Undone (Rachel Caine, Outcast Season #1)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Undone is an urban fantasy fish out of water story. I haven’t seen the two combined before, and I felt like there was a lot of potential there. The protagonist is fairly developed and interesting, and although they lack depth, the supporting cast isn’t entirely uninteresting. Unfortunately, problems plague this promising premise. The main issues are that the author tries to shoehorn in some sort of weird semi-romantic sub-plot that doesn’t really compliment the main story or have enough to it to really please anyone looking for romance, the setting is generic-secret-wizards-urban-fantasy (which quite frankly a lot of authors do a lot better), the antagonist sort of comes out of nowhere for no reason, and this is the first in a series, which leads the author to write probably the most frustrating conclusions I have encountered in the genre. There are quite a few urban fantasy titles that I would recommend before Undone, but if you have exhaustively explored the genre then you might find some justification in picking up a copy.

Greater Detail:
Cassiel was a Djinn, an alien being enjoying an exotic existence completely divorced from our everyday corporeal struggles, until she defied her ruler and was cast out of her ethereal realms and bound into a prison of human flesh. As a lowly human, she must navigate a world of petty annoyances (like eating and sleeping) while living as only a shadow of her former self. To find her place in the world, she finds she must embrace her new-found humanity and draw connections to others.

The protagonist is definitely the strong point in the book. She comes off as very different from a normal person without resorting to any of the standard cliches (with the notable exception of the incredibly weak romantic sub-plot). I really wish that more urban fantasy took the approach of taking a character familiar with only the fantasy side of the world and explained how the world works that way instead of the more common approach of doing things the other way around.

The overall plot isn’t that strong. It feels a bit like the author had some idea where to start and a few milestones that she wanted to hit along the way, but got kind of lost stringing these events together. She doesn’t have to resort to anything egregious, like a series of impossible coincidences or anything, but the story starts to feel more like a series of things that happened rather than a coherent, directed whole.

The conclusion is probably the worst I have encountered in the genre. I understand that this is the first in a series, and that an author might want to leave some plot threads unexplored or leave the characters in a precarious cliffhanger in order to spur sales of the next book, and although I don’t particularly like it, I recognize that it might be necessary in financially a difficult industry. This author doesn’t do that, though. The story sort of meanders around hitting the various predetermined points the author was aiming for until it gets to the last act and things start to ramp up for what you assume is going to be an exciting conclusion. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen. The book just ends. Not in a suspenseful cliffhanger way, like, “Oh no you’re pinned under a truck that’s on fire and I can’t quite reach you to pull you out while the bomb timer has three seconds left and that girder is going to fall onto the group of schoolchildren,” but instead in a “Let’s go have that final confrontation! Oh, wait, the bad guys just left and didn’t leave a note where they went? Oh well! I guess I’ll do the crossword instead…” type of way. I really have no idea what was going through the author’s head with this. It’s like she just got bored towards the end of the book and just slapped a few sentences together to end it.

Comparisons to Other Authors:
Well, pretty much anyone has a better conclusion than Undone, so my main complaint with the book could be topped by anyone. If you like the idea of secret wizards in an urban fantasy setting, I guess I would recommend the very popular Dresden Files series, starting with Storm Front, by Jim Butcher, or the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka, starting with Fated.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

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