Review of Ill Wind – Book 1 of the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine

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Enjoy non-stop, action-packed fantasy, complete with the mandatory misunderstood but gutsy heroine? Have to say – I love it. I’m a complete sucker for the better written series – and here’s a real treat. Caine has given us a world where naturally occurring phenomena such as weather, earthquakes and volcanoes are sentient – and strongly hostile to human existence. Enter the Wardens illwindwho possess the power to control these disasters and mitigate their effects, keeping humankind a lot safer than they would otherwise be. Her protagonist, Joanne Baldwin, is a Weather Warden.

The Wardens Association has been around pretty much for ever. Some Wardens control fire, others control earth, water or wind – and the most powerful can control more than one element. Without Wardens, Mother Nature would wipe humanity off the face of the earth…

Joanne Baldwin – fashion addict and professional, if unwilling hero – is a Weather Warden. Usually, all it takes is a wave of her hand to tame the most violent weather. But now Joanne is trying to outrun another kind of storm: accusations of corruption and murder. So she’s resorting to the very human tactic of running for her life.

Her only hope is Lewis, the most powerful Warden. Unfortunately, he’s also on the run from the World Council. It seems he’s stolen not one but three bottles of Djinn – making him the most powerful man on earth. And without Lewis, Joanne’s chances of surviving are as good as a snowball in – well, a place she may be headed. So she and her classic Mustang are racing hard to find him because there’s some bad weather closing in fast…

And that’s where this breathlessly paced story starts. Joanne, desperate and on the run. As she blasts her car at highly illegal speeds along American roads, we learn just why she’s running and what happened. It is a ripping good yarn, told with poise and ability. Caine manages to handle a lot of action in a small timescale without dropping any of the narrative tension; losing character focus; or giving us anything other than a cinematically sharp account of exactly what is happening at all times. It takes a lot of skill to write that clearly.

An aspect of these books (yes, there’s a series – eight so far. I’ve read three to date and they go on giving the goods…) that I’m really enjoying is the role of Djinn. These supernatural creatures sound quite familiar – although they have great natural powers they can be enslaved to human will and stored in a bottle. Wardens use them as tools to amplify their own abilities to battle some of the increasingly violent storms afflicting the planet and regard them as a tool. However, Joanne becomes romantically entangled with one – David. Which gives her a completely different and opposing view to the prevailing one that Djinns are merely hostile entities to be overcome and used as necessary. This ongoing story arc throughout the first three books has given me the impetus to get hold of the next book in series – as with all the most successful urban fantasy series, like Butcher’s Harry Dresden, and Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse, the characters surrounding the protagonist also matter – developing and changing alongside our heroine.

All in all, a really enjoyable romp – with the bonus of lots of weather details for those of us who find the subject fascinating. I’m now looking to get hold of the next five books…
8/10

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