Review: Betrayals by Kelley Armstrong

Betrayals by Kelley Armstrong (Cainsville #4)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Random House Canada on August 9, 2016

Source: Purchased

When Olivia’s life exploded–after she found out she was not the adopted child of a privileged Chicago family but of a notorious pair of convicted serial killers–she found a refuge in the secluded but oddly welcoming town of Cainsville, Illinois.

  

In the interests of avoiding spoilers, I’m going to keep this review fairly light on the details of the story and focus on my overall feelings towards this book. In BETRAYALS, Olivia, Gabriel, and Ricky are still grappling with the implications of their shared role in the underground Fae conflict that has shaped their lives; add in a new case to solve and personal issues on all sides and this one’s a doozy. After a lack lustre third book, it feels like the Cainsville series has found its footing again!

One of my biggest gripes throughout this series has been the relative lack of cohesion between the overall series arc and the individual cases the gang has to solve in each book, always involving the Fae somehow; in BETRAYALS, we finally get a glimpse into how all these cases tie together and how they’ve contributed to the inevitable confrontation that we’ll see in the series finale. Seemingly unconnected incidents of Fae violence and mischief have in fact been part of a greater whole, an agenda that seeks to influence Liv’s decision about which faction she’ll lend her support to. A major battle is coming, one that Liv, Gabriel, and Ricky can only survive if they put aside their conflicts and work together. Easier said than done! I found it incredibly satisfying to finally get some answers about the cases they’ve worked together, and I’m eager to see how they all tie together in the end.

The character dynamics in the Cainsville books, particularly those between the main trio, are pretty complex and difficult to summarize. It’s not just a love triangle, there’s also deep affection and friendship between them, and also the minor issue of reincarnation and destiny. I know what you’re thinking, major eye-roll territory ahead. But Liv, Gabriel, and Ricky actually resist the whole idea of reincarnation and destiny, choosing to focus on who they are in this life and acknowledging that their choices and actions are their own. It was honestly quite refreshing, especially after some of the over-the-top destiny nonsense in the third book. Those of you who loathe love triangles may still want to steer clear, but personally I think it’s very well handled. Everyone involved seems to know the score, and (for the most part) people respect the relationships between those involved. Of course, it’s obvious who is going to be endgame, but I think it’s a sign of how well written it is that I’d be happy with either pairing.

While this is technically an urban fantasy series, the Cainsville books don’t feel like your standard urban fantasy; they’re much more character-driven than most. Sure, there are gifts to be explored and magical secrets to be uncovered, but those things really do take a backseat to the development of the main and supporting cast of characters. The small town feel of Cainsville is charming and the Welsh mythology of the Fae is fascinating, but what keeps me coming back is the nuances and slow but sure development of the characters – especially Gabriel. Although Liv is definitely my favourite character, Gabriel’s development has been the most satisfying to watch: Armstrong slowly peels back the layers of an aloof, cold man to reveal the slightly less aloof, slightly less cold person who lies beneath. Call me cheesy, but there’s nothing more satisfying than watching a veritable iceberg slowly, quietly melt in the face of true love.

Ultimately, BETRAYALS is a solid fourth book in a series that I feared had lost its mojo, bringing the plot and characters back on track. I can’t wait for the fifth and final book in the series, RITUALS, set to release in August!

What’s your take on a well-written love triangle? Do you like reading about cold-seeming characters falling in love? Let me know in the comments!

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  • I really don’t like Ricky and that has made me struggle so much with books #2 and #3. I haven’t read #4 so far and don’t know if I will.

    • I really didn’t like him at first either, but honestly he’s grown on me quite a bit! It’d be really hard to read this series if I didn’t like him so I understand your hesitation. He definitely plays a major role in this book, so if you’re holding off because you don’t like him then I recommend not picking it up.

      • That’s what I thought, so for now I will stay away from the book.

  • Well written triangle…hmmmm, I mean if it works then sure

  • That’s great that this 4th book was better than the previous and that the series got its mojo back. I’m very intrigued by this series, especially because you mentioned how character driven it is,, but it has a love triangle, and I honestly have no patience for them, especially in a series. But I hope the finale will be a super hit for you! 🙂

    • I’m honestly so relieved, because you know how much I love Kelley Armstrong – how disappointing would it be if one of her series ended up being a dud for me?! Normally I’m not into love triangles either so I’m surprised how cool with it I am here. Actually, Armstrong often writes triangles in her series now that I think about it…they’re just usually in her YA books instead of her adult ones. Thanks Nick, fingers crossed that it’s bomb! 🙂

  • I started the first in this series and was thoroughly enjoying it until it became clear there was a love triangle on the horizon. Sighs. Yeah, I might skip this 🙁

    • Oooh, Omens! Is it weird that I just got a pang of nostalgia thinking about that book? It seems so long ago that I read it. LOL. If you’re a triangle hater, you’ve gotta steer clear of this series!

  • I honestly don’t have a problem with love triangles, I mean, come on, they are a fact of life! Haven’t we all been through that experience? (Oh, just me?) But if it’s done right, it can be very exciting. This is a series I definitely want to start some day.

    • I couldn’t agree more! The only thing I dislike about love triangles is when it’s SUPER obvious which pairing is endgame. And it’s definitely not just you! Hahaha. Yet another series to add to the list, right? 😉

  • I really should get back into this series. I read the first book but neglected to continue. Second book is somewhere on my shelves. Lol.

    Great review!

    • Oooh, Joy! I hope you get a chance to get back into this series. The second book is actually my favourite of the whole series so far, just saying. 😉

  • I really love it when plot threads start coming together! And yeah I’m a total sucker for any kind of love triangle. 😀

    • Me too, especially when they initially seemed totally disparate! Hahaha yeah, I know you’re secretly a very shippy person. 😉

  • Greg Hill

    Ooh so there’s Fae stuff in these? I’ve heard of the Cainsville series of course but don’t know much about ’em. I’ve only read her City of the Lost books (well Missing too but that’s sorta YA?) so I’m really curious about this, I like her writing. It’s nice that seemingly unrelated stuff from earlier books is coming together and makes sense. And I’m always game for a small town hiding mythological-type secrets, so maybe I need to get these.

    • YES! The fantasy elements of this series are fae related, and it’s pretty interesting – mostly based on folklore I’ve never heard of before, which is always a bonus. I really like this series, although I will warn you that it’s slower moving than the Rockton books (those are basically perfection though, haha). Small towns hiding fantastical secrets are my fave! I’m very curious to hear your take on it if you end up picking this series up, Greg!

  • You’ve nailed the review for this one. I’d been a bit wary going in after the third book but I needed to keep reading and this book redeemed the series for me. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the love triangle going on but I do think it is the best written love triangle. I mean, it still annoyed me but damn if I’m not a fan of Ricky and Gabriel and that never happens! I know who I’m rooting for in this one and I’ll be annoyed if it doesn’t happen but it’ll be more like a niggling annoyance than series ruining, you know?

    I am with you on Gabriel’s character growth, though. I mean, I liked him in the first book as he obviously had a whole heap of issues. And he’s bugged the hell out of me with some of his controlling ways but I get it. He’s got issues! So seeing him grow and develop has been so satisfying! I cannot wait to see what happens with him in the last book, I really can’t. I’m pretty sure he is half the reason I love this series.

    • Hooray, glad you think so! DECEPTIONS was honestly such a rocky read for me that I almost didn’t even read this one? I mean, of course I bought it as soon as it came out but it’s been sitting unread on my shelves for almost a year so…it was dire. But I’m really glad I soldiered on because BETRAYALS was much more solid – and I liked the triangle here too! I agree with you: I could be happy with Liv choosing either dude but I have a preferred person. We’re both clearly Team Gabriel…right?!

      Gabriel’s a great character because he’s just so aggravating sometimes! He makes mistakes and does stupid things – things that even he knows are stupid – and you just want to shake him. But then he makes up for it and daaaang, he pulls you back in. Seeing him finally acknowledge and express his issues to Liv in this book was so gratifying. He’s definitely half of why I love this series, then Liv is the 35% and Cainsville is the other 15%. Hopefully my math checks out there. LOL.

      • Obviously we’re team Gabriel. Ricky is sweet and I do think he is pretty awesome but I know where my loyalties lie.

        And exactly, if he didn’t annoy me as much as he does with some really stupid choices I wouldn’t like him half as much because when he gets it right it wouldn’t be as obvious, you know? And you’ve math totally checks out there. I just need the last book now!

  • Karen

    I gave up on this series. I’m glad it’s picking back up for you but I think I’ll just move on with so many other books to read.

    I do love Gabriel though and I’ll probably cave at some point when the series is over. lol

    For What It’s Worth

    • I’ve given up on tons of series over the years that I eventually went back and finished, haha. What can I say??? I’m weak! And I gotta know how it all ends! Hopefully if you come back to the Cainsville books you enjoy how it all wraps up. 🙂