Google+ The Introverted Reader: Review: Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

Review: Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cover of Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey4 Stars

After a mysterious illness decimates the population of the US, if not the world, a town on the Mexico/US border finds itself in a literal no man's land, not part of any country but serving as an army outpost for soldiers fighting the mysterious Mexican guerilla, El Segundo. Carmen Garron lives in Outpost, where prospects are non-existent. Still, she meets two nice guys at different times in her life and has a child by each of them.

The second man is not quite...human. He's been part of a genetic experiment and his DNA has been hybridized with that of a wolf. He thought he was sterile, so he's shocked when Carmen turns up pregnant. He has to flee those who would turn him in to the US government for the reward money. He warns Carmen that the child will probably be like him, with superhuman abilities.

And she is. Loup (from loup-garou, French for werewolf), knows no fear and has amazing strength and stamina. Might she be the hope that the citizens of Outpost have been waiting for?

This was not what I expected, but I'm not complaining. I expected more of a science-fictiony werewolf story and that's not really what this is. The nonhuman? superhuman? other-than-human? side of Loup definitely defines a large part of her life, but it's not really what drives the story. Not really.

Loup has a group of friends that call themselves the Santitos, the little saints. They're good kids and they are trying to make a difference in their town. I never really got all of them straight, but a couple did stand out. Mack has such a good heart underneath his tough shell, and he tries so hard to be with Loup. He's there for her in all the ways that really matter. And then there is Pilar. She's a bit generic, but we all do know girls like her. They want a better life and they'll do whatever they have to in order to get it. Pilar's just sideswiped when her heart gets in the way of what her head wants.

I really liked Loup though. I got a good feel for what life is like for her. She just feels a little too solid to everyone who touches her and it freaks them out. She learns to avoid touching people as much as she can. Can you imagine a life where everyone who touches you immediately draws back a little? Because she doesn't know fear, she has to constantly think about things more than other people do. "How would other people react to this? Well, I'd better do that then." The last thing she wants is for the wrong people to find out her heritage. Externally calm and uninvolved, she has passions that go deep. Her loyalty and drive are amazing. When something big happens in her life, she makes up her mind what she wants to do about it and goes after it with single-minded determination. She knows the process of getting where she wants to be will take years, but she takes those first steps in her plan, when a lot of people would have sat at home and thought that it was too hard.

I either didn't realize or I'd forgotten that this is a series. As I was coming up on what I knew had to be the big finale, I got a little nervous. There wasn't much of a page count left on my nook. And then I realized it was a series and I was a little disappointed. What's happened to the standalone novels? Remember those? They're hard to come by these days. This one does wrap up pretty well, with enough left hanging for me to be curious about the next book, but enough resolved that I don't feel like I've been cheated out of an ending.

There is sex here, but I didn't find it to be as graphic as Carey's Kushiel novels. Still, it is mostly older teen sex and that might put some readers off.

I've already added the next book, Saints Astray, to my to-read list. This might not have been what I expected, but I still got a good book, and I'm curious to see where Loup's story goes next.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Jacqueline Carey on her website and Facebook.

Read more reviews at Wrighty's Reads, Fantasy Cafe, and As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves.

Buy Santa Olivia at

Off the Shelf Challenge

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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