Short Stories: The Gauntlet (2010)
Touch the Dark (2006)
Cassandra is a clairvoyant who is on the run from her former vampire master. After she receives a death notice on her computer, she flees, taking only her gun from her office, and stopping only to warn her roommate that there is danger coming, and he shouldn't go home.
First things first, there is boinking in this book. Boinking in detail. So you've been warned if that's not your thing.
Aside from the boinking, however, there were some interesting questions in story. Why were the vampires after Cassandra? What would make a clairvoyant so important? What did the Vampire Senate really want from Cassandra?
The story also raises the question, what is it about vampires that people find so erotic? At best, they're parasites. At worst, cold killers. Plus, they're dead. So how come they can still (ahem) function? These aren't really questions that relate specifically to Touch the Dark, but rather questions about the current fascination with vampires. (And I'm as guilty as anyone else here, which is why I'm so curious about the whole thing.)
The story is interesting, and it did go places that I wasn't expecting. However, some of the things I found slightly confusing. For instance, mucking about with the time line seems like a really bad idea. Even if there does seem to be some sort of magic attempting to keep the future from changing.
The pace of the story is fast, which is good. It's nice to be able to read a story in a couple of hours, and still have time left in the day to do other things. Plus I am not sure that most supernatural stories would hold up under a slower pace. Part of what makes them good is the desire to keep flipping the pages to find out what happens. A slower pace might leave one with more time to consider the plot, and things like why mucking about in the timeline doesn't wreak more havoc.
The characters are interesting, but the ones I found most interesting were really part of the supporting cast. It's one thing to make vampires sexy and hot, it's something else entirely to make them interesting without resorting to sex appeal. She did a good job of making the characters of Rafe and Billy quite interesting, without having to resort to sex appeal. And it's interesting that although she describes vampires as having the same range of appearance as humans, the majority of vampires she interacts with are described as very good looking.
Although the story arc is resolved, there are plenty of questions left open, and I presume a sequel is planned. So the resolution was good, but not great. (And after a quick check, I am correct. A sequel comes out in April.)
So it's an interesting story with some flaws, but for a quick read it's pretty good, and has potential to get more interesting.
Claimed by Shadow (2007)
I went and checked, and here's how I summed up Touch the Dark:
(I)t's an interesting story with some flaws, but for a quick read it's pretty good, and has potential to get more interesting.
Well, unfortunately, it didn't get more interesting. I mostly found myself annoyed with Cassie, and tired of the fact the she was constantly surrounded by hunky, gorgeous guys. Please. It's as if absolutely everything in this story related in one way or another to sex. Either Cassie thinking about sex or sizing up every guy some comes across as a potential partner for boinking. Even when she was in danger she couldn't stop thinking about sex.
There were some interesting fantasy elements in this story. I particularly liked the tattoos--the idea that with magic you could create tattoos that were more than works of art--they could act as offensive or defensive weapons. But in implementation, they were inconsistent. Sometimes they seemed incredibly powerful and other times they seemed incredibly worthless. Of course that goes for Cassie's powers as well.
Good cover though. I loved the color and use of shadow and the dress and everything.
I also found the "major" death to be unsatisfactory as well. If you're going to kill someone off then be brave and kill of a major character--not someone you've brought it solely for the purpose of giving the heroine cool new toys/powers and then dying valiantly sacrificing themselves for the winsome heroine.
Even the secondary characters that I enjoyed in the first book seemed flatter and more annoying in this book.
If you read Touch the Dark, then you may want to read Claimed by Shadow, to see where the story is going. But I'd recommend picking it up used.
In fact, I know where you can get a copy.
ADDENDUM the First
I don't think it's just me. Michael just read Touch the Dark, and was bugging me to finish reading Claimed by Shadow so he could read the sequel when he was done. However, he didn't even finish the first chapter of Claimed by Shadow before putting it down and moving on to something else. His reason was that Cassie was annoying him.
On the Prowl (2007)
Wow. Talk about a mixed bag. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two stories. I started the last two and thought, “meh.” But then realized that to review the book I had to finish all four stories.
I should have trusted my first instincts and just reviewed the first two stories leaving the last two unread.
The last two stories in the anthology, on the other hand, I am sorry I bothered to read. Karen Chance’s story Buying Trouble can all but be summed up in yesterday’s twitter: “Magical boinking and a plot where I felt I was missing 3/4 of the story.” Yeah, that’s right. Magical boinking. The plot ranged all over, was hard to get a grip on, and never quite made sense. Why did these people/creatures live this way? How do they move back and forth between earth and the magical realm? Why would Claire remain in touch with the magical world, since no good ever came from her nature? Why didn’t Clarie just go somewhere she wouldn’t be recognized for what she was? And WHY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THE MAGICAL BOINKING?! I could have lived without a story where one of the partners transforms into a reptile during sex. Ugh.
So I recommend On the Prowl with reservations. The first two stories are very good. The fourth was little else but boinking, and the third story was a simply mess. With magical boinking. I’d say get it for the first two stories, and then pretend that the last two stories are part of some other anthology entirely and completely unrelated to the first two stories.
Gift Wrap - Charlaine Harris
Haire of the Beast - Donna Andrews
Lucy, at Christmastime - Simon R. Green
Night Things Changed - Dana Cameron
Werewolf before Christmas - Kat Richardson
Fresh Meat - Alan Gordon
Il Est Ne - Carrie Vaughn
Perfect Gift - Dana Stabenow
Christmas Past - Keri Arthur
SA - J.A. Konrath
Star of David - Patricia Briggs
You'd Better Not Pyout - Nancy Pickard
Rogue Elements - Karen Chance
Milk and Cookies - Rob Thurman
Keeping Watch over his Flock - Toni L. P. Kelner
Strange Brew (2009) editor
I love short story collections. They’re a way to discover new authors, visit with favorite characters, and to be honest I just enjoy short stories. Now if you like short stories, you eventually learn that a lot of collections are not worth buying, but there are certain authors that will cause me to buy an anthology on sight. This collection has several of those authors: Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, and Charlaine Harris.
As with most collections, there are some good stories, and some stories I didn’t like quite as well. For some reason, the stories I like the best seem to end up in the front of the book–which is unusual, because with Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress anthologies, that tended to end on very strong stories. This collection, not so much, which is always a little disappointing.
Seeing Eye by Patricia Briggs
Last Call by Jim Butcher
Death Warmed Over by Rachel Caine
Vegas Odds by Karen Chance
Hecate’s Golden Eye by P.N. Elrod
Bacon by Charlaine Harris
Signatures of the Dead by Faith Hunter
Ginger: A Nocturne City Story by Caitlin Kittredge
Dark Sins by Jenna Maclaine
What I thought was interesting was several of the stories reached back into mythology for parts of their stories, which I really enjoyed (although I didn’t need all the explanation that was given). If you think you might be interested in reading supernatural fantasy, this anthology would be a good place to sample some stories.
Re-Read: July 2014
Vegas Odds by Karen Chance was a story I skimmed through, because I generally don’t care for her short stories, feeling like I’m missing something because I haven’t read the series. This felt the same way.
I love anthologies, but I wish that more collections were edited for quality short stories, rather than to get as many names on the cover–regardless of whether those authors are good at writing short stories and novellas.
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
The Gauntlet (2010)
This is a short story that is also quite obviously an opening for a new historical paranormal romance, staring Kit Marlowe, vampire.
It was a nice distraction while stuck in the car, but I have no interest in reading a series based on these characters, and the story was entirely too much build-up to a new series to truly be able to stand on its own.