Rating: 4.75/5 stars
Series: Cainsville, Book 1
Genres: Adult, Thriller, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Fiction, Supernatural, Romance
That’s how superstitions thrive – you see a so-called omen, and when it doesn’t come true, you find another event that fits… if you ram that square peg into the round hole (Ch. 50, p. 352).
Olivia Taylor-Jones isn’t your average debutante. No, the idea of becoming a housewife and never working a real job is something she finds abhorrent. While she deeply loves her fiance James, she can’t imagine being a politician’s wife or giving up her own dreams to make him happy. Olivia has been pretending to be the perfect high society girl, the perfect fiance – even the perfect daughter – long enough that she knows this life isn’t really for her.
Yet when things hit the fan, Olivia can’t help but wish she fit into this world a little better. Feeling as if her whole life was a lie, Olivia leaves her loved ones behind in order to protect them from her past – the past she didn’t know about since her adoption as a toddler. After all, who wants to be associated with the daughter of serial killers?
I love the way that Armstrong wrote this story. Olivia is struggling to put clues together in order to prove to herself whether or not the Larsens are actually guilty while the reader is given access to clues Olivia doesn’t know. This allows the reader to attempt to solve the case before Olivia, though I must admit Olivia is pretty good at sussing out what’s really going on. Even if she only has part of the story.
Throw into the mix a dynamic cast of characters and this is a book I struggled to put down. Not that I ever wanted to put it down, but sometimes the real world gets in the way. What I mean is: Armstrong did a fantastic job at creating a cast of characters I can’t wait to learn more about. Each character feels wholly themself, jumping off the page as if you could walk past them on the sidewalk and have them be a living, breathing person.
I also love the way that Armstrong throws in just a hint of the supernatural in this novel. As the opening of a series, it does, in my opinion, a perfect job of getting the reader interested in what the main character knows and understands about the world around her. The abilities that have remained hidden since she was a child start to flare up and Olivia needs to figure out for herself how much of them she’s going to be willing to accept – and how much she’s going to ignore and pretend isn’t there. There’s also more to Cainsville than meets the eye, and though Olivia can’t put her finger on it she knows she feels safe within town boarders.
While I read this story when it first came out back in 2013, it was so long ago – and I’ve read a lot of books since then – that I barely remembered who the characters were going into this read through. This meant that I got to experience the events of this novel as if it was my first time reading it. And I loved every second of it.
If you’re looking for a great mystery and don’t mind a supernatural aspect to it, I’d highly recommend giving this novel a try if you haven’t already. I fond this series to be different from Armstrong’s other writings, such as her Otherworld books that I’ve gushed about on more than one occasion, which just goes to show how dynamic of a writer she is.
The only real complaint that I’ve seen about this novel is the fact that it’s very clearly a setup novel to the rest of the series. While I can understand why this would turn some people off, I don’t think that this fact alone should keep you from reading the novel. Some of Armstrong’s other works did a much better job at holding their own without playing setup to following books, that’s for sure. And yet, I’m not mad at the way Omens was written. It’s made me excited to continue on with the series and I plan on picking up Visions in the near future.
Before I even think about getting into the meat of the story, I just have to say that Olivia’s mum is an ass. I understand that she was raised a certain way and it led her to thinking the world revolves around herself, but I really do feel as if that’s a poor excuse for the way that she treated Olivia. There’s no reason to wish you could disown a child you adopted – and get rid of her inheritance – just because her biological parents weren’t the most savory type of people. And then to act as if Olivia was overreacting by moving out of her family house – which she hadn’t been living in for a bit, not that it was noticed – was despicable. I understand that there are people like this in the world, people who are so self centered that they don’t even realize how their words or acting impact those around them, but I cannot comprehend living life this way. Truth me told, I kind of pity Olivia’s mum for having to live her life this way.
On a much happier note, it was really cool to read about Eden/Olivia sensing an omen back when she was 2 1/2 – well before she even knew what she was doing. It couldn’t have been easy for her, trying to process all of the sights, sounds, and smells in order for your brain to try and suss out meaning from your surroundings. It’s got to be even harder for Olivia having grown up in a world that doesn’t believe in omens, in a world where she’s been led to believe she’s someone she’s not.
Though I do like the fact that once Olivia starts to accept that she can read omens the world stops trying to overwhelm her as much. She finally understands that her brain is sifting through all of the stimuli around her so she stops trying to fight against it – even if she was doing it subconsciously. She might not fully understand how reading omens works, but Olivia has finally found herself in a place in her life where she’s able to accept that there might be something to it. Even if finding death omens all around can be pretty disconcerting.
I have to admit, the idea of the kind of life that Olivia was expected to live chaffed at me even though I never would have had to live that life myself. The idea of being the woman of the house, of never working a paying job and relying on someone else to pay the bills, sounds like a living nightmare to me. Sure I know some people who aspire to that, but I would have reacted to the suggestion of it the way that Olivia did – by pretending everything was okay and hating every second of it. I’d hate to be arm candy, spending my time wasting it – well, not completely wasting it since Olivia was still helping people even if it wasn’t what she wanted to do – when there’s so much more you could be doing with your time. I’m glad she got out of the situation… even if it wasn’t in the best way.
As I mentioned earlier, I really do enjoy the fact that Armstrong has added in mini chapters that contain side viewpoint of those who pass Olivia and their reactions to interacting with her. Getting to see the lengths to which people went in order to get Olivia to go to Cainsville in the first place was fascinating. Then, once she’s there, we get to see how the townsfolk really feel about her presence in their small community. On the flip side, we get to see how the “bad guys” are working towards keeping Olivia from the truth – about the murders and her own powers. I can’t wait to see how this progressed in the rest of the series.
Please excuse my small tangent. I want to see the child Gabriel gargoyle – and I know I can’t be the only one. You’ve got to admit, it’s got to be cute. Him being a serious little kid collecting all the information on the town gargoyles that he could is adorable. Sure adult Gabriel has got to be embarrassed, but it’s still an adorable story.
Okay, back to the real world. I’m excited to see the way in which Gabriel and Olivia’s relationship flourishes throughout the rest of the series. I vaguely remember something about Gabriel getting mad at Ricky over Olivia, but I can’t remember what it was about. Like at all. I assume this means that there’s going to be a bit of a messy love triangle, since Ricky has already expressed interest in Olivia and she didn’t completely reject him, but I can’t imagine how that’s going to work since Gabriel seems extremely determined to deny any feelings he “might” have for Olivia.
Gariel’s great aunt, Rose, is another character that I’ve certainly come to love. I love that her sight isn’t the stereotypical depiction of what someone having the sight looks like. No, she’s open about being a conman when it comes to swindling easy people and how the sight doesn’t work in absolutes. This is a depiction that I love when it’s done well – and I believe Armstrong did it well. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a sassy old lady who doesn’t apologize for being who she is.
Patrick is also an interesting character. I can’t wait to find out how his relationship with Gabriel will develop now that Gabriel is spending more time in Cainsville with Olivia. After all, Patrick did call Gabriel one of his. I’m also looking forward to the conflict between Ida and Patrick because who doesn’t like a little conflict in their novels every now and then?
Another thing I’m looking forward to is seeing the ways in which the Huntsmen play a role in the story. At the very end of the book Olivia sees a hound in Cainsville, just as she was warned, which is obviously a setup for things that are to come. It’s clear that they were behind the mind control in this novel and I’m looking forward to seeing how big of a role they plan in the other murders – if they had a hand in them at all.
Finally, I’m looking forward to Olivia discovering if her birth parents were guilty or innocent. While she still considers the Taylor-Joneses to be her mum and dad, it’s interesting to see her take an interest in her birth parents. It’s refreshing to read about a character finding out that she’s adopted and not dropping the family that she’s known her whole life to be with her birth parents. I enjoy the fact that Olivia is cautious in regards to Todd and Pamela Larsen – independent from the fact that they’re convicted serial killers, of course.
If you’ve made it this far: Hi! How are you doing? If you’ve already read this book (or even the series), I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Other reviews in this series: