Inquisitive children go through phases of fascination. In second grade it was dinosaurs, in third grade it was space and astronauts, and in fourth grade it was natural disasters. I think it stemmed in large part from the fact that I live in an area of the country where our weather is uneventful. Tornadoes mostly stay over the lake and rarely touch down on land. Floods are prevented by deep gorges and creeks which make up the watershed. We're too far from the ocean for hurricanes. A few years back we had the teeniest, tiniest earth quake and I slept right through it. So to my ten year old self, the idea that weather could kill people was fascinating and foreign and horrific.
It is with that spirit that I dove into Ill Wind, the first book in Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series. It's about Joanne, a low level Weather Warden, who has been forced to carry a Demon Mark and is on the run for her life. Weather Wardens are essentially people with magic (for lack of a better term) powers that allow them to manipulate weather patterns, often in order to prevent disasters and keep people as safe as possible. They are assisted by Djinn, a powerful race of beings enslaved to the Wardens, who are able to enhance Warden powers. The Demon Mark that has infected Joanne can only be removed by a Djinn, but of course she does not possess one of her own. So, she seeks out Lewis, a notorious criminal who ran away from the Wardens and stole three Djinn in the process. She is chased by her former bosses, who want to strip her of her powers, and by the weather itself.
Undeniably unique world building. The idea of controlling weather in the way that Joanne and the other Wardens do is intensely interesting and intelligently written. You can tell the author did some research or had some prior knowledge about how weather works in real life. Plus, I think this is the first time outside of Supernatural I've seen anyone use Djinn in urban fantasy. She's a bit vague about exactly what they are, but I'm eager to learn more in future books.
The plot is well paced and engaging. It went in some unique directions, and there were a few twists I didn't really expect. I liked Caine's style of jumping right into the action and letting out backstory in small bits as the story progressed. For me, this is preferable to spending the first third of the book drowning in exposition.
The character development is rather incomplete. I don't feel that I ever got a thorough understanding of Joanne's personality. I know that she's pretty powerful and that she likes cars a lot. Beyond that, though, I don't feel like I was given enough information to feel a connection with her.
The relationship building is likewise a bit sloppy. One of the major plot points involves Jo picking up a drifter, David. Apparently they form a connection, because later when he volunteers to sacrifice himself to help her, she refuses him utterly. For me, it was apparent that Jo was supposed to care for him by this point, but I wasn't given enough evidence to make this plausible.
I'm sure this book would appeal to many urban fantasy fans. It has great world building, and a nice action filled plot. 3 stars.