Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Random House Canada on August 9, 2016
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.Working with Gabriel Walsh, a fiendishly successful criminal lawyer with links to the town, she discovered the truth about her parents’ crimes in an investigation that also revealed the darker forces at work in the place that had offered her a haven. As if that wasn’t enough, she also found out that she, Gabriel and her biker boyfriend Ricky were not caught in an ordinary sort of love triangle, but were hereditary actors in an ancient drama in which the elders of Cainsville and the mysterious Huntsmen who opposed them had a huge stake.
Now someone is killing street kids in the city, and the police have tied Ricky to the crimes. Setting out with Gabriel’s help to clear Ricky’s name, Olivia once again finds her own life at risk. Soon the three are tangled in a web of betrayals that threatens their uneasy equilibrium and is pushing them toward a hard choice: either they fulfill their destinies by trusting each other and staying true to their real bonds, or they succumb to the extraordinary forces trying to win an eternal war by tearing them apart.
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!