Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review of Claimed by Shadow: Book 2 of the Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance

Just about every mystical creature that you could possibly think of, has been mentioned at least once in this story.  This makes for a very large and interesting world. At times however, Chance gets downright ridiculous in her choices.  In the last book, we were introduced to Marlow, Rasputin, Baby face Nelson, Jack the Ripper and the famed artist Raphael as vampires.  It's enough to make one wonder if Chance believes that any historical figure was human.  To some degree, one must suspend belief to read urban fantasy but Chance simply has pushed this too far with her latest editions.  Would you believe that zombie Elvis makes an appearance as an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas and when he gets accidentally hurt in a battle, he is temporarily replaced by zombie Jimi Hendrix? If that were not enough, Casanova the incubus, inhabits the body of a vampire.  I side eyed my kindle so hard, I damn near hurt myself. It seems that Chance just loves a dash of camp with her urban fantasy.

With the death of the Pythia, Cassie inherits great power, unfortunately she does not have the training to be able to control it and the Circle (Light witches), vamps and fae all want something from her.  Cassie's goal is to find someone to transfer the power to, save her father from an eternity of imprisonment and to avenge the mortal death of her parents. As you can see, there is a lot going on with this world and this is even further complicated by time travel.  As an agent to move things along, time travel is excellent; however, if not treated carefully, the varying timelines can and in this case do make story difficult to follow. 

In a trip to fairy, Cassie is offered the opportunity to complete the transfer of power and claim her rightful tittle as Pythra.  As you may have guessed from my previous review, this involves having intercourse.  We are repeatedly told that Cassie is a virgin, though if she is -- it is name only --having done every sexual act except penile penetration; this definition of virginity is highly heterosexist.  It means that a gay man or woman who has never had sex with someone of the opposite sex, would by Chance's definition, remain a perpetual virgin, regardless of how many times they had sex. This coupled with the fact that there isn't a single gay or lesbian character in the series thus far is highly problematic.  I will give Chance a bone though, for having succubi and incubi change gender at will however, once  they change their gender to ensure that whatever coupling they participate in is heterosexual.  There is only one hint of a same sex relationship involving an incubus and the vampire Dracula and that is thrown in as an aside, but with the ability of the incubi to change genders, there is enough room to question whether this really constitutes a same sex interaction.

A large part of the reason Cassie wants to claim her title as Pyria, is to remove the gies  (read: magical spell) that was placed on her at the age of 12.  This spell was placed on her by the master vampire Mycia and it ensured her virginity until she was ready to assume the role of Pyria, by sending out strong keep out vibes.  The gies is specifically set to only allow Mircea, or a male he designates to have intercourse with Cassie. This of course means that when she find herself attracted to Pritkin the war mage, the gies flares to cause them physical pain to stop any kind of coupling.   Wow, a virtual chastity belt on a prepubescent child.  Mycia was essentially grooming her for himself.  Events however become confused when Cassie travels back in time and inadvertently places a second gies on Mircea.  It becomes a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg.  Would Mircea have placed the gies on her when she was 12, if Cassie had not traveled back to the 1800's and accidentally placed one on him first? 

For every problem that Cassie solves, three more pop up in its place.  She is supposedly a very strong magical being, and yet Chance continually creates situations in which Cassie is not able to save herself.  Cassie also is prone to a touch of spunky agency. What is the point of having a strong female protagonist, only to have her rescued by the men in the series? The strong protagonist set up is also invalidated by the spunky agency, because after a time the reader just wants someone to save her from herself and her ridiculous decisions.  If that were not enough, even though she knows that she is being used and directed by her compatriots, she still puts their interests above hers, thus turning herself into another long suffering woman. Pritkin the war mage even goes as far as to tell Cassie that Elizabeth the first, was a great queen because she knew who to trust and surrounded herself with capable people, and to me this read like  justification for Cassie's continual dependence on those who do not have her best interests at heart. 

Although the action in the book is often confusing, it is also very fast paced.  Cassie goes hurtling through time and dangerous situations at a heart racing pace. The battle scenes are absolutely vivid and force you to root for the protagonist. As a reader you must assume that there is constantly a new twist, because nothing is ever what it seems to be.  This of course keeps one on edge and anxious to turn the pages, while praying not to get lost.  I worry as the story goes on that Chance may lose track of her own cannon, because of the fact that it is continually being manipulated and changed to drive the story but for now, though I had to re-read several sections of the book to ensure I knew what was going on, I am enjoying the pace and the story.