Tag Archives: Darkest Powers

Omens (Book I of the Cainsville Series) by Kelley Armstrong – A Review

GUEST POST – teachergirl 73

If you have read any of my earlier posts regarding Kelley Armstrong, then you know that I am a huge fan. Armstrong hooked me for life after her first novel Bitten, and I know that when I pick up her books, that I’ll be entertained. That is not to say that I love all of her works the same, but I know that even if the story line isn’t my favourite, it will still be well written.

SYNOPSIS – Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

Armstrong-Kelley-Omens-794x529Omens is the first book in a series that Armstrong began in 2013. It is a departure from her Otherworld series, which introduced us to Armstrong’s perspective of the world of werewolves, witches, vampires and other supernatural beings. To be honest, even now that I’ve finished Omens, I still can’t quite put my finger on what supernatural vibes are going on other than there are hints of the occult and old superstitions related to paganism. Olivia, our protagonist of the story, seems to have the ability to foretell events that may happen through the interpretation of “old wives tales”. She seems unaware of why she has this talent, and throughout most of the book, she is trying to deny the importance of these superstitious beliefs which becomes increasingly difficult for her as the story progresses.

IMG_0087Beyond this unusual talent of Olivia’s, I was really left wondering where Armstrong was headed with this story. Armstrong is very good at cliffhangers. Years ago, as I was reading Armstrong’s YA series, The Darkest Powers Trilogy: Summoning, Awakening and Reckoning, I was impressed with her skills for keeping her readers hooked from chapter to chapter and then from book to book. The way that Omens is wrapped up, you are definitely left wanting more, if only to figure out what the heck is going on in the increasingly creepy town of Cainsville,  where our heroine ends up calling home. A town which seems to be under the ever watchful eye of the many gargoyles found around town, including some gargoyles that only come out at night.  Did I mention that the town is creepy?


When the plague struck Chicago, the townspeople here erected the gargoyles, and nary a soul was lost to the Black Death.”
“The bubonic plague predates Chicago by about five hundred years.”
He lowered himself to the bench. “I know. I was very disappointed when I found out. Almost as bad as when I learned there were no fairies. The world is much more interesting with goblins and plagues.”
Unless you catch the plague.”
Kelley Armstrong, Omens


In Omens, we are dropped into the life of Olivia Taylor-Jones, a member of Chicago’s high-society elite, who finds her life blown apart as she learns that nothing is really as it seems. Olivia is really Eden Larsen, who was adopted as a young toddler by the Taylor-Jones family. Her birth parents turn out to be notorious serial killers. Her widowed mother is too fragile for the media maelstrom that erupts after the world discovers Olivia’s true identity and goes into hiding, leaving Olivia on her own. In an attempt to avoid the paparazzi, as well as, protect her family and friends in Chicago, Olivia goes on the run and finds herself back in the small town of Cainsville, where she lived with her birth parents. Unaware of what appears to be preternatural machinations that draw her to Cainsville, Olivia goes about the business of finding a place to live and getting a job. The town seems to accept Olivia’s presence, unlike Olivia’s friends, family and even her fiance back in Chicago who cannot wait to be rid of her and the scandal that she has brought to their doorsteps.

There are some interesting characters living in Cainsville, in particular the senior citizen contingent of the town. In terms of demographics, Cainsville definitely seems to have more seniors than children running around. The seniors also seem to be true “elders” of the town, and you get the sense that they are running the show. One character, however, seems to command more respect than the seniors and that is Patrick. He is a writer of paranormal romance, or so he says, but it is clear to Olivia that there is more to Patrick than meets the eye. Olivia senses a definite “don’t f@ck with me” vibe rolling off of Patrick, but she can’t quite put her finger on the why behind it.

Then there’s Gabriel Walsh, who is the real enigma in this story. Is he just a money-grubbing lawyer, only interested in the fame and fortune that Olivia’s story can bring him? Or is he a tortured soul, unknowingly looking for redemption and salvation that only Olivia can provide? I found the development of Olivia and Gabriel’s relationship intriguing and I definitely want to see how Gabriel’s character evolves over the course of the series.

JaxI would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention the introduction of the character Ricky, who can only be a Charlie Hunnam look-a-like, and if you have ever watched the show Sons of Anarchy, you would understand why. Coincidentally, Ricky is the son of the head of a successful motorcycle club, just like Hunnam’s character “Jacks” in SOA. Ricky seems to possess many of Jacks’ charming qualities and resourcefulness which will undoubtedly be needed in the second and third book of the series. Ricky could also prove to be a possible love interest for Olivia, or at least the third of a potential Gabriel-Olivia-Ricky love triangle. Who doesn’t enjoy a good love triangle?

EXCERPT – First eight chapters

At the end of Omens, some questions are answered, but so many more are left, which is the sign of a good writer. I’m very curious to see just what Cainsville is really all about and are Olivia’s birth parents murderers or is there something worse that they are hiding?


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Kelley_Armstrong_3-lrgKelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers’ dismay. All efforts to make her produce “normal” stories failed.

Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She’s the author of the NYT-bestselling “Women of the Otherworld” paranormal suspense series and “Darkest Powers” young adult urban fantasy trilogy, as well as the Nadia Stafford crime series. Armstrong lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets.








‘Tis the Season for Witches, Ghouls and Goblins…Or Something Like That! A Review for Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong

GUEST POST – teachergirl73

Led Astray

Two brand new tales anchor this wide-ranging collection from one of urban fantasy’s most successful authors. Here is the first time that best-selling fantasy, YA, and crime author Kelley Armstrong has had her stories collected from Otherworld and beyond. With her signature twists and turns, Armstrong gives a fresh spin on city-dwelling vampires, werewolves, and zombies, while also traveling further afield, to a post-apocalyptic fortress, a superstitious village, a supernatural brothel, and even to feudal Japan.

With tales that range from humorous to heart-stopping, these are the stories that showcase Kelley Armstrong at her versatile best.

  • Rakshashi (standalone)
  • Kat (Darkest Powers universe, non-series narrator)
  • A Haunted House of Her Own (standalone)
  • Learning Curve (Otherworld universe, Zoe)
  • The Screams of Dragons (Cainsville universe, non-series narrator)
  • The Kitsune’s Nine Tales (Age of Legends universe, non-series narrator)
  • Last Stand (standalone)
  • Bamboozled (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • Branded (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • The List (Otherworld universe, Zoe)
  • Young Bloods (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • The Door (standalone, original to this collection)
  • Dead Flowers by a Roadside (standalone)
  • Suffer the Children (standalone)
  • The Collector (standalone)
  • Gabriel’s Gargoyles (Cainsville universe, Gabriel)
  • Harbinger (standalone)
  • V Plates (Otherworld universe, Nick)
  • Life Sentence (Otherworld universe, non-series narrator)
  • Plan B (standalone)
  • The Hunt (Cainsville universe, non-series narrator)
  • Dead to Me (standalone)
  • Devil May Care (Cainsville universe, Patrick, original to this collection)


I recently had the opportunity to read the ARC for Kelley Armstrong’s latest offering, Led Astray, which is due to be released this October, just in time for the “witching hour” of Halloween. As a general rule of thumb, I tend not to read short story anthologies, probably for the same reason that I prefer hour-long dramas versus a short, half hour sitcom, if I like something then I always want more. That said, Armstrong has long proven to be able to satisfy her readers over the years regardless of the format of her storytelling. She has always been generous with her fans, posting short stories related to her current writing projects via her website. This latest collection of Armstrong’s work is no exception. Armstrong’s knack for grabbing her reader’s attention from page one and propelling them through the various adventures of the supernatural world has definitely not faded over the years.

BittenIt is hard to believe that it has been almost 15 years since Bitten was first published, Armstrong’s debut novel which introduced us to the werewolf super-couple Elena Michaels and Clayton Danvers (my personal favourite) from her Women of the Otherworld series. From there, she has gone on to write a wide-range of novels and short stories, mostly in the supernatural realm, with the odd exception such as the Nadia Stafford series which is about the adventures of a female hit woman. After reading Bitten, I read through most of the Otherworld series, firstly to get my Clay and Elena fix, but I also learned to appreciate her many other cast of characters that included witches, demons, ghosts, vampires and of course werewolves. Armstrong has also achieved acclaim with her YA series’ such as the Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising books.

BTVSWhat I enjoyed the most about Led Astray was the fact that I found each story to be compelling. Some of Led Astray’s short stories are companions to pre-existing series’ like the Otherworld such as “Bamboozled” which goes back to the days of the wild west and a couple not unlike Elena and Clay living in the American frontier. I really enjoyed reading about a another female werewolf and her mate, as it clearly debunked the myth that Elena was the only female werewolf ever to exist. In the stories, “Learning Curve” and “The List”, we are introduced to a vampire named Zoe who is living in Toronto and after an evening of being “stalked” by a half-fire demon who fancies herself to be a vampire hunter, Zoe decides to take her would-be stalker and turn her into her protege. After reading “Learning Curve” which comes earlier in the anthology than “The List“, I was fondly reminded of my “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” days, and thoroughly enjoyed reading the evolution of the friendship between Zoe and her trainee, Brittany. Supernaturals need to stick together, you know.

Of the standalone stories, one of my favourites was the first entry in the anthology entitled, “Rakshasi” which is about a demon warrior named Amrita who is enslaved by a curse to walk the Earth trying to make up for her crimes during her human life in order to regain her freedom. As a “rakshasi”, Amrita is bound to her master, also known as an “isha”, who orders her to eliminate the most wanted criminals in society, but Amrita has been doing her job for 200 years, and she is beginning to wonder when her debt will be repaid, if ever?

The “Last Stand” is a dystopian story that explores the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Who doesn’t love a good zombie apocalypse??? In the “Last Stand” we meet survivors who are forced to become soldiers, to fight the zombies, or so we think that is who the enemy is in the beginning. And of course, a little romance or something like is always able to flourish even in the most dismal post-apocalyptic landscape. For both of these standalone stories, “Rakshasi” and “Last Stand”, I was left wanting more, and hopefully, Armstrong will explore both stories a little more in the future. I think that both short stories have the potential to be great novels.

In the early days, I really enjoyed reading Armstrong’s collection of short stories online, so having a collection such as this is a great way to sample Armstrong’s talents. But beware, sometimes Armstrong’s story-telling can become a little too engaging, as she weaves the fine threads of the supernatural world with that of horror and you might just find yourself looking over your shoulder or wondering about the things that go bump in the night.