This is a very unique adult Urban Fantasy series. Rachel Caine’s ‘Weather Warden’ books are set in our world, but not as we know it. There are no vampires, werewolves or fae in sight. Instead there is a covert organization of humans with special talents for commanding the elements: earth, fire, wind and water. They use these powers to control Mother Nature - from tornadoes to tidal waves and bush fires. In this world regular humans are none the wiser about Weather Wardens and the risks they take every day to prevent and handle natural disasters.
Helping the Wardens are Dijn, or as they are known in popular culture, genies. But don't get them confused with the 'I dream of' variety. These Dijn are badass and dangerous. They have claws, fangs and can control space and time. The Wardens and Dijn have a master-slave relationship; the Wardens are able to control and command the Dijn because each one is imprisoned, bound to the will of whichever Warden has control of their ‘bottles’.
The protagonist of the ‘Weather Warden’ series is Joanne Baldwin: a low-level wind Warden who, when we meet her in book #1 (‘Ill Wind’) is on the run. Accused of murdering her boss, Joanne has to prove to the Weather Council that she is innocent and has been set-up. But first she needs proof of her innocence, and she doesn’t trust the council to take her on her word. She sets out in search of her old friend and crush, Lewis Orwell, who was last seen fleeing the council with three stolen Dijn bottles.
Joanne sets out in her hot purple Mustang (‘Delilah’) in search of Lewis and the truth…
When I started reading ‘Ill Wind’ I was a little skeptical of a UF premise with no vampires or werewolves, which was instead about the weather and magical genies. I was cynical, to say the least. I was also a little doubtful because ‘Ill Wind’ starts right in the thick of the action. When we meet her Joanne is already on the run for murder (which she maintains she did not commit). But it’s a big ask on Caine’s part, that she introduce a protagonist who is on the lamb and hope that readers will find her intriguing enough to keep reading, and trust her when she says she’s innocent so that those readers also hope she doesn’t get caught.
About 60 pages in, I was almost ready to put the book down and call it a ‘DNF’. And then this little gem of an excerpt hit me right between the eyes, and I was instantly intrigued;
“Hey, I can’t help it if I’m irresistible.” Yes, definitely, that was smugness in my voice. I was comfortable with it. “Which is why he’s going to help me out and give me a Dijn.”He stared. “You’re fuckin’ crazy. Why the hell would Lewis do that?”“Because,” I said, before I could think about it, “I think he used to be in love with me.”Paul shook his head, got out of the car, and then leaned in the passenger side window. An east wind ruffled his hair – storm on the way.“Jesus, Jo, he’s not the only one,” he said, and walked back into his castle.
All at once Joanne starts to unravel as Caine shows us bits and pieces of her past through flashback. Joanne’s memory-trips are linked to the Weather Warden’s – how she was discovered by the council, realized her ‘wind’ abilities and how she came to work under ‘Bad Bob’ – the man Joanne is accused of murdering. Her flashbacks also reveal her relationship with Lewis Orwell, a Warden she went to school with – and more importantly had an unrequited college crush on that neither of them have been able to let go of.
Flashbacks may sound like a contrite way to build characterization, but Caine does it so masterfully with wonderful memory triggers in present-day that make Joanne’s trip down memory lane entirely plausible.
Slowly but surely the pace of ‘Ill Wind’ picks up, and reaches a zenith when Joanne picks up a drifter on the side of the road. The man’s name is David Prince, but he’s no ordinary hitchhiker. David is a free Dijn – and when he joins forces with Joanne, both of them will learn more about the Dijn/Warden relationship than the council ever intended.
I love, love, love this series. There hasn’t been an installment I haven’t adored. There are so many reasons why I love ‘Weather Warden’; let’s see if I can name them all...
First of all, Rachel Caine is just plain brilliant. She is a very cinematic, able to write gripping, edge-of-your-seat, chew-your-nails-to-the-quick battle scenes. Sometimes when reading such dramatic fight scenes my interest wanes and I resort to skim reading – it’s not always a reflection on the author’s talent, it’s just a matter of ‘you’ve read one, you’re read them all’. But with Caine I find myself just as invested in the heavy action as in the scenes of revelation and romance.
Secondly, Caine’s series is ‘epic’. As ‘Weather Warden’ goes into its ninth book, it becomes increasingly obvious that Caine has had an overview of the series from book one. I love the fact that Caine has had a plot trajectory in mind from the get-go and each new book is another piece of the puzzle – a means to an end.
I love Joanne Baldwin. I have a fictional-girl crush on her. She’s feisty, sarcastic, bullheaded and loves to shop. She also isn’t your typical UF heroine. She’s not particularly kick-ass – and quite a few times throughout the series we see her utterly defeated, on the verge of downfall – beaten, trodden and just plain over it. She whines. She cries and sometimes wants to give up, give in to the bad guys and just go home. She is a very real hero – mostly because she doesn’t want to be a hero, she just so happens to have been in the wrong place, at the wrong time and is bearing the repercussions. Joanne has a lot of responsibility on her shoulders, and she constantly feels the weight of it. But no matter how much she rails against her responsibilities, about the unfairness of it all, she keeps stepping up to bat against the bad guys. That’s why I love her. She may be down, but she’s never out.
The ‘WW’ series also has one of my all-time favorite UF relationships between Joanne and Dijn, David Prince. Their love is set on a grand-scale and with each new book Caine explores new facets of their relationship and partnership. I also love Joanne’s relationship to her first-love, Lewis Orwell. There’s an entirely compelling love-triangle between Lewis/David and Joanne that keeps getting juicer with each new installment.
“I don’t like you,” he said. “Like has no pulse. No fever. No fire.” His right hand came out of the water now, joined the left in gliding up my shoulders, my neck. I could feel my pulse pounding wildly. Both my hands on his chest now, mapping the golden territory of his body. “Like isn’t what I feel for you, it never was.”
But most of all I love Caine’s ‘Weather Warden’ series because of all the twists and turns. Caine isn’t afraid to challenge readers and series conventions – she doesn’t bat an eyelash at killing off main characters, turning good guys bad (and vice versa) and leaving readers looking over the edge of a MASSIVE cliff-hanger. Reading this series is a roller-coaster ride, and I have come to expect the unexpected and relish Caine’s surprises.
Book # 9 ‘Total Eclipse’ will be released on August 3rd this year and is currently available for pre-order.
(P.S. - how smokin' hot is the cover!? Yowza!)