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Chill Factor (Weather Warden) by Rachel Caine
Review by Drew Bittner
Roc Mass Market  ISBN/ITEM#: 0451460103
Date: 30 January, 2005 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Joanna Baldwin?s had a busy career. She fought a corrupt weather controlling wizard (and died) in her first adventure, was reborn as a Djinn and suffered the ?ownership? of an abused half-psychotic teenager, watched as her lover (also a Djinn) was used against his will by the teenager?s mother, and saw her best friend?s magic brutally torn from his body? just before she was restored to full humanity.

As a Weather Warden, her responsibility is keeping mankind safe from the worst effects of weather. Her job has cost her two lives already? and this next challenge may make it a hat trick.

Now, as Chill Factor opens, Joanna is on the trail of Kevin, who has not only her friend?s magic, but possesses the most powerful Djinn in the world. He?s holed up in Las Vegas, thinking he?s living the good life but is actually setting in motion events that could destroy humanity altogether. Joanna and her lover, David, cannot reach the city with Jonathan (Kevin?s Djinn) blocking their path?until Joanna?s friend Lewis (who is dying without his magic) figures out a truly unpleasant way to sneak her past Jonathan?s barriers.

Joanna makes it to Vegas. After a harrowing meeting with her quarry, she learns that an underground organization opposed to the Wardens is also moving to contain the damage. Problem is, Joanna has made major enemies in this group without even realizing it, and mistakes from her past are going to have some very unpleasant consequences. The best case is that Kevin will be assassinated. The worst case... a Djinn?s fury and jealousy may cause the end of humanity if Joanna can?t stop it.

Rachel Caine?s third Joanna Baldwin adventure is a roller coaster, pitting a plucky heroine against enemies both magical and institutional. The nature of her own organization is called into question, as incidents of corruption take on a more sinister pattern. She has taken the Wardens for granted as the ?good guys,? using their talents (and partnership with the enslaved Djinn) to benefit mankind, but she is forced to confront the notion that power has seriously, perhaps fatally corrupted them and subverted their mission. Joanna realizes it?s possible she?s been blind to the extent of this corruption; having to face this possibility is a severe blow to her self-image as being on the right side of things.

Joanna is a likable character in the Anita Blake mold: wisecracking, more talented than her co-workers, suspicious of authority, with a reputation as a loose cannon. However, readers will not think they?re reading ?Anita Lite? in these books. Caine does a fine job making Joanna her own person.

Similarly, readers will find the characterizations of David, Jonathan, Kevin, and Lewis significantly deeper this time out. Their motives and agendas are fully revealed, with no punches pulled. Lewis does a few things in particular that are ethically dark gray if not black, with no justification other than the raw need to have them done. Given that power and its abuse are major themes of these books, these moments of moral ambiguity reflect a satisfying complexity in Caine?s work, even as the scenery speeds by toward a powerful conclusion.

Fans of fun, fast-paced urban fantasy will enjoy the ride. Recommended.

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