Santa Olivia

(Santa Olivia #1)

by Jacqueline Carey

I tore through this book, partly with an impending sense of doom considering the coronavirus times I’m reading this in, and the post-massive influenza epidemic that destabilizes the USA gov’t enough that they decide to create a fictitious rebel Mexican general that needs to be “fought” and so creates a locked down territory at our southern border wherein the tiny town of Santa Olivia becomes a prison for its villagers.

In to this soldier and gang-run prison comes a man dressed in army fatigues and possessed of supernatural strength and speed. He falls in strong, instant love with a villager, and they have a child just as his presence is discovered and he is forced to flee.

When his lover also dies, their daughter is sent to live with a whole scooby gang of orphans at the local church. Loup is as different as her father, but her adopted older brother, Tommy, protects and hides her differences.

But when Tommy is put in danger by his boxing hobby, Loup must choose to expose herself or continue hiding.

Carey’s strength is making you fall in love with her characters, and that happens here. Not only do we fall in love with Loup, and Tommy, and her orphan buddies (all who are distinct and must decide to what degree they will “sell” themselves to the army to survive) but also with their long term enemy and gang leader Miguel Garza.

In the beginning, the orphans create a Santa Olivia legend by using Loup’s super powers, I wish that had gone on longer because it was so heisty-fun, but the story makes it clear how easily in the small confines of the town their secret would get blown.

And I also wish there had been more courtship between Lou and her insta-love partner. They pretty much…waste no time at all.

And while the end resolves Loup’s problem, it doesn’t resolve everything. I haven’t decided whether I’d read the second book in the series, I’m afraid after reading reviews that the passion/danger/fun of this book will be missing from the second and I’d rather remember Loup as I left her in this book– battered, bloody, but uncowed, hair blowing in the wind as she faces a new destiny.

For those familiar with Carey’s Kushiel saga, this is much less intricate, much less sex-focused, but still philosophical and explores the ways women must subjugate themselves to men in order to survive.