visions when it comes out!)

The supernatural is skillfully layered, subtly and silently, with unseen shadows cast on the actual plot.  There are no witches, werewolves or vampires in this novel (or are there?) but you know something odd is happening in Cainsville, if you could just piece everything together!

There’s really only a hint at the otherworldly in this opening installment, and Olivia’s talent for spotting omens treads along the line of explainable; this makes the novel appealing to non-fantasy readers.

The bulk of the book is dedicated to the hunts, documents and secrets, one finds in a mystery, making it ideal for lovers of that genre!  But the mystery solved and culprits found are actually part of a bigger plot to be unraveled further on in the series which will leave the reader wanting more – wanting more is the marker of an excellent book!

Kelley Armstrong is a master at character development.  She could have played these characters so cliché, and in two of the supporting roles (fiancee and adoptive mother) she did get a little cliché, but they fit well in their juxtaposition against the more complex and enigmatic characterizations of others.  It is the relationship dynamics of the characters that make it great.  A case in point:

In the description of Gabriel (our main man) we are drawn to his unique appearance in a startling way.  We expect him to come out the typical delicious hero (Clayton, anyone?).  But if you’re looking for a Clay or Jeremy in this book, stop looking right now.   Rather than say how dreamy he is in all his 6’5″, linebacker-type, captivating eyed,  glory, Olivia finds him creepy!  These atypical dynamics are a huge part of the charm of these characters and their interaction is anything but typical.

Further, while Olivia could have been written as a one-dimensional, pouty, poor-me-rich-girl – she is not.  Any angst over her circumstances is brief as she gives herself a “get over it” shove to keep moving forward.  She embraces this upheaval and tenaciously pushes through in completely unexpected ways.

And what good story is complete without sexual tension?  And tension it remains!  It’s a great undercurrent, but really, it never interferes with the real story.  It’s simply a delicious nugget of coconut that keeps reemerging as you run your tongue over your teeth.  (you ever notice how you never stop finding coconut to chew through long after you’ve eaten a piece? But I digress…)

The opening where we learn she is the adopted child of an extremely wealthy family, whose birth parents happened to have been the region’s most notorious serial killers is somewhat fresh, but it isn’t reinventing the wheel.  Okay, I know that.  But it is an interesting primary concept that lead to many sub-plots and unique exploration of themes (eg nurture vs nature; poverty vs privilege, good vs evil, etc.).

The departure from the series’ for which Kelley Armstrong has become most famous (Women of the Otherworld) must have been nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time.  Kelley was recently quoted at a book signing event that she is currently working on book #3 (#2, Visions must be in editing, yay!!) and she is enjoying writing this series so  much, she hates to be interrupted. 🙂

500 + pages…and I still wanted more.

Omens, by Kelley Armstrong is a winner and she has proven her versatility once again.  Definitely give this one a read.

The Competition:

I will do everything in my power to convey the strength of this story and its wide appeal to the audience.  They do get the ultimate say in who wins, after all.

This is definitely the book that should be crowned Winner!

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