Review: Masks by Karen Chance

masksReviewed by Jen

For fans of the Cassie Palmer series, Masks is a chance to learn more about one of the series’ more enigmatic characters, Mircea Basaraab. As a reader who is 100% Team Pritkin, I had hoped this book would make me a bit more sympathetic toward him. (After all, in the Cassie books, he is smooth, polished and manipulative.) And yes, on some level, it did help me understand him better. But overall, this book didn’t have the magic that Cassie series holds for me. In fact, I struggled to make it through to the end. [Read more…]

Review: Tempt the Stars

tempt the starsReviewed by Jen

Cassie Palmer fans have been waiting an age for a resolution to the cliffhanger from Hunt the Moon.  If the years have dulled your memory, Pritkin saved Cassie’s life by using his forbidden demonic powers and was promptly whisked back to hell by his dear old dad for breaking the rules.  Well, I’ll tell you this, we get the rescue mission we’ve been waiting for, but don’t expect to be satisfied.  This book ends with a cliffhanger just as gnarly as the last one.  The story kept me glued to the pages, then made me want to poke my eyes out at the very end.  Karen Chance is killing me. [Read more…]

Review: Hunt the Moon

Reviewed by Jen

Let me start out by telling you the absolute worst thing about this book: the fact that it’s over.  I’m finished with the damn thing and I don’t know how I am going to be able to wait to find out what will happen next.

The story begins with Cassie awaiting her coronation as Pythia. Mircea has her under constant guard; Pritkin is inundating her with self-defense training. Obviously, they’re taking the threat of an attack very seriously. And they’re right. A mysterious force targets Cassie in an assault and no one can understand how it was done.  So Pritkin goes on a journey to Faerie to see what information he can dig up.

The only time the book dragged for me was in his absence.  And perhaps Mircea fans will disagree, because for 100 pages or so, it’s a Mircea-thon.  He accompanies Cassie back in time to see her mother.  But the plans get turned asunder as Mommy is kidnapped and attacked by dark mages.  The rest of the action in the book centers on keeping Cassie’s mother alive and figuring out what’s behind the malevolent force targeting Cassie, herself.

But to me, all of that is window dressing for the fantastic interpersonal stuff that happens in this book.  Cassie still isn’t sure where she stands with Mircea and that confusion is compounded by his insistence on inflicting his will upon her.  We get little more insight into his feelings for her as the book progresses.  But where the story really shines is when the focus is on Cassie and Pritkin.  He comes through for her time and time again; he is reliable; he is constant; he is selfless; and the sexual tension between them is Oh-My-God out of this world.  Every book, I find myself wondering if this will be the one where Cassie realizes what she means to him –and what he means to her… Will this be the one where they finally, er, do the damn deed?  I won’t spoil you with the answers, but the journey is amazing and riveting.

A couple of the action sequences were just a bit too long for my taste, and the mythological motivations explaining the main story arc were a bit complicated.  But the climax was fantastic.  And the ending left me gutted.  We’ve got a big cliffhanger here; a powerful one. And I don’t want to wait!  Karen Chance, you are a cruel woman.  I don’t even know when the next book comes out.  5 stars.

*ARC Provided by Signet Select/Penguin Group USA

Hunt the Moon
by Karen Chance
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Publisher: Signet Select

Review: Curse the Dawn

Reviewed by Jen

Without a doubt, this has the best book yet in the Cassie Palmer series.  It had all the great characters, action and smexy goodness of the previous books, without any head-scratching time travel conundrums.

Two main things are happening here: 1. The mages are redoubling their efforts to get their hands on Cassie; and 2. Something has destroyed a ley line and the MAGIC center where the North American Vampires had their stronghold.

The mage attacks throw Cassie and Pritkin even closer together than ever.  And let me just say how much I love Pritkin.  His interactions with Cassie absolutely make these books shine for me.  Together, they face one disaster after another.  Some threats are physical, while others are emotional… like Cassie’s discovery of her father’s dark past.

It’s amazing to me how the author manages to sustain the Cassie/Pritkin dynamic, while Mircea stays very much in the game. There is a wealth of chemistry between him and Cassie, as well. Yet, even through her eyes, he remains mysterious; his motives, unclear.  It goes a long way towards keeping their relationship fresh and sexy. And even though I have landed squarely in the Pritkin camp, I still enjoy Cassie’s scenes with her vampire-beau.

The secondary characters continue to shine as well. I have formed quite an attachment to Rafe and Francoise. And even Marco, Sal, and Nicu managed to make an impression. There’s a huge cast of characters, but the books have progressed to a point where I feel like I “know” them all and have a vested interest in their futures.

And I can’t ignore the fact that this book has some really, really great one liners. I laughed out loud more than once.  –And it has some really, really hot loving too.  Can’t wait to see what happens next. 4 1/2 stars.

Curse the Dawn
by Karen Chance
Release Date: April 7, 2009
Publisher: Penguin Group, USA

Review: Embrace the Night


Reviewed by Jen

Wow. I think I have whiplash after this one. This time-travel thing has officially tipped the scales onto the side of too-much-for-my-brain. In fact, a few things tipped the scales into the realm of “too-much” for me in this book. But I liked it anyway.

When the story begins, Cassie is training with Pritkin, trying to learn how to better protect herself from her growing pool of enemies. But her number one priority is finding the Codex of Merlin, which may have a counterspell to the geis affecting her and Mircea.

The most interesting thing in this book, for me, was the development of the relationship between Cassie and Pritkin. They grow closer; they move apart; she trusts him; she loses that trust; and it all comes full circle again. I think this is the guy that is becoming my front-runner for Cassie’s HEA. But I have to say that his backstory is completely over the top. I can’t decide which is more distressing: what he is supposed to be or who he is supposed to be. Both seem utterly out of left-field.

The only thing worse is the issue of paradoxes brought on my Cassie’s constant trips to the past. For instance, WHY does the Mircea of “two weeks ago” not recognize Cassie from the present day from her visits to him back in the 1700s? And beyond that, keeping straight the events surrounding the time period of book one, was just too confusing. And I only read that book two days ago. I can only imagine what a din of confusion it would create for someone who read it months or years before.

And nothing was as over-the-top as Cassie’s last idea on how to break the geis. I swear, if that threesome would have happened, I might have had to give up on the series.

But… Even with all this, I liked it in a guilty pleasure sort of way. The love scenes were very, very hot. And I love Pritkin, even if he has some questionable parentage. God only knows what will happen next in the series. I guess the only way to find out is to keep reading.  4 stars.

Embrace the Night
by Karen Chance
Release Date: April 1, 2008
Publisher: Penguin Group, USA

Review: Claimed by Shadow

Reviewed by Jen

I’ll admit it. I get a little bit of a one track mind when it comes to books.  If there is so much of a whiff of a relationship forming, I fixate on it and build up all of my anticipation around it.  I stay true-blue to my couple. 3rd parties are the enemy.  There is no indecision or uncertainty… just relationship-worshipping in its purest sense.  Until I started this damn series.  Never have I felt so torn… so fickle… about who I want a heroine to end up with.  I’ve got to give credit where credit is due, Karen Chance had me rooting for Tomas, Mircea, and even Pritkin to be the ONE to finally seal the deal with Cassie.  And even now, I’m not sure where my loyalties lie.

The story picks up just after the events of Touch the Dark.  Cassie has escaped the senate, but reveals she stole a few objects of power on her way out of the door.  She is looking for Tony, not only because of past issues with him, but because she wants to free her father’s ghost, and neutralize Myra, the other heir to the Pythia power.   (She thinks Tony is the key to finding them both.)

Just as she approaches a member of Tony’s organization to try to get a fix on him, she is attacked by mages.  She is forced to make an alliance with the mage assassin Pritkin to escape.  They decide to work together to get to Faerie, where they believe Tony and Myra are hiding.  Pritkin wants to get to Myra for his own reasons.

While all this is going on, Cassie discovers that Mircea has placed a geis on her… a powerful spell that prevents her from sleeping with other men.  If she makes a move to do so, she and the potential partner experience great pain.  But this is at odds with the power of the Pythia which is urging Cassie to lose her virginity in order to claim her full power.

Before she can even set out for Faerie, Cassie is being sent back in time. Myra is trying to kill Mircea in the past, to remove his protection of Cassie in the present.  Let me stop here and say that altering the events of the past can create some nasty paradoxes.  Some are addressed by the author.  But admittedly, some left me with more questions than answers.  The biggest is this: If Cassie met Mircea in the past and altered the timeline, how could the events of the first book have played out the way they did?  Or are we to assume they went differently? If so, how?  Clearly, Mircea remembers their past meetings in this book. It creates a bit of a mess in my head.  But rather than let it ruin the book for me, I just filed it away as something that didn’t quite fit and tried to let it go.

This book is amazingly sexy for only having one sex scene in it.  It’s full of action, twists, turns and some real emotion as well.  There are many plot threads left unresolved, not the least of which is this mess with the geis.  I’m looking forward to see how the author goes forward from here and whether the knots in the plot created by time travel manage to unweave or get more complicated. 4 stars.

Claimed by Shadow
by Karen Chance
Release Date: April 3, 2007
Publisher: Penguin Group, USA

Review: Touch the Dark

Reviewed by JenCassie Palmer isn’t your average kick-ass Urban Fantasy heroine.  Maybe because she doesn’t kick ass. She’s not especially tough. She’s not even snarky.  But I think it’s the fact that the series feels so unique that I enjoyed it so much.

Cassie is a clairvoyant. She also sees and communicates with ghosts. In fact, one serves as something like a guardian angel… or as close to a guardian angel as the ghost of a gambling, alcohol and lady-loving cowboy can be.

She grew up surrounded by vampires, and was raised by a horrible vamp named Tony. He had her parents killed and then used her gifts as a seer for his own gains. She got away from him and has been living her life in hiding, until now.  She’s been found and targeted. But the vampire senate steps in to save her.  They realize there is more to her power than even Cassie recognized. And they want to nurture her gifts in the hope that she will be loyal to them.

Cassie’s powers are growing, even in the short time she is with the senate.  She must deal with that, the growing threats to her life, and the distinct attentions of two vampires who want her for themselves.  Frankly, for much of the book, I didn’t know who I was rooting for. One minute, I figured it had to be Tomas… then I was drooling for Mircea.  The sexual tension is fantastic in the second half of the book and there are two really hot scenes that give us some payoff as well.

There is a lot of world-building to be done. And there are times that it intrudes on the flow. For me, this was more true in the first half.  What gave me a little more pause was the time-travel element. Whenever you start talking about changing history, things can get really hairy. I think it worked out ok, but it slowed down the wheels in my brain once or twice.

But for the most part, I really enjoyed it. The ending isn’t exactly a cliffhanger, but there is clearly more story to tell. And I want to read it!  A dark, sexy start to the series. 4  stars.

Touch the Dark
by Karen Chance
Release Date: June 6, 2006
Publisher: Penguin Group, USA

Series Reading Order: Cassie Palmer

This is the reading order for the Cassie Palmer series by Karen Chance:

 

*A short story featuring Tomas also exists. It’s called “Day of the Dead” and can be found in the Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance.  It can be read anytime after Claimed by Shadows.