Midnight Alley


by Rachel Caine
(Roc, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-45146-383-8
For a novel --and a series--with a lot of bang to it, Rachel Caine's third Outcast Season novel, Unseen, sure has a lackluster start and a few very dragging parts. Regardless, fans of our fallen Djinn Cassiel, her Warden Luis, and his niece Isabel will be pleased with the progress made in the primary storyline.

Caine doesn't stray much from the center story most of the time; Cassiel's life on Earth began when she ticked off her kinda-leader, the Djinn Ashan, by refusing to annihilate humankind. Since humanity is what is fueling their exiled sister Djinn, Pearl, it seems a decent plan ... well, as long as you're not human. Cassiel quickly finds even more fault with Ashan's logic, especially after the deaths of Isabel's parents, Luis' brother and sister-in-law.

In the previous novel, Pearl's plot to take over the Earth becomes even more sinister when it becomes clear that she has kidnapped gifted and primarily orphaned children to force them into their Warden powers early. She uses said children for weapons and distractions, and it was all Cassiel and Luis could do to rescue Isabel from the cult-like compound where the children were being trained

Now, Isabel's off to school for the young with Warden powers. Luis and Isabel are not happy about it, but Cassiel's pragmatic side makes it clear that a too-young and untrained Warden is a danger to far more people than just herself, and with wars on two different fronts, the Wardens are shorthanded as it is. Once convinced to attend said school, Isabel is accompanied to its secret Wyoming location by Cassiel and Luis, who are encouraged to stay on to help all of the troubled children. This tears a rift between Cassiel and Luis, who are just finding their footing on a romantic level; Luis wants to stay with his niece, who long-term prognosis doesn't look good. Cassiel is still Djinn enough not to let her human failings namely, love for this man and his niece come before her mission or the greater good.

Cassiel takes off on her own, is immediately lured into a trap, and finds herself sorely betrayed by Luis. Despite this, she and Luis manage to astrally project together to locate Pearl's latest compound. Cassiel, even though she feels there is a traitor at the school, heads for New Jersey and insinuates herself into Pearl's clutches.

The cult-like atmosphere, as it turns out, is not merely for show. The people with whom Cassiel becomes acquainted genuinely believe they are there doing good and rescuing children from the evil grasp of the Wardens. Cassiel finds the place soothing, and has to remind herself constantly not to be placated.

When her partner in this endeavor, a FBI undercover agent, ends up in an unmarked mass grave, Cassiel realizes that she's waited too long and that her time for launching a death blow has past. With the unexpected help of Ashan, she manages to escape but without coming close to completing what she had hoped. Launched back across the country, she arrives back at the school just in time to see that her fears had come true.

In Unseen, we see a progression of Cassiel's relationships in general, and especially those with Luis and Isabel. They're growing into a family unit and Cassiel is growing more human; human enough to seem almost normal (if slightly badass) in her interactions with other humans. The growth of Cassiel's character in this novel is the most interesting and noteworthy trait. Fans of the series will want to read it; there are many strings left dangling that will more than likely show up in a future novel. However, if you're not an invested reader of Caine or of the Outcast Season series, I wouldn't recommend this as a place to start

--Sarrah Knight

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