Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Claimed By Shadow (book) by Karen Chance

This is the second book in Chance's Cassandra Palmer series. Cassandra Palmer has visions of the future, can see ghosts, was raised by vampires (she's human, by the way), and is heir to the title of Pythia (basically, the world's chief clairvoyant and protector of the timeline). At the beginning of this book, Cassie is trying to find the vampire Antonio. The main reason for this is that he's probably traveling with Myra, the crazy woman who had been expected to inherit the title of Pythia and who therefore does not wish Cassie well. The secondary reason is that Antonio is keeping the soul of Cassie's father as a paperweight. Cassie, Billy (Cassie's ghostly helper), Pritkin (a warrior mage who doesn't much like Cassie), Mac (a magical tattoo artist), and others end up teaming up together.

Although Cassie's main problem is dealing with Myra, there are lots of other things that make her life more complicated. First, she's not entirely in control of her Pythia powers - she has a habit of sliding into the past without meaning to, which is made especially bad by the fact that she might inadvertently damage the timeline. Second, she's discovered that she's had a geis on her since childhood that ties her to Mircea, the vampire who protected her as she grew up. It seems that Mircea has set things up so that Cassie can't have sex with anyone but him or someone he chooses for her. The more she is with Mircea, the stronger the geis grows, and, unfortunately, Cassie needs to lose her virginity in order to fully become the Pythia.

This is one of those books where a lot happens to the characters in what, for them, is a very short amount of time. I think almost everything in this book happens in about two days worth of the characters' time - it's a little tough to be more exact, what with all the time traveling and time differences in Faerie. One of the reasons why I'm still not sure whether I really like this series is Chance's habit of lots of scene changes, in both this book and the first one - maybe Cassie is in a casino one moment, and then in 1888 or thereabouts the next. Then Cassie goes to Faerie, and a lot of the rules change - Cassie doesn't really know what's going on, and neither do the readers. It takes a bit of energy to follow along.

Cassie seems to constantly be in danger or running from something. I think the biggest breathers she got were when she was at Mac's tattoo parlor and when she was being imprisoned in Faerie. For those of you who haven't read the book and were wondering from my description whether the whole geis thing means that this is a sex- or sexual tension-filled book, it really isn't, not in comparison to books I've read by other authors. Cassie ends up with Pythia power-induced lust a few times, but the geis keeps her from having sex until the break during her imprisonment in Faerie that I mentioned. Then we get a near-rape scene (Cassie just barely gets away, but it's still horrible), which is shortly followed by a sex scene between Cassie and a returning character from the previous book.

I think I enjoyed this book a little more than the first one. I've finally gotten a little more used to this world Chance has created, I've learned some of the terminology, and I've learned to cringe a little less whenever a time travel scene comes up. I'm not usually a big fan of anything with time travel in it, since there is too much potential for an author to create situations that defy (or deny) logic or that aren't well thought out. The time travel aspect of this book still bothers me, but I've adjusted. Unlike some other time travel books, which tell readers that the timeline can't really be changed, because anything you do in the past has already happened and therefore isn't actually changing anything, this book and this series assumes that things done when you are in the past can affect the timeline. Cassie, as Pythia, is supposed to protect the timeline, but she, too, occasionally messes things up - actually, I think she's changed something in the timeline in both books in the series so far.

There were several things I did like about this book. Most of what I liked involved characters. The Graeae were a lot of fun, providing both humor and large amounts of carnage. I can't remember if the first book mentioned Cassie acquiring them and her other objects, so they were a surprise for me. If Chance introduced them and Cassie's newly acquired dangerous magical objects just for this book, I could see some readers viewing them as cheap plot devices, sort of like"get out of jail free" cards that the author could use whenever she couldn't figure out how else to get Cassie out of her latest jam. I can understand this viewpoint, but I still enjoyed the Graeae.

I also liked Mac, the magical tattoo artist. He seemed like a nice guy, and the magical tattoos were a fun and interesting addition to the list of magical things you can find in Chance's world. I look forward to finding out what Cassie's newest tattoo can do - some act in defensive ways, protecting a person from attack, others can give people certain abilities. It's too bad that Cassie's tattoo is probably the only one that will be showing up in future books. In addition to Mac, I liked that Tomas got to show up again. Despite the fact that he is probably not the best person for Cassie to like and trust, I think he has the potential to be a very interesting and complex character. Also, he's sexy, as are many of Chance's vampires. In this particular book, readers get to find out more about Tomas' past and how he feels (or at least says he feels) about Cassie.

  • Urban Shaman (book) by C. E. Murphy - This is the first book in Murphy's Walker Papers series. Joanne Walker, mechanic-cop for the Seattle Police Department, finds out she has shamanic powers and has to figure out how to use them in only three days so that she can save the world from the Wild Hunt. She's got a talking coyote who appears in her dreams, a new ability to heal herself, and more to deal with. Those who enjoyed the tone of Claimed By Shadow and want something else with a woman who's new to her powers and must quickly learn how to use them might like this book.
  • Guilty Pleasures (book) by Laurell K. Hamilton - This is the first book in Hamilton's Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, set in an alternate history where vampires, werewolves and more are now a (sometimes uncomfortable) part of society. Anita Blake is a vampire executioner, an animator (she can raise the dead), and a consultant to the police on all things supernatural. In this first book, someone's killing innocent vampires, and, although Anita's killed her share of vampires, she does her best to find the killer. Those who liked reading about supernatural politics, vampires, and magic in a contemporary setting might like this book. Like Chance, Hamilton creates some very sexy vampires - just be careful about reading past book 10 or 11, because the series takes a sudden turn for the graphically sexual. If you consider the sex scene in Claimed By Shadow to be graphic, the most recent Anita Blake books are probably not for you, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the earlier books.
  • Blood Bound (book) by Patricia Briggs - This is the second book in Briggs' Mercedes Thompson series - it's probably best to start with the first, Moon Called, which establishes the world and characters, although it isn't until the second book that Mercy's ability to see ghosts becomes a bigger plot point. When a demon-possessed vampire begins gruesomely killing people, Mercy, a mechanic/skinwalker, wants a chance to go after him. Unfortunately, although her skinwalker powers allow her to turn into a coyote and make her faster than an ordinary human, she doesn't stand a chance against a vampire. Mercy may be the only chance everyone has, however, as even werewolves and other vampires are hurt trying to go after the killer. Those who'd like to read another book with a supernaturally gifted main female character who can see ghosts might like this book. Also, instead of lots of sexy vampires, there's several sexy werewolves (Mercy's current boyfriend and her ex-boyfriend).
  • You Slay Me (book) by Katie MacAlister - This is the first book in MacAlister's Aisling Grey series. All Aisling wants to do is deliver an old, gold dragon statue to her uncle's client in Paris. Instead, she comes across a dead woman and a mysterious and sexy man. The man (who is also a dragon), named Drake, disappears, along with the statue. Aisling has to prove she didn't kill the woman and recover the statue, all while dealing with the revelation that she is a Guardian (basically, the Keeper of the Gates to Hell). Those who liked reading about a woman who has to learn how to use new supernatural abilities and want something with some sexual tension (in this case, between Drake and Aisling) might like this book.

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