Blue Diablo is the first book in a new urban fantasy series by Ann Aguirre, who also writes the lovely science fiction romance series starring Sirantha Jax (I reviewed Grimspace (book 1) here, and Wanderlust (book 2) here).
The Premise: This series centers around Corine Solomon, who is a Handler – someone who can touch an object and recall its past. This means she's really sought after for her skills, but they have a high price for Corine, physically and in other ways. At the start of Blue Diablo Corine is in Mexico, living as an expatriate and not using her special handler talent. She's been in Mexico for about a year, after walking away from a bad relationship where she felt that her ex, Chance, did not really love her and valued her more for her talent than for herself. Unfortunately for Corine, her past doesn't stay away, and Chance shows up, asking for her help to find his mother, Yi-Min Chin, someone Corine really likes.
My Thoughts: This book right away does a couple of things that gave it high points in my book:
First of all the setting was not all in the United States, which is refreshing when I see it anywhere. Corine is living in Mexico before events mean she has to travel to Laredo, Texas, and this is reflected in her day to day life, the food, and the language. Spanish is peppered throughout the dialog, and I'm very glad that I took enough Spanish classes in my lifetime to understand it! I also enjoyed the descriptions of food (ah how I love reading about food).
The second thing was Chance, Corine's ex-boyfriend, who is a half (at least) Asian hero. I have a huge soft spot for mixed race characters!. He's a very intriguing guy – at first he seems very polished and put together, sort of distant, but I think the reader gets this through the way Corine sees him because the book is written from her first person point of view. As the story progresses Corine begins to realize he may not be the person she thought he was. He's also changed in the year that Corine was away, and there are still feelings on both sides about the other. It's a little bit painful on both their parts and ultimately I hope things work out for them, but Corine is not quick to forgive at all. They have issues to sort out. I had to agree that Corine wasn't always the most gracious character, but love is messy sometimes. On the other hand, it almost seems like Chance actually likes her more for it (Disfunctional? I can't decide. There were a one scene in particular which springs to mind).
That brings me to another aspect which I've noticed in Aguirre's work – the romances have their ups and downs and the main characters aren't perfect. They're flawed. Sometimes they do things I don't really like, but ultimately I can understand it, and I hope for them to grow. Which they do. I think Jax grows from book 1 to book 2 of her series, and I expect to see something similar with Corine.
But I probably shouldn't just focus on the Chance/Corine relationship. Really I am Team Chance, but there is another love interest involved in Blue Diablo. There is a cop named Jesse Saldana, the main investigator in the disappearance of Chance's mother who has a talent too (he's an empath). Jesse wants to become Corine's mentor, but it's clear he's also interested in more. Whether Corine can trust him is another question.
It's not just about the love triangle and the mystery of what happened to Yi-Min Chin. Corine meets some of Chance's contacts in Laredo and makes friends (who I liked), so the secondary characters were strong as well (Eva and Chuch were a really cute couple). And I particularly liked the dog! Ann hints there is a plot twist involving the dog in later books, dying to know what. There is also plenty of action going on – magical and other violence goes on. It's a bit gorey at times, but I didn't find it that dark despite that (not sure what my threshold is though. It may be high).
Overall: I liked it – an urban fantasy with an international flare. It's an action packed first book, full of flawed but likeable characters and relationships. Must read for Ann Aguirre fans, and urban fantasy lovers who want to try out a new author who haven't read this one before.
Ann is doing a virtual tour all over the internet (and she's giving away copies of Blue Diablo while she's at it). Check it out!