Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Heat Stroke begins chronologically almost immediately after Ill Wind. It starts out rather like a paranormal romance. A lot of time is devoted to Joanne's relationship with David, who has made her into a djinn, since she died horribly in the last book. Although they don't come out and say it, there's definitely a strong emotional tie between them that I'd call love. David seems a little more committed than Joanne, and I'm not sure how I felt about that (Joanne is still sorting out her feelings). They spend a lot of time getting to know each other, with the major objective of David trying to teach her to be a djinn.
Joanne loves her connection with David, and likes being a djinn, although it's very intense--their perceptions are a lot more intense than humans, and it throws her for a loop. Rahel, a djinn that Joanne had a few run-ins with in Ill Wind shows up. Her task is to escort Joanne and David to David's friend, and the most powerful djinn in the world, Jonathan, where she finds out the enormous price David paid to save her life. Jonathan is not too happy with Joanne, but out of his loyalty to David, he gives her one week to learn to exist as a djinn without drawing on her connection to David. If she can't adjust, then her number is up.
Unfortunately, learning to be a djinn doesn't turn out to be the biggest of Joanne's problems. There is a huge imbalance in the forces that control the weather, fire, and the earth, causing potentially major catastrophes to occur. With some odd anomalies in the aetheric, which is sort of an intangible layer in the upper spheres of the atmosphere where the Wardens and djinn manipulate the earth forces to control them, that turn out to be very dangerous, especially to the djinni. And then, there's a very wicked woman who wants control of David, and is willing to use Joanne to get that control. Yikes. Things get pretty wonky in this book.
Admittedly, Heat Stroke started out slowly. Don't get me wrong. I love my romance, but not as so much of the focus in an urban fantasy book. Frankly, I was starting to wonder when the action was going to start. I suppose that Ms. Caine planned it that way, because I was thrown for a loop with what happens next. Joanne finds out the hard way the worst part about being a djinn, when she gets claimed by a very troubled teenaged boy, under the guidance of the stepmonster from Hell, a woman that David hates with a burning passion.
Ms. Caine manages to skillfully weave this story with a rich mix of action, angst, sensuality, and the power of loves lost and found. Joanne is a good protagonist. She has some aspects that lend her narrative voice to chick lit, but at the same time, she has the credibility to be a good action heroine. She's quick thinking, and courageous, dealing with some pretty hairy situations, and trying to work around her new master, Kevin, who inspired a complex combination of sympathy and disgust within me (he has very poor hygiene, but it's for a reason which made me very sad).
I really liked the djinn aspects. It brought to mind the sly wit of "I Dream of Jeannie", but also the origin folklore of djinni (which I appreciate even more). The humor is good, and I liked the biting sarcasm, wry humor, and fashion-oriented voice of Joanne. Of course, I love David. He's quite a co-star in this book--with the potential to steal the show. Lewis (who I also love), Joanne's old flame and friend, and the most powerful Warden on Earth, has a big role, which looks like it will play out heavily in the next book.
So, despite the slowish start, and the fact that some of the atmospheric lingo and physics went over my head (although it was kind of interesting at the same time), this turned out to be a very good read. Ms. Caine more than delivers the goods with this second installment in the Weather Warden series. I'm not quite sure where she'll go with this story, but I'm definitely invested. The next book is definitely going to deal with some huge implications, based on the crazy cliffhanger in this book. I like the science and folklore aspects, and the message about how great power has even greater consequences, both in the right and wrong hands. I'd recommend this book to urban fantasy fans, but don't give up if the beginning drags a little.
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