Sunday, December 27, 2009

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey (4.5/5 stars)

I loved Carey's Kushiel series and I also read a lot of urban fantasy, so I was excited to see that Carey had tried her hand at an urban fantasy novel. This novel wasn't at all what I expected but I liked it quite a bit all the same.

Santa Olivia is a small area that is acting as a buffer zone between plague ridden Mexico and the United States. No one knows the town exists outside of the Army. The citizens of the town struggle to make it. This story tells a tale of two half-siblings; Tom and Loup. After their mother dies, Tom goes to live at the gym and train for the boxing matches that could be his ticket out of Santa Olivia. Loup is sent to live at the church with other orphans there. Loup is not quite human because of her genetically modified father and ensues on a series of semi-vigilante actions with the other orphans of the church.

This was a great story. The characters are interesting and engaging. The story compelling because you are constantly hoping that the characters will win the boxing matches and get their ticket out of this secret, rundown town. Loup is the most intriguing character because she does not fear (because of being not quite human). Carey does an excellent job of realistically dealing with the problems that come with being fearless when it comes into blending into society. All of the characters in (and out) out of the church are very well done and have interesting pasts.

I was also impressed that Carey did a great job at making such an isolated society realistic and reasonable. She does an excellent job showing how things are kept in check.

The story wasn't what I expected though. It was just different from most urban fantasy, much less action driven and more character driven. This ended up being okay and interesting...just unexpected. I also thought that Carey's writing style was a bit odd for this type of story. The profanity used by some of the characters came off as sounding a bit odd when paired with some of the more detailed descriptions or sensual scenes. It wasn't bad, it was just different. I think people who think this is some sort of super-hero like paranormal novel may be disappointed or at least taken by surprise...this book was just different from anything out there.

Overall I really liked the story and the characters. I hope that Carey does some additional stand-alone novels. The biggest problem with this book is that it may not appeal to the fans of her epic fantasy Kushiel series and it may be too different for the paranormal crowd...but if you are into both urban fantasy and Carey's previous works I would definitely give it a read.

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