The citizens of Santa Olivia live in a military zone wedged between the United States and Mexico. Giant walls and armed soldiers prevent anyone from escaping. The only way to get out is by winning a boxing match against one of General Argyle's select athletes. No one ever wins. This is the land that Loup Garron has grown up in. Her mother was a normal woman, and her father a genetically altered super-being with strength, speed, and agility far beyond what humans are capable of, abilities that Loup has inherited. As she grows from childhood to adolescence she begins to recognize the injustices of the world around her, and knows she must act against it.
Santa Olivia is Jacqueline Carey's unique take on superheroes and werewolves, a far cry from the high fantasy that she usually writes. Despite the fact that Carey is one of my favorite authors, I was very nervous about picking up a book outside of her Kushiel's Legacy series. This was due to being disappointed with her last venture outside of her main series (although how much of that was due to the quality of writing, and how much due to my own skewed expectations is unknown). After reading many positive reviews of Santa Olivia, I finally decided to pick it up, and I'm very glad that I did! Santa Olivia is dramatically different from Kushiel's Legacy, but it's an well written book that pulls you in from the start.
Santa Olivia is a fantastic sci-fi/dystopia about standing up for what is right. I loved the way that Carey took old ideas, such as vigilante justice and werewolves, and gave it her own edge. Loup is a fascinating heroine, as are many of the side characters. I love the fact that the majority of the cast does not fall into simple “good and evil” categories. Even General Argyle doesn't quite fit into the “evil overload” stereotype. Despite the fact that I'm not really a fan of sports stories, I found the boxing scenes to be very suspenseful. I also enjoyed reading the romantic side plot. I found the way that Loup and her partner were drawn towards each other to be incredibly romantic, and was rooting for the two of them for most of the book. The setting of Santa Olivia is very interesting, and the book left me with many questions about what was going on in the rest of the world. Hopefully, some of those questions will be answered in the next book in the series, Santitos at Large, which is scheduled to be released sometime in 2011. I can guarantee that there will be no delay in picking up that book.