Visions: I boarded the wrong train

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It always feels weird to write a DNF review for a book that’s not actually bad. There is nothing objectively wrong with Kelley Armstrong’s Visions, at least in the portion of it I finished, and it would be a perfectly fine read. For someone else. For me, it felt like I’d boarded a train that I thought was going to Albuquerque, and it turned out to be headed for Chattanooga instead. There’s nothing wrong with Chattanooga, but I’ve been there before, and I was really looking forward to that trip to Albuquerque, so I’m getting off this train in the hopes I can still catch the other one.

Visions, the second book in Armstrong’s CAINESVILLE series, begins with Olivia finding a corpse in her car, dressed to look like her. The corpse then disappears, and with Olivia’s talent for seeing omens, she’s not initially sure whether the dead woman was ever really there, or if she was just a portent. The woman does turn out to be real, though, and she was from Cainsville. Who killed her and why, and why did the killer leave the body for Olivia to find, and what about these weird dogs Olivia keeps seeing? These questions, along with the continuing mystery surrounding Olivia’s birth parents and their guilt or innocence, were what I thought would form the backbone of the novel.

Unfortunately, Visions gets sidetracked into a love triangle. It’s not that I hate this plot device per se; it’s more that I started reading this series because I was interested in the murders, and they just disappear from the story for a while as the romantic plot picks up steam. It doesn’t help that I don’t really like either of the guys much yet. Ricky is uninteresting, and is also literally involved in organized crime. Gabriel is the more likable of the two, but exhibits some annoying dominance behaviors (I got fed up with him when he walked out of a room and expected Olivia to follow him automatically; he was grumpy when she didn’t). It also doesn’t help that, while neither of these guys are werewolves*, they both kind of… seem like werewolves. Ricky has a pack (his biker gang), while Gabriel does the brooding alpha thing.

Again, love triangles are not inherently bad, and some readers will really like these developments. For me, though, it made CAINSVILLE feel more like many other urban fantasies I’ve read, when it had started as something unique. Hence the DNF. Though I can’t promise I won’t read spoilers when the series ends, because I do still want to know whether Olivia’s folks are guilty.

*I do think the cat is a shapeshifter, though I haven’t checked his appearances against anyone else’s to prove or disprove it.


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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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3 comments

  1. Bah, love triangles. They can be so disappointing, especially when you think you’ve signed up for a totally different book (like a mystery, as you say) and it just turns into standard paranormal/urban fantasy. :(

  2. April /

    I’ve had that happen to me a couple of times recently. I do feel bad saying I didn’t finish the book even though there doesn’t seem to be anything objectively wrong with the book. But if it isn’t what you want to read or what you were expecting then there is no reason to finish it.

    And love triangles are just plain annoying. I’d be happy if nobody ever wrote another love triangle.

  3. I love the train analogy, Kelly! I’ve had that feeling with books plenty of times.

    I hope you caught the ride to Albuquerque.

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