8 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Unseen by Rachel Caine

Title: Unseen

Author: Rachel Caine

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Roc
Publication Date: February 2011
Paperback: 320 pages

After Cassiel and Warden Luis Rocha rescue an adept child from a maniacal Djinn, they realize two things: the girl is already manifesting an incredible amount of power, and her kidnapping was not an isolated incident.

This Djinn-aided by her devoted followers-is capturing children all over the world, and indoctrinating them so she can use their strength for herself. With no other options, Cassiel infiltrates the Djinn’s organization-because if Cassiel cannot stop the Djinn’s apocalyptic designs, all of humanity may be destroyed

Stand alone or series: Book 3 in the ongoing Outcast Season series

How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher

Why did I read this book: I love Rachel Caine. I was so bummed to see the end of the Weather Warden series, and I need to get my yearly fix of the wardens and djinn, and I LOVE Cassiel and Luis and Ibby. Need I say more?


Things have been tough for fallen djinn Casiel and her warden partner Luis Rocha, ever since rescuing Luis’s recently orphaned niece Ibby from the clutches of a madd djinn named Pearl. Ibby, along with all of the other abducted warden children, has had her latent powers rudely awakened far before their natural time, which means a great threat to her safety and well-being. The massive amounts of warden power – in Ibby’s case, fire – running through her veins soon will take its toll, as she has no way to control her abilities and her body burns itself out with each use of her abilities. While Cassiel struggles with her increasingly human emotions, her relationships with Luis and with Ibby, she also must hunt down her sister djinn Pearl, and stop her before she can abduct any more children and continue with her plan to feed her own power and destroy as many djinn, human, and warden as possible.

Although Joanne Baldwin and her maddening ride in the Weather Warden series will always hold top spot in my heart, Cassiel and the Outcast Season series isn’t far behind. Cassiel is a remarkable character,and her growth over the course of the series, from disgruntled djinn to almost-human, is the stuff of great writing. As a heroine, Cassiel is an alien creature that views the world in completely different way than Jo or anyone else, and Rachel Caine nails the narrative voice beautifully in this latest book. Narrated in the first person by Cassiel, readers see the story filtered through her lens, which is an intriguing experience, as Cassiel is not the most reliable of narrators. Oblivious to the mores of human behavior and to how cold she seems to those around her, only readers know that Cassiel is anything but the ice princess she’s accused of being as she struggles with her tangled emotions and sense of duty. When forced with the decision to become djinn again or stay human and rescue those she has come to love, she chooses the latter. I loved it. In Unseen, Cassiel’s emotions come to a point as she struggles with Ibby’s brainwashing and lack of trust in her, as well as with Luis, whom Cassiel loves but with whom she cannot see eye-to-eye. The relationship between these three characters – Ibby as a child forced to grow wary and old far too quickly, Luis with his anger and inability to strike out, and Cassiel with her cold logical understanding that she is the only one that can stop Pearl (even if it costs her all her human connections) – are precarious, sharp-edged, and fragile things. The complexity of these relationships adds a dimension of needed depth to Unseen, making it easily the best book in the series thus far.

As per Ms. Caine’s usual, the writing in Unseen is fraught with tension and danger, and takes place roughly between Cape Storm and Total Eclipse (books 8 and 9) of Joanne’s series. This new, secondary storyline showing the world going to hell in a handbasket lends a whole new appreciation of the dangers facing humanity, the wardens and the djinn. It’s kind of cool, too, to see that Jo, Lewis and David weren’t the only ones out fighting the good fight, and that as with any war, there are multiple crucial battles to be won on many fronts. The crazed djinn Pearl’s role in the waking of the mother and near destruction of the Earth is high-octane stuff, as terrifying as it is gripping (seriously, Rachel Caine writes bonafide book-crack). I finished the book exhausted, but hungry for more, and I cannot wait to return to read more of Cassiel’s story – especially with the stakes higher than ever.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From chapter 1:

Fire is a living, malevolent thing. It eats, it breathes, it moves with fluid grace and eerie, destructive beauty.

I could still appreciate the astonishing power of it, even as my hair crisped at the ends and the heat seared across my fragile human skin. Flames poured like liquid down the walls of the office, rippling and twisting out onto the floor, devouring the furniture. Everything seemed trapped in its own frozen moment of destruction, as if the fire had become amber. I couldn’t focus my stinging eyes for more than a few seconds; everything seemed too bright, too hot, and in the next instant smoke billowed black and choking around me.

I fell to my knees and crawled, breathing oven-hot, toxic fumes, until my searching hand fell on something soft. Skin—a woman’s hand. It wasn’t moving. I grabbed hold and pulled her backward toward me; her black suit had caught fire, and I batted the blaze out as coughing fits threatened to rip my lungs from my body.

The woman I had found was unconscious, but still breathing shallowly. Smoke had made her face a grimy mask.

“Cass! Get your ass out, now!” A raw, ragged shout pierced the roar of the fire, and I looked around to see a sheet of fire racing across the floor toward me. A sudden chemical blast of white foam snuffed it out. It was a temporary measure, but it gave me precious seconds to find the strength to move.

Luis Rocha, still holding the sputtering, empty extinguisher, stumbled into view out of the thick smoke. My Warden partner looked as if he’d been through a fierce battle—clothes torn and burned, skin singed. He’d lost part of his shoulder-length black hair to the flames. “Cass, come on, we’re losing it! Gotta go!”

I poured raw Earth power—thick, golden power that flowed like honey—over the woman I’d found, into her, and saw her breathing and heartbeat steady. I stood up and grabbed her around the waist. She was a small thing, and I was tall; even so, the weight of her draped over my shoulder caused me to stagger. The fire roared its defiance and ignited a chair only a few feet away; it burned fast, upholstery charring into black lace and revealing bones of springs and wood.

I stopped, momentarily overcome. Nothing looked right now, and I couldn’t find the exit. You will die here, something told me. It sounded like the cold, dispassionate voice of Ashan, the leader of the Old Djinn—my brother, in a very real way; my king, in everything that mattered. Why do you do these things, for them?

For humans, he meant. I was not born into flesh; being here in the mortal world was my choice, just as I’d chosen to run into this burning building alongside Luis.

I had my reasons for doing both of those foolish, potentially fatal things.

You can read the full excerpt online HERE.

Additional Thoughts: For those that are new to the series, you can read books 1 and 2 of Cassiel’s story, which are Undone and Unknown.

Of the three covers, I think I like the first version of Cassiel best (more true to her actual form in the book…although none of the images really do the books justice).

Rating: 8 – Excellent

Reading Next: The Devil’s Kiss by Sarwat Chadda


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    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Book Smugglers, rissatoo. rissatoo said: RT @booksmugglers: Thea reviews Unseen by Rachel Caine http://tinyurl.com/4wg3vvj (and she loved it) […]

  • Avalon
    February 3, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Sigh. I’m not sure if I want to say thank you for saving me money or be disappointed in yet another promising series going down the tubes.

    Words cannot begin to express how utterly tired I am of underpowered heroines needing rescued, always being inferior, and losing anything that makes them more than human nearly as soon as they’re granted the ability.

    Weather Warden’s sequel’s ticked me off when the lead gave up her own powers literally RIGHT after receiving them, making it the most pointless plot device I’ve ever read, and now reading that the entire intriguing point behind the sequel series just gets completely written out? Sigh. Just sigh.

    Pray tell me how you can go from one sentence explaining how her unique viewpoint is such a good thing, then in the very next praise that she becomes a weakened person like every other urban fantasy heroine, losing the unique view and becoming as mundane as every other character.

  • Thea
    February 3, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Avalon – I’m not sure I understand your comment, especially regarding underpowered UF heroines?

    In the Weather Warden books, Jo is ANYTHING but underpowered. In fact, besides Lewis, Jo is the most powerful Warden…ever. Yes, she loses her powers at the beginning of the last book, but regains them all in short order (plus, in my opinion, that was a cool juxtaposition considering how overpowered she was for most of the series). If anything, I think UF/Fantasy heroines tend to have too many powers, and it’s cool to see how these characters behave when they have to rely on…well, their wits.

    As for Unseen, you know this is the third book in the series, yes? Cassiel has gone from a Djinn (supremely powerful being) to powerful human – but all that happened in the first book of the series. So, unless you haven’t read books 1 & 2, I’m not really sure what you’re getting at!

    Cassiel’s viewpoint is unique because she’s an ancient djinn living in a liminal, human body. At least, that’s what makes her POV unique to me. Of course, everyone’s entitled to their own opinions and not every book works for every reader.

    I hope this helps you!

  • Erin Hoffman
    February 3, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    This looks beautiful! I was previously unforgivably unaware of Rachel Caine. Always hungry for well-written urban fantasy. Thanks for the tip and great review!

  • Avalon
    February 4, 2011 at 1:16 am

    I’m not sure what urban fantasy series you’re reading if you think most heroines are overpowered…October Daye, Marla Mason, Mercy Thompson…none of these characters are very powerful at all, and I could go on.

    I’ve been discussing this with people for awhile, all of us tired of the heroine needing some form of rescue or reliance on someone else, etc.

    And no, I haven’t read the first two in the series, because I never finished Weather Warden either. What I was getting at is that yet again, the author seems to be dead set on underpowered heroines–see also Morganville Vampires.

    It’s extremely disappointing, because I adore her writing otherwise. If you seem to be having a glut of overpowered heroines though, please, let me know. I’d like to see someone self-sufficient for once!

  • Thea
    February 4, 2011 at 6:37 am

    Erin – I truly hope you get a chance to pick up Rachel Caine’s books! These Outcast Season books are wonderful, although I’d definitely start with her Weather Warden series first (book 1 is titled Ill Wind).

    Avalon – Seriously? Like I said before, Joanne Baldwin is one of the most powerful characters in the Weather Warden universe. I’m really scratching my head as to why you seem to think she is “needing some form of rescue or reliance on someone else, etc.” That’s not really true at ALL.

    And as for “the author seems to be dead set on underpowered heroines” I can assure you this is not true. Despite losing her djinn status (which, I might add, is the entire impetus for the series – hence “Outcast” Season), Cassiel is still a badass and incredibly powerful. She cannot generate any power of her own, but she’s still a badass and I personally wouldn’t label her as underpowered. I’d be interested to see if you change your opinion once you actually read the book – if you choose to do so, of course.

    As for your complaint of too many underpowered heroines in UF, here’s a list (off the top of my head) for heroines that have phenomenal cosmic type powers/the most magically unique people in the universe (which is my complaint with most current UF):

    Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels
    Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan
    Karen Chance’s Cassandra
    Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake
    Vicki Petersson’s Joanna
    MLN Hanover’s Jayne Heller
    Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom
    Lori Devoti’s Amazons
    Ilona Andrews’ Rose Drayton
    Julie Kenner’s Lily Carlisle
    Marjorie M. Liu’s Maxine Kiss
    Jocelyn Drake’s Mira

    ….seriously, the list goes on and on and on. Almost all of the books on this list have been reviewed here on this site, so if you don’t believe me or need more information, I urge you to check them out.

    AND this list isn’t including YA UF titles with heroines that develop mad powers/skills that are unprecedented in each of their universes (e.g. Chloe Neill’s Dark Elite series, Kelly Armstrong’s Darkest Powers series, Kim Harrison’s timekeeper YA series, etc).

    Needless to say, yeah, there are a ton of UF titles out there with overpowered heroines.

  • Avalon
    February 4, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    I’ll definitely look into those, then. Jo -is- pretty awesome…but she needed rescued more than once in the very first book alone, and according to my partner who read more it only goes downhill. I haven’t seen for myself yet, as I said, again.

    So yeah, I’ll look into some of those. Anita Blake aside, anyway. I’ve had about all the smoldering/perfect/coiled/etc manliness schlock I can take.

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