I'll be honest, I'm kind of meh...about paranormal romances; I dig certain aspects of them (the paranormal...vamps, werewolves, witches, etc.) and don't like other aspects (mainly the romance). Don't get me wrong if the sex is well done and not the defining characteristic of the story, it can be a big bonus. I don't necessarily want a love story with every paranormal book I pick up, but that's my personal preference. I really dug the first book (Tough the Dark, 2006) and I think in my review of it I billed it as Otherworld meets the Soprano's and said it was wonderfully complex and entertaining and I was certainly looking forward to reading the next in the series when it came out. As fate would have it, I didn't manage to get a copy until recently. As it turns out, that was probably for the best as this second book in the series is decidedly inferior to the first.
In Claimed by Shadow, we pick up shortly after the events of the previous novel with Cassie on the run from the Vampire Counsel and stoically avoiding taking on the duties of the Pythia (she just wants a normal life after all). In the first book Cassie has spunk...she was a butt-kicking heroine who gave as good as she got...in Claimed by Shadow...not so much. Cassie has devolved to a whiny, confused girl who can't figure out her powers. In the previous book I enjoyed watching her growing skill with prophecy...this time out it seemed like there really wasn't any skill, she spent all her time screaming at various characters about how she didn't know how to use the powers and more importantly that she didn't want them at all. In the end, she who puts up a lot of struggle and energy into NOT becoming the Pythia comes to a lame conclusion...this entire section of the storyline ends poorly (very anti-climatic).
As with the previous book there was an assortment of vampires, mages, witches, fey, shrunken heads, satyrs, ghosts...and what should have been the lovely addition of Dark Fey (this could have been a very interesting addition to this growing world, but in the end...not so much). We were also introduced to incubi (very charming, if a bit over played), gargoyles (I would have liked to see more of them), the Graeae pulling a special guest appearance (very amusing and appreciated), and with Elvis and Hendrix in interesting cameo rolls (I won't spoil it for you...but it was funny)! Even with all of this, this world manages to fall flat in the sequel...it doesn't have that gritty dark urban fantasy feel...it's muddled and confusing and the many plot lines were hard to sort out in the end and I had trouble liking Cassie as the book progressed.
This is billed mainly as a "paranormal romance," and as I said when I started out here, I can take them or leave them and I prefer the paranormal to the romance...for me to really enjoy a book of this type, it needs to be weighted toward the paranormal, which this mostly was. The twist and play up of the sexual tension through the use of a Geis was potentially interesting, but I found that halfway though the book I really wanted to slap Cassie (and/or the author) around because in the end what could have been a nicely played sexual tension with a side of bittersweet lust became one of the most annoying plot devices I think I have had to keep reading about.
Overall...I have to agree with other reviewers, the first book was far superior and the sequel is almost (but not quite) a tired "rehash" of the original. In my opinion this is not a true continuation of the story line, the author spends 374 pages treading over the same territory again and again....I'll certainly try the third in the series when it comes out in 2008 (every series has a book or two that aren't on par with the others), but if there isn't significant improvement that'll be the end of this series for me. I rate it at 3 stars (and feel that is generous), if you like paranormal romance, you'll likely find this amusing and fun...if your like me and prefer the paranormal to the romance...this is likely to fall short of the mark for you. This is definitely one to check out of the library.