Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine, Book 2 of the Weather Warden Series

Joanne is now a djinn. Saved from certain death by David in the last book. She now has to learn the realities of her n ew life, with the new senses, the new body, the new powers and the sheer new world that comes with being a djinn, a creature of smoke, fire and pure energy.

But things aren’t so simple – David has hurt himself creating Joanne and he is bleeding power into her. And there’s a whole hierarchy of djinn, including a virtual god who is very not happy with this – and has an ultimatum. Either Joanne learns how to sustain herself within a week, or he will destroy her to save David.

And to make matters worse, there’s a rift into the demon realm – a rift that is producing sparks that seem to be doing odd things to the world – and the djinn.  It has to be sealed and Lewis seems to think he knows how – but he needs a djinn to do it.

Then there’s Yvette – a Warden out to bottle and capture some djinn. And a sadist who has her eyes on David

I liked the story – we had major issues coming together. The frustration and need to escape as a djinn, the coming of age of learning ton be a djinn, the love story of David and Joanne and the mystery of the coldfire- it was a mix of genres without a simple box to put it in. I did feel it seemed to leap between several storylines and not know exactly where it was going –but it coalesced in the end. We had the coldfire, Joanne learning to be a djinn, the capture of Joanne and her ongoing relationship with David, all of which seemed to run vaguely parallel to each other but be rather separate – and it was a little frustrating because I rather wanted to just get on with one of them – any of them would do because I actually enjoyed them all. But they did all come together towards the end of the book, establishing one dominant storyline that had roots in all of them which was really rather nicely done. I still think I would have preferred a story that, say, focussed on Joanne being a djinn, but I still liked it and am impressed by how it was done. Especially since elements of the story felt superfluous at first, a distraction, btu then came back to be dominant near the end.

The story does end with a cliffhanger - with Jonathon and Lewis both in doubt. I’m not normally that keen on cliffhangers – hints to keep me intrigued but not a sudden plot break – but Rachel Caine seems to like them a lot since her Morganville Vampire series uses them as well. I will say that the cliffhangers in this series are much better and tend to leave with n introduction to a new plotline more than breaking in the middle of a plotline. I think of it as more of a prequel or insight into the next book than a fingernail-biting tense finish.

The story of Joanna learning how to be a djinn and what it means to be a djinn is fascinating and added so much to the world building of this book. It’s also interesting how both the Djinn and the Wardens, to some degree, view the other as the ultimate power. From their creation to the Ifirt to the formation of another djinn and the consequences of it there was a lot of world building here – and it was all done reasonably – no lectures no info-dumping. It all fit the story. And the way they depicted the djinn being captured – and the full extent and powerlessness of it was really well done. The combination of both ultimate power from being connected with a human but at the same time being utterly helpless in the face of their commands.

More fascinating is the hints we’re left with. There is so much more to learn about this world – the origin of the Wardens, how the other Djinn were created, whether Djinn can procreate – to say nothing of the demons, the coldlight and the general effects they have. And what if mother nature really does wake up one day? There’s so much more to this story that I can’t wait to read

That being said, there are some major plot problems with this book that, to me, damaged it considerably because it undermined the storyline

First and foremost, the main plot killer: Joanne is trapped in a bottle forced to follow the commands of Kevin, the creepy, over-sexed teenager. At the same time, David, the man she loves is being controlled, tortured and likely raped by Yvette the evil one and Kevin orders Joanne to kill Yvette. And Joanne hesitates and talks him out of it – why why why would she do this? I boggle a thousand times over that she decided not to rescue the man she loves because of… what? Worry whether Kevin’s motives were good ones? I think this is going to get worse because the whole next book seems to rest on Yvette not being dead. The big bad of this book and, probably, the next book lives because the protagonist… I’m not even sure what it was. Attack of conscience? Fear of scarring Kevin? What? Say “yes master” make with the claws and start slicing and dicing, Joanne!

I’m also curious why, if Patrick has been doing what he’s been doing to keep Sara the Ifrit going for a fair amount of time then why hasn’t anyone noticed this and done something about it?

Similarly, Joanne’s ability to manipulate or “specify” Kevin is extreme – to a level that makes me wonder how anyone can work with Djinn at all except those who are evil enough to make their Djinn fear them.

World buildingwise I would have been much happier to see more of Joanne learning what being a Djinn means and what it can do and how – we started that way but then Joanne just seemed to learn more and more intuitively and there’s still so many questions to answer about the very nature and power of the Djinn – hopefully we’ll see more in later books.

The relationship was much less fun in this book as well. Joanne and David spent very little time together

I like Joanne’s strength and agency –and her determination to do things her way even in the face of Djinn, a new existence, Jonathon and even when she is enslaved in a bottle – she is still determined to do things, determined to make choices, ask questions and not be bound. She also expressly denies David telling her what to do several times which is very nice to see. She is as a sexual as she wants to be and unashamedly flashy with her sense of style. I could have done without Kevin and the ridiculous maid outfit – but at least it’s underscored how demeaning and wrong it is and not laughed off.

Yet she slut shames Yvette from the very first second she sees her and many of her insults of the sadistic, cruel, manipulative Yvetter are sexual rather than addressing her obvious flaws.

It’s also sad that Rahel, one of the few POC inclusions in this book, spends most of it playing errand girl for Jonathon (so much for the freedom of the Djinn) ends up dead. There continues to be complete GBLT erasure as well. There remains GBLT erasure

All in all I liked this story a lot and nearly gave it a 4 fangs on the strength of the fascinating world and interesting writing. Sadly, I bump it down half a fang for the shaky plot points I can’t quite run with.