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Ill Wind
Rachel Caine
Roc, 352 pages

Ill Wind
Rachel Caine
Rachel Caine has been writing and publishing novels and short stories since 1991.  She is a former professional musician who has the distinction of having played with such musical legends as Henry Mancini, Peter Nero and John Williams. She's also an avid movie buff, a TV-holic, and prefers a good stout Guinness to wimpy American beers. Ill Wind is her first novel.

Stormwatch: Rachel Caine's Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

In the world of Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series, Mother Nature is out to get us. If she isn't attempting to blow us all away with hurricanes or drown us with monsoons, she's tossing us around with earthquakes and trying to burn us to a crisp with forest fires. The only force capable of opposing this awesome angry power is the Wardens Association, a shadowy organization whose operatives, capable of commanding fire, earth, water, and wind, keep nature just barely under control, and the human race a hairs-breadth from destruction.

Joanne Baldwin is a Weather Warden, with power over wind and water. Her Warden supervisors consider her something of a wild card, not just because of her power's unusual strength but because she's undisciplined and impulsive, inclined to act first and think later. Some of her supervisors, in fact, are downright hostile: Bad Bob Biringanine, for instance, who didn't want Joanne to become a Warden at all. If Bad Bob -- a legend among the Wardens for his intolerance and ferocious temper -- had had his druthers, she'd have been packed off to the Wardens' secret clinic for a power-ectomy.

Still, Joanne has done pretty well for herself, even managing to earn a commendation or two... that is, until the day she and Bad Bob finally have a showdown. Now she's on the run for murder, pursued by the Wardens Association -- and that's not even her biggest problem. Somehow, she has acquired a Demon Mark. Her only hope of getting rid of it before it entirely corrupts her is Lewis Orwell, the world's most powerful Warden. But Lewis vanished years ago, and no one has any idea where he may have gone -- except for one very slim clue he shared with Joanne just before he disappeared. Racing against time, the Wardens, and assorted Djinns, Joanne sets out to find him, while the mother of all storms builds up behind her and a mysterious enemy with murderous intentions keeps turning the elements against her.

The author blurb on the front of Ill Wind is from Jim Butcher -- an appropriate choice, since the basic premise does recall Butcher's popular Harry Dresden series: a wisecracking protagonist with a genius for getting into trouble, working magic in a slightly alternate contemporary world. There the similarities end, however. Caine makes this story very much her own, with crisp characterizations, snappy dialogue, an interestingly different magic system, some sexy romance, and lots of thrilling encounters with storms and heavy weather. Fast-paced action propels the present-time story, while Joanne's past unfolds suspensefully in flashbacks, so that the reason for her current plight only slowly becomes clear. Joanne herself is an appealing heroine, with a wry sense of humor that enlivens even the darkest encounters.

Some things don't quite add up. The Wardens don't seem to be a secret society (their training program is conducted at Princeton University), but it's not really clear how much the mundane world knows about what they do, or how aware ordinary people are of their supernatural powers. The logic of natural disasters vs. the Wardens' control of the elements is murky -- why, for instance, if there's a group of people who can command the rain (even with great difficulty), are there droughts that last for decades? And the plot twist at the end, which jogs the series in an unexpected direction, feels a bit too arbitrary. But it's all so entertaining, and you're rooting so hard for Joanne to resolve her dilemma, that you don't really mind. It's a fun start to a new series. The next installment, Heat Stroke, is due in 2004.

Copyright © 2003 Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel The Garden of the Stone is currently available from HarperCollins EOS. For details, visit her website.

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