It was with much yell out loud, hand-shaking anticipation that I picked up Claimed By Shadow the moment it landed in the stores.
The story picks up almost immediately after the end of book 1. Cassie is on a mission to locate the whereabouts of her ex-master - the vampire Tony - as well as her rival to the title of Pythia - Myra - who continues to possess the power to time travel and could prevent Cassie from ever being born.
Along the way, we are introduced to several new characters - among which include several incubus, 3 little old ladies who are more than what they appear to be, several species of the fae and even a zombie or two!
Cassie is still stubbornly refusing to complete the ritual that will grant her the title of Pythia, and the Powers That Be are NOT HAPPY at this situation. Towards the end of the book, the question of whether or not Cassie becomes Pythia is answered, and new alliances are formed that will be as surprising as it is unexpected.
Perhaps I had set my expectations way too high (what can I say, the first book - Touch the Dark - was just THAT GOOD), but the sequel didn't capture me the way I was expecting. Don't get me wrong. The writing is still fabulous, and the pace is still fast, exciting and action-packed. MOST of the returning characters, and some of the new ones, are as fascinating as ever. So what happened?
Basically, my gripe is with the main character - Cassie. In book one, we have this excellent female lead who experiences great character development as the story unravels. As she learns about her growing powers, it is like watching a caterpillar slowly emerge into a beautiful butterfly. The book ends with her becoming this empowered individual who wouldn't take crap from anyone, no matter how powerful or seductive they were.
But in book 2, it seemed to me like the butterfly was morphing back into a caterpillar. I started feeling somewhat annoyed at how indecisive the heroine had become. She questioned every little thing, and put off making any major decisions until she had no other choice. Every decision she DID end up making seemed to place her group in greater peril.
And some of her actions did not make sense at all. One case in point - who in the world would leave powerful, known to be magical items in the hands of an unknown servant who ultimately works for her most hated vampire enemy? I can cite several other such examples, but I would be giving too much of the story away. And when all her decisions end up proving somewhat disastrous, what does our stalwart heroine do? Shrug her shoulders and push the problem to the back of her mind (until it inevitably comes back to bite her in the butt).
However, the development of other characters do make up for the disappointment caused by Cassie. We get to understand more of the motivations behind Pritkin the fanatical war mage and he fleshed out into a well developed character who straddles the thin line between friend and foe. One new character - Mac - does not get much screen time, but whatever he does get manages to intrigue and engage the reader. And of course, the actions of the rascally ghost Billy and Pritkin's golem provide several of the comical moments in the book.
If not for the seeming regression of the main lead (which to me counts as a major crime and thus warrants deducting 1 star), this book would otherwise rate as a 5.