Book Review: Ill Wind (Weather Warden #1) by Rachel Caine

Title: Ill Wind
Author: Rachel Caine
Pages: 337
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Release Date: December 2, 2003
Publisher: ROC Fantasy/Penguin Books
Source:Personal Copy

For those who know me, you know that my favorite type of book to read is classic literature – the older the better.  Some of my favorite books were penned in the 18th century.  That being said, I’m also a sucker for certain modern genres – most especially urban fantasy/paranormal/supernatural type stories.  I’ve read and loved the Southern Vampire series (aka Sookie Stackhouse), Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan novels, and Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld books.

Over the past few years, I’d heard great things about Rachel Caine and had even purchased the first book in her Weather Wardens series a few years back.  This series follows Joanne Baldwin, manipulator of weather (air and water), in an epic car chase from Florida to Oklahoma after she kills one of the most powerful head Wardens.  Oh, and there are Djinn (pretty much genies in bottles) who assist the Wardens with their powers.

What drew me to this series initially was the originality of Caine’s world-building.  All fantasy novels are responsible for building a world where creatures such as vampires, werewolves, super-humans, and even genies are possible – but far too often these worlds are so similar that nothing feels creative, especially post-Twilight (Quick Note:  I’m well aware that Ill Wind was published pre-Twilight, but since I’m reading in a post-Twilight world, I can’t help but be colored by the unfortunate consequence of sparkly vampires).  But Caine’s world of Wardens who are able to control and manage water, air, earth, and fire feels so different – hell, there aren’t even any vampires and werewolves to speak of, something in and of itself refreshing.  For this aspect alone, Ill Wind is worth the read.

Unfortunately, Caine’s protagonist, Joanne, was a bit of a letdown for me personally.  She’s the cookie-cutter power female – stubborn, doesn’t listen to anyone else, takes her clothes off for too many men, and not-so-surprisingly has amazing abilities beyond anyone’s imagination.  We’ve seen Joanne written time and time again – she brings nothing really fresh to the table.  I did appreciate her love of cars – the Mustang and Viper – and her disdain for the Range Rover and Xterra.  But even this aspect feels forced – so many female heroines in these novels are defined by qualities or hobbies normally associated with men (Mercy Thompson’s a mechanic, Anita Blake loves guns).

Despite the predictability of Joanne’s character traits, the story’s end was surprising and a twist not often done in paranormal fantasy – especially the first book of a series.  The wrap-up accomplishes two things well – answers many questions to truly end the story, yet creates an entirely new path for our heroine to take for the continuation of the series. For once, this feels like a book that requires a Book Two instead of an author merely pandering for more profits.

I’m not really sure I’ll continue on with Joanne.  The world is original, the ending was creative, but the rest of the novel left too little to love.  Nothing about the characters compels me to keep up with their story and see how they resolve the next adventure they face.  Perhaps I’ve read too many of these genre stories and need a bit of a break.  I do believe that Rachel Caine is one of the better storytellers of the genre and deserves the notice by fans of the supernatural.

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