Unknown, by Rachel Caine (Roc, 2010)

The renegade djinn Pearl has been kidnapping and brainwashing children with the power to control the elements, in her mad crusade to destroy the rest of her kind and thus gain vengeance for a millennia-old grievance. Standing against her is the former djinn Cassiel, who’s been presented with a choice: remove Pearl’s power source by destroying humanity, or risk the utter annihilation of the entire Earth by letting Pearl succeed. Unfortunately, the now-human Cassiel refuses to let either of these scenarios play out, instead seeking a third alternative. With her partner Luis Rocha, she works to rescue the missing children, one of whom is Luis’ own niece. But Pearl has many pawns and resources to throw at Cassiel, and nearly unlimited power, so Cassiel and Luis will be faced with a constant struggle for survival along the way. Can one badass ex-djinn win against an army of corrupted children, a pack of renegade bikers, and a near-omnipotent enemy, with the fate of the world resting on her choices? You better hope so.

Picking up where Undone left off, itself a spin-off from the popular Weather Wardens series, Unknown is a fast-paced, hard-hitting, intense adventure. Cassiel’s a uniquely-fascinating protagonist, an outsider forced to adapt and adjust to the human world at breakneck pace, with often-surprising results. (Side note: I have a cat who was raised feral for the first few weeks of her life, and even after many years living indoors, she’s still a temperamental, paranoid, vindictive wretch who turns into a frenzy of many-pointed death when picked up against her will; I have the scars to prove it. Cassiel is much like that cat, direct and stubborn, prickly when poked, bowing to human customs only out of necessity, and deadly when provoked.) Her growth as a person with feelings, needs, and human ties is compelling and believable, and this story is very much about this evolution she experiences along the way.

It’s also about weather-manipulating magical battles, the constant threat of betrayal from within, the necessity of impossible choices, and a world on the cusp of change. Following events in the Weather Wardens series, the general public has become aware of the secret powers living among them, and this elemental struggle which affects everyone, humans, Wardens, and djinn. Thus, we get to see more of the complex consequences as people cope with the new status quo.

It’s certainly possible to read this series (Outcast Season) on its own, but you really need to read the Weather Warden series as well to get the full picture. Of course, what you’ll see then is an intricate, epic, exciting storyline that’s steadily building towards one heck of a climax. Unknown may be a small part of a larger story, but it’s still a wild ride in its own right. Cassiel’s fast become one of my favorite badass urban fantasy woman for her attitude, competence, and confused-yet-intrigued response to the human emotions growing within her. I hope her story has a happy ending, but I’m not willing to put money down on it quite yet, since Rachel Caine has a habit of surprising the reader. Still, this is a fun book, and I really enjoyed it.

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