Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Reap the Wind (Cassandra Palmer #7) by Karen Chance

It's been two years since the publication of Tempt the Stars, in which we saw Cassandra Palmer, Pythia and chief seer of the supernatural world, once again lose the war mage Pritkin, after working so hard to get him back.  This time, Cassie has to travel further back in time than she ever has before in order to save Pritkin's soul.  This one task on its own would be difficult enough but as Pythia, Cassie has to deal with her court, and her supposed allies, who seem more interested in controlling her than helping her prepare for the war ahead. Still new to her power, Cassie is just holding on by the seat of her pants, hoping that somehow in her time travel and bumbling that her luck will continue to hold out long enough for her to help prepare the supernatural world to face their biggest threat - Aries.

It took a long time for Cassie to accept the fact that she is indeed the Pythia and now that others in the supernatural world have accepted her title, the battle is on to see who will control her.  Cassie has known the vampire Mircea since childhood.  Unlike her guardian Tony, he always seemed to treat her kindly and now that Cassie is a woman, there's a bond between them that is undeniable.  They have made a promise to be Senator and Pythia but also to be Cassie and Mircea.  It's a good plan in theory but with so much at stake, it is impossible for Mircea to avoid using his influence to get what he wants. When Mircea asks for a master vampire army to defeat the fae, Cassie knows that if she gives into this demand which Mircea tried to frame as a request, she will spend the rest of her time as Pythia capitulating.  As much as it bothers Cassie, she says, "no", and she means it.

The circle, the Pythia's traditional guardians and protectors having accepted Cassie can still not abide her independence.  To that end the freeze Cassie's assets making it impossible to support her new court, withhold information and set about trying to force Cassie to remain in one location and be the none active Pythia they expect who only uses her power as they see fit.

In many ways, Reap the Wind is about Cassie not only learning more about her powers but understanding the politics behind the position of Pythia.  Sure, Cassie has been told about all the responsibilities the Pythia has and their historic roles but she hasn't really learned how to do her job because she never received training.  It would be easy to just become a pawn of the vampires because she was after all raised by the them or the council because they were always heavily involved with the Pythias but Cassie learns that despite all of this history and the pomp and circumstance, for this to work, she's going to have to do it her own way.

For the longest time, Cassie has been made to feel inferior because she was a human in a vampire world.  When she became Pythia, despite being the seat of power, many sought to control her because of her lack of training.  Reap the Wind is about more than Cassie accepting her role of Pythia, it's about her gaining some much needed confidence in her abilities. Yes, Cassie rushes head long into things and doesn't really stop to form a plan (which is absolutely a problem) but somehow, despite the odds, Cassie has always emerged victorious.  Though many around Cassie would like to believe that this is all blind luck which certainly cannot last, Cassie has finally accepted that her victories are just that, victories and for her to win. skill had to have been involved.

I really enjoyed this growth in Cassie and I think it will be very important moving forward, particularly given that she still has a date with Aries to face.  Unfortunately, despite all of this growth in Cassie and the introduction of court, the plot itself once again seemed to stagnate.  I love Rossier and Cassie travelling through time together and the humor it provides and I love the back and forth with the young Pritkin but none of this really advances the meta.  Despite all of the action scenes which come with a Cassandra Palmer novel, Karen Chance is absolutely a master at dragging out her story and dangling carrots.  Reap the Wind, is yet another book that ends on a cliffhanger and tossing in Dorina at the end as fan service does not make up for that.  At some point, Chance is going to have to shit or get off the damn pot.

As much as this series breaks gender roles in that it has Cassie trying to save Pritkin, I still find myself caught up in the will they or won't they question.  And there's Mircea to consider, though I now think looks less viable after his demand for an army.  All of that being said, I am firmly team Pritkin and I think it's time for Chance to stop dangling that particular carrot in front of her readers. I know that many feel that the journey is what we should enjoy but I am journeyed out and this is book seven for crying out loud. Chance has built this up for too long and now, no matter what happens between Pritkin and Cassie, it cannot possibly live up to the hype.

In order to draw this story out, not only did Cassie have to do battle with the fae but with other Pythias. This came out of absolutely nowhere and read like the cheap device that it is. Why exactly did Gertie, who is from the 19th century, suddenly get so interested in what Cassie was up to?  It's not like this is the first time Cassie has meddled in the past. What happened to the so-called professional courtesy and trust that the present Pythia os doing what she has to, to ensure the world doesn't end? Cassie keeps saying that she doesn't have time to explain and I think the truth is that she doesn't make time to explain because that would have ruined the block that Karen Chance wanted to create.

The best new character in a long time is Rhea.  She starts off very timid and absolutely worships Cassie.  Because Rhea has had some training, she actually knows more about the history and the power than Cassie and so the two form a fast friendship.  What no one knows is that Rhea is even closer to Agnes than anyone ever imagined and it's this revelation that helps cement Cassie's desire to be independent.  Then there's Marco, who isn't new but certainly gets more page time than ever before and it looks like his loyalty might well be to Cassie.  He willingly puts himself in harms way and thus teaches Cassie that as much as she puts herself in the line of fire, people will one day be willing to do the same for her and not because she is Pythia but because she is worthy of the sacrifice.
"You are Pythia. Someday, people will die for you.
"I don't want people to die for me!"
"And that is why they will do it." 
In terms of inclusion, Reap the Wind, like most of Chance's books is erased.  There are no GLBT characters to speak of and no characters of colour of any particular note.  This is something that continues to bother me about this series given that Chance is capable of creating such a vivid world with various creatures.  The fae alone are broken into so many sub categories, it's hard to keep track of who is who and yet when it comes to historically marginalized people, Chance seems content to give us no such inclusion or consideration.  It's typical of a lot of books in this genre and certainly typical of this author; however, I still find it disappointing each and every time.

Reap the Wind moves incredibly fast and the action sometimes becomes hard to follow.  Cassie barely makes it back to hotel suite before she is off on another adventure.  Yes, her willingness to never say never is a good thing but her refusal to stop and plan anything out is getting irritating. This is book 7 and  given what Cassie has experienced, it's time to leave behind some of the leap now look later nonsense. This is part of what maturing Cassie's character should look like.
Just as Cassie's approach to battle needs to change, Chance also needs to give up her her addiction to cliffhangers and just tell one solid story from start to finish.  It's time to make some decision and while undoubtedly it will make some fans unhappy, at some point, one has to solve the problems one creates.