REVIEW: Blue Diablo

Ann Aguirre
Blue Diablo (Corine Solomon #1)
ROC
ISBN-10: 0451462645
ISBN-13: 978-0451462640
Urban Fantasy
April 7, 2009

Right now, I’m a redhead. I’ve been blonde and brunette as the situation requires, though an unscheduled color change usually means relocating in the middle of the night. So far, I’m doing well here. Nobody knows what I’m running from. And I’d like to keep it that way…

Eighteen months ago, Corine Solomon crossed the border to Mexico City, fleeing her past, her lover, and her “gift”. Corine, a handler, can touch something and know its history—and sometimes, its future. Using her ability, she can find the missing—and that’s why people never stop trying to find her. People like her ex, Chance…

Chance, whose uncanny luck has led him to her doorstep, needs her help. Someone dear to them both has gone missing in Laredo, Texas, and the only hope of finding her is through Corine’s gift. But their search may prove dangerous as the trail leads them into a strange dark world of demons and sorcerers, ghosts and witchcraft, zombies—and black magic…

Blue Diablo is very much a “getting to know you” kind of book. First off, it is first in a new series (with a 1st POV heroine), so it’s reasonable that we go through a learning process with new characters. Firsts in a new series can go in one of many directions, but this one seemed to go in the much more even-paced, character exploratory route. There’s nothing wrong with the concept, but I did wish for the overall pace to be stepped up. Thankfully, Corine is a decent guide in getting to know other characters, even if many questions are still up in the air at the end.

I loved the secondary characters of Chuch and Eva. They lend just the right kind of and amount of support I like to see from secondary characters. The bonus is that they become so important to Chance and Corine’s efforts to find his mother that it wasn’t hard for this reader to care for them, too. It was also nice to see a more “normal” couple when we’ve got so much abnormality to deal with in the others. I say normal in regards to Chuch and Eva with a grain of salt, mind you.

Another secondary character of note was an escaped convict from Corine and Chance’s past, who believes to be sent by God – a belief that, while sounding crazy, isn’t anything to sneeze at by the time he arrives. Did he remind anyone else of Rorschach from The Watchmen? I dunno, I think it was his rock solid beliefs and convictions about the role he had to play. A very interesting man, one I hope we see more of in future books.

Our main trio, Chance, Corine and Jesse were the ones we were really getting to know. And it’s a slow learning process this go around. We’re reminded a lot of how strained Corine and Chance’s relationship is, and why (on Corine’s end), with little to no advancement beyond that. It’s a cliffhanger that, should readers grow to like Chance, will probably want to see some answers to in the next book. Meanwhile, Corine’s other love interest, Jesse, is a muddle of conflicting ideals that can’t decide from one minute to the next if he should arrest or kiss her. What’s interesting is that all the characters in the book are familiar with otherworldly elements – magic, etc. – but on different levels. As a result, none of them are necessarily authorities in any of it and all have something they can learn from the other, making their efforts as a team more genuine.

While we’re getting to know, throughout most of the book, all these important characters, there’s not very much action, not till almost the end. Maybe I’m more used to being on the second or third or even fourth in an urban fantasy series and therefore already familiar with characters, that Blue Diablo’s slower pace didn’t click with me as much as I’d have liked.

The trick in this instance then is creating characters that will draw a reader in enough to want to wait for that action. There are subtle nuances that tell us the action is coming, you just have to be patient and trust it’s coming. In the meantime, Corine is a pretty decent heroine to get there with. I liked that she wanted to help Chance not because of their past but because of her love for his mother. In a way, it told me that despite her problems with Chance, she had formed at one point in her past a genuine and caring relationship with him. I just do not believe someone would grow to love their boyfriend’s mother so much had they not also loved said boyfriend. And we find out whys to the strain between Corine and Chance. It’s heartfelt and real and I grew to understand her confusion surrounding him as they search for Chance’s mother. Because Chance still doesn’t seem to display any more care for Corine than he did when they were together, using Corine’s gift at reading the history of objects. There’s plenty of obvious attraction on both their parts, but the emotions Corine wants from Chance – are they there or not? I really couldn’t tell.

Then we have a tenuous and budding relationship between Corine and Jesse, which felt at times to be more genuine than the crumbled history she had with Chance. The conflict between Corine and Jesse is his conflicted morals, both as a gifted individual like Corine and his honor as a cop. He knows what Corine brings to the table in the investigation of Min’s disappearance is real, the supernatural element, yet he’s also a trained cop and therefore suspicious of what his eyes see. And there’s plenty going on to make Corine look like the guilty party.

There are plenty of humorous and lighthearted moments in the book, which came as a welcome relief. Corine herself has a witty repertoire at the ready, whether through dialogue or inward thoughts and she engages the other characters with it in a funny manner. Throw in an orphaned chihuahua named Butch who seems to have amazing abilities of his own and there’s no doubt that we get some more fun, whimsical moments amongst the angst and pain. Aguirre works it all in together, well, magically.

The plot of Chance’s mother, Min’s, disappearance is overshadowed by the development of these three main characters; learning Corine and Chance’s past, the hurt and pain as they reunite to save a loved one and the struggle to build the trust required to do so. Interwoven in this is their investigation and clues and progress seems to be made kind of slowly, although in reality not too much time passes in the book. I could have done with a little less angsting over Corine’s past with Chance, but I do think what we learn about Chance, Corine and Jesse is interesting enough to warrant a sequel. In fact, a lot of the questions raised about the characters themselves aren’t answered in this installment, so I anticipate some more “getting to know” scenarios. And I will be glad to learn those answers. At this point, the fact that I felt the plot was overshadowed by character development isn’t easily pegged if it’s a good thing or not as there are many questions left unanswered, ones I hope and suspect will be addressed down the line.

If anyone has ever been overwhelmed by the worldbuilding that goes on in some urban fantasy series, this is probably the book for them. Worldbuilding in Blue Diablo isn’t complicated and the book takes place in what feels like could be everyday, normal life. It’s one of those kind of behind the scenes ideas where there’s this underbelly of magic and a whole other world that could burst into normal citizens’ realities any minute now. I got the impression, and I hope I’m not wrong, that for the most part, normal, non-gifted people don’t really know all the things that go on in Corine’s or Chance’s or Jesse’s world. We see some mobs that went after people like Corine’s mother, almost a modern day witch hunt kind of mentality, but I don’t think it’s because they saw anything outright magical. I think it had more to do with fears that fester because they don’t know exactly what is going on behind the doors of someone like Corine’s mother, who was gifted. It’s only when strange, unexplainable things happen, things that the normal mind tells it’s possessor couldn’t possibly be real, that instincts took over and the mob mentality prevails.

Compared to other urban fantasy books, Chance’s talent is subtle. Corine’s is subtle as well, although it tends to be painful, pain being a price she must accept in order to use her gift. Mages are mentioned, black magic blasts them a few times in interesting and different enough ways, but once again, truly fantastical displays of these aren’t given till almost the end of the book. I tend to think we were getting the best – all that meaty characterization AND action – last. It wasn’t really clear till the end that all of it was building up to and did execute fairly well a good ending.

So pluses: good characters; nice, subtle worldbuilding and systems of magic that were built up to; great action, eventually…

And minuses: a little too much dwelling on the past/repetitive ansgsting over Chance; too little action.

Overall, this was an engaging read. Slow, yet engaging. While I’m not immediately hot and heavy for the series, I am planning to continue with it and give book 2 a go. There is a lot of potential here for escalated action, interesting magic and otherworldly elements and the further strengthening of a good beginning to the main characters.

Rating: Three and a Half Scoops

Series order:

Blue Diablo
Hell Fire
(4/2010)
Shady Lady (4/2011)

The see more of the author’s take on the series, check out a short interview done here at Lurv.

You can also visit her site for more information.

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11 comments

  1. Thank you KMont! That was a lovely in-depth review of what makes this book tick :) I’ve read a lot of books lately that have very complex world-building and so a book with less world-building and more meaty characterization would be just the ticket!

  2. Great review kmont! I just ordered this one online yesterday and it’s making its way to me as we speak.

  3. Good review. You touched on some things I didn’t but I still didn’t love the book.

    I’m all about the action, passion, and the detailed world building. I guess those are the main reasons why this book just didn’t work for me.

  4. Thanks for the review, kmont – I recently won a copy of Blue Diablo, and I’m really looking forward to getting to sit down and read it, but it’s interesting reading other people’s impressions of it in the meantime.

  5. This is a great review, kmont. I agree. After reading Grimspace and Wanderlust, I really expected Blue Diablo to blow me out of the water. It didn’t. But I’m going to stick with the series and hope either Corine, Chance or Jesse grows on me a bit more.

  6. Thanks, everyone, for stopping by! I keep imagining this series as one I could get more excited for the closer we are to the next release date. I suppose, in hindsight then, that the book made more of a good impression than bad if I’m still thinking about it days later.

  7. I just finished this book a few days ago and while I do agree with a lot of your review, I also disagree with some of it. ;)

    Perhaps it is more a matter of reader preference, but I didn’t think the pacing was too slow. Maybe because after reading the first chapter or two, I fell into the expectation that this story was more of a mystery– following leads to find a missing person, laced with magic– and in turn, I thought the pace was fine. And there were a few pretty intense scenes there that got my blood pumping and the contents of my stomach rolling around. Ew. LOL.

    As far as the angst or frequent reflections on Corine and Chance’s past… I loved that! I thought it was a great way to learn slowly, piece by piece about their prior relationship and how it shaped them to the people they are now. I also thought that both characters evolved or grew toward the end. It was nice to see little shadows of doubt about my initial impressions of their character.

    I, too, loved the “normalcy” that Chuch and Eva brought to the story. They were great. As was Butch! :)

  8. Oh I can totally see how what didn’t work for me would for others. I’m really looking forward to most of all seeing Corine and Chance grow a lot more. And I didn’t mind the look into their pasts, it was just when we got the same information again. Reminders are OK, just sometimes there are too many.

    I didn’t feel scenes got intense at all till the end! :( Not really till Kel showed up. Wow does he add the tension. Loved that.

  9. I decided to wait for the second book on this series, before giving it a try. I’m not really an urban fantasy reader, although I’ve chose two and am loving both of those. I love Ann’s Jax series and her writing — will continue to wait for those.

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