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Curse the Dawn
Karen Chance
Onyx, 386 pages

Curse the Dawn
Karen Chance
Karen Chance is from Orlando, Florida. After getting a degree in history, she spent two years teaching in Hong Kong. Touch the Dark was her first novel.

Karen Chance Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Touch the Dark

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Michael M Jones

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Cassandra Palmer has accepted the mantle of Pythia, making her the world's most powerful psychic, able to see the future and travel through space and time. Unfortunately, there are those who would rather see the power go to someone more easy to manipulate, and so the mages of the Silver Circle are out to kill her. Worse still, the previous Pythia died before teaching Cassie the ins and outs of the job, leaving her to figure it out by trial and error. The only good aspect to this whole mess is that Cassie has some formidable allies: John Pritkin, a renegade war-mage with centuries of experience, and Mircea, one of the most powerful members of the Vampire Senate. Now Cassie has to learn to master her powers, even as events conspire to make her reign as Pythia the shortest on record.

This time around, it starts with a visit to the past to seek out training, a trip which quickly turns into an anachronistic shootout in a gunpowder-filled room. Before Cassie can recover from that mishap, she's dragged willy-nilly into a negotiation-turned-ambush, which in turn leads to one of the greatest magical disasters of the modern era, and from that point, it's nothing but chaos, magical in-fighting, intrigue, and high-octant action sequences, with an ancient, extradimensional, malevolent being waiting in the wings for a crack at Cassie. It's a shame the job doesn't come with better benefits....

Curse the Dawn, fourth in the Cassie Palmer series, starts off strong, with plenty of energy, and refuses to let up until well into the meat of the story. Gunfights, explosions, magical catastrophes, rescue attempts, ambushes and much more turn this book into the urban fantasy equivalent of a summer blockbuster. I missed out on the third book, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was remarkably easy to get sucked into this one, and caught up on the major players and themes in no time at all. Sure, it builds heavily off of previous plot points and events, but in general, this is a rather accessible book.

The strengths of this book lie in the chemistry between Cassie and her major allies, Mircea and Pritkin, and in the nifty concepts introduced throughout the course of the action. The secret supernatural world is a large, active one here, one that impacts heavily, if often unrealized, on the normal world, often to the surprise and/or amusement of the ignorant bystanders. (Vegas is a great place for magical battles to be dismissed as stage shows, apparently.) Toss in some ley-line racing, accidental body-swapping, and your average Vegas drag queens, and you have a recipe for success. Like many of its ilk, this book sometimes seems to be overpopulated by the supernatural, to the point where it seems there's hardly any mundanes left to support the hidden society, but that's a minor quibble against an otherwise-enjoyable story. I still recommend starting from the beginning, but it's not the absolute necessity it would be with some series. Curse the Dawn was quite the satisfying urban fantasy adventure, and I look forward to seeing what Karen Chance has planned next.

Copyright © 2009 Michael M Jones

Michael M Jones enjoys an addiction to books, for which he's glad there is no cure. He lives with his very patient wife (who doesn't complain about books taking over the house... much), eight cats, and a large plaster penguin that once tasted blood and enjoyed it. A prophecy states that when Michael finishes reading everything on his list, he'll finally die. He aims to be immortal.


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