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Sunday, February 19, 2012


Author: Rachel Caine (pseudonym for Roxanne Longstreet Conrad)
Plot Type: UF
Ratings: V4; S2-3; H1
Publisher and Titles: Roc
          Undone (2009)
          Unknown (2010)
          Unseen (2011)
          Unbroken (2012) (FINAL BOOK)

     This blog entry serves primarily as a review of the final book in this series: Unbroken. That review follows this brief overview of the series mythology:

     This series is connected to Caine’s WEATHER WARDEN series, and some of the characters overlap. In this world, the four elements are controlled by Weather Wardens, magically talented specialists who control the forces of air, water, fire, and earth. Together they try to keep the earth’s elements in balance at the cost of as few human lives as possible. The Wardens derive some of their power from Djinn (think genies), who serve as slaves to the strongest of the Wardens and who assist the Wardens in their elemental struggles. The long-term story line for both series relates to the Mother Earth’s reaction to the horrible things that humans are doing to her. The series unwinds on a tight continuum over a very short period of time, with only days separating the action from book to book. Occasionally, the weather science segments can be a bit technical (think Weather Channel on overload).

     The heroine of the series is Cassiel, who was once a powerful Djinn. Just before the series begins, her leader, Ashan, ordered her to kill all of humanity. When Cassiel refused to do it, she was cast out of the Djinn and forced to continue her life in human form with just a fraction of her previous Djinn powers.

     Book 1 begins with Cassiel’s first earthly assignment as an assistant to Manny Rocha, an Earth Warden in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she finds herself attracted to Manny’s brother, Luis, also an Earth Warden. Books 2 and 3 follow Cassiel and Luis as they discover that Pearl, a malevolent Djinn from Cassiel’s past, has now manifested herself on Earth and is kidnapping the children of Wardens and corrupting their powers as she tries to overcome the Mother Earth and kill all of the Djinn. Cassiel and Luis must track down and eliminate Pearl in order to save both the Djinn and the human race. Throughout the series, Cass’s loyalties are torn between her centuries-long ties with the Djinn and her current human life with Luis and the other Wardens.

     As Unbroken opens, Cass and Luis are still on Pearl’s trail, but circumstances are now complicated by the fact that the Mother Earth is enraged at humans for the harm they have done to the physical environment, so she is highjacking Djinn and forcing them to kill humans and Wardens. She is also causing horrendous havoc across the globe with various natural disasters, including tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunami, and fires caused by lightning strikes. The end of the world appears to be at hand.

     Accompanying Cass and Luis are Isabel and Esmeralda—two damaged individuals with uncertain loyalties. Isabel is Luis’s 6-year-old niece, who was kidnapped by Pearl and rescued by Cass and Luis in the previous book. Pearl has heightened Isabel’s powers to dangerous levels, and as a result of her treatment while in captivity, Isabel is emotionally unstable. Esmeralda is a Djinn who has been forced to remain in a half-human/half-snake form as punishment for previous misdeeds. She’s bitter about life in general, is only out for herself, and excretes poisonous venom when she bites—definitely not a great traveling companion to be stuck with during the apocalypse. As the world is consumed by the Mother’s forces and the Djinn continue to attack both Wardens and humans, Cass must decide once and for all which side she is on: human or Djinn. All during the series, hints have been made that Cass is some kind of chosen one who will determine the fate of humanity, and those suspicions are confirmed by the time we reach the climactic battle between Cassiel and Pearl (which feels rushed and surreal in the nebulous out-of-nowhere magic of its resolution). The resolution of the Mother Earth problem is also problematic, taking place entirely offstage and ending with a totally unforeseeable, life-changing experience for one of the main characters in both series. This is the final book in the series, so, naturally, it has the requisite HEA.

     Here, Cass reflects on the mutating circumstances of her life: “Ashan had exiled me from the Djinn because I’d refused to kill humanity….His response had been to cast me down into human form, but I had grown to realize, over this time with them, that it hadn’t been punishment so much as another, long-game strategy. I was the miserable hope that Ashan had placed in the center of this, placed to bring about the end of the game if I had the courage…a useless, fragile, broken human. I couldn’t save anyone. I couldn’t even save myself.” (Unbroken, pp. 3-64)

     This book should definitely not be read as a stand alone. A reader needs the background of the first three books (and the WEATHER WARDEN books) to understand the mythology and the story arc.

     Cass is a great UF heroine—smart but not smart-alecky, resolute but not headstrong, and courageous but not reckless, although she does take some risks in Unbroken. After all, when you're facing Armageddon, you might as well go for broke. Despite the fact that Cass constantly misses her previous Djinn existence, she makes the best of her situation and takes up her new human life without drowning in self pity. The character of her hero, Luis, is not nearly as well-developed. In addition to being the source of her power, Luis serves primarily as the love interest that encourages Cass to keep in touch with her human nature. The Djinn and the various Wardens have so many types of powers that sometimes it is difficult to keep track of the action, but the stories are fast-paced and well told—if you can just keep the mythology straight in your mind. Reading the WEATHER WARDEN series first will help.

     Click HERE to go to a page on Caine's web site with links to excerpts from the four books in this series. Just click on a book cover to reach the excerpt.

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