On the Prowl by Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, and Sunny

On the Prowl
Patricia Briggs

OK, been procrastinating about this review for some reason, better do it before I forget. I picked up On the Prowl because Patricia Briggs is on my buy list for her Mercy Thompson series and her short story in this book is from that world. I’ve also read Karen Chance (who I will keep reading) and Sunny (who I probably won’t), but I’d never read anything by Eileen Wilks before.

In this anthology, all four stories have to do with some kind of shapeshifting, so there are urban fantasy and paranormal elements.

Overall I liked the anthology, but it was a mixed bag. I was surprised in that I liked some stories more than I expected and others less than I expected.

Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs [link to excerpt]- Charles, son of the Marrok (the werewolf King) goes to Chicago to investigate suspicious activity there. At the airport he meets with Anna, the werewolf who called the Marrok, who is an Omega wolf. This was one of the surprises of the anthology. There was more of a paranormal romance rather than an urban fantasy feel to it, and I wasn’t expecting that because the Mercy Thompson series is very light on relationships. I’m not sure that completely worked for me because I thought the pacing was a little fast in the emotional aspect. It just didn’t fit into the constraints of a short story. I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy the story. The writing is well done. I’m going to keep following the series that is supposed to stem from the characters in it. Patricia Briggs says on her website that 3 books have been agreed on so far.

Inhuman by Eileen Wilks [link to excerpt] – This story centers around Kai, who is one of the Gifted in an Earth where some sort of unusual wave has caused a lot of people to discover minor pyschic abilities, but she is hiding something about her Gift even amongst her friends. She’s also covers for her neighbor Nathan who is an odd character, even though she’s not completely sure what he’s hiding either. This turned out to be what I thought was one of the stronger stories in the anthology and I enjoyed the subtle world building and the relaxed pace. I’d be interested in reading more books by this author. Hmm, I just realized that this short story is in the same world as her Lupi series. Well I couldn’t tell.

Buying Trouble by Karen Chance [link to excerpt]- This is another story which is in the same world as the author’s Cassandra Palmer series, and I didn’t think it was too hard to follow without reading the series but it’s hard for me to tell. It centers around Claire, a null who works for an auction house and who is avoiding her family and the Fey for some reason. When she sees a Fey noble at an auction, then sees her enemy cousin, she knows things are going to get bad. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, because OK I have ranted about the pacing in Chance’s books before. This story had some pauses in the action of the story which I was pleased by. Less rushing around = good!!! Also there was some mild humor in this one that I enjoyed.

Mona Lisa Betwining by Sunny [link to excerpt]- OK, yet again a story set in the same world as the author’s series, except this time this seems more of a side story in the actual series than a story separate from the series. A warning – major spoilers for book 2 in this short story!!! We have Mona Lisa, the main character of Sunny’s Monere series continuing down her path of sexual conquest and increasing powers. I think that the point of this was to introduce the character Lucinda who will be getting her own set of books, but this was done really awkwardly and I was wondering why Lucinda was even mentioned at all, because she sort of: enters, vaguely threatens Mona Lisa and then goes off somewhere, and that was it. Didn’t fit the context at all. I didn’t like this one and I skimmed it so I’ve already forgotten much of it. I really think this deserves to be in an erotic anthology, not with just paranormal/urban fantasy that’s not as sexual. OH. I remember one thing. At one point I actually paused for a few moments because I had just read the sentence “Crammingly so.”

Claimed by Shadow by Karen Chance

In book one, Cassandra (Cassie) Palmer is introduced as a clairvoyant with the ability to see ghosts and see flashes of the future (usually bad things that she can't stop from happening). Raised by vampires with mafia-like attributes, she escapes their "care" and spends most of the book running around and being chased by different factions of mages and vampires while learning that the power of the Pythia (head clairvoyant for lack of a better description) is going to be hers. She doesn't want to be Pythia and to make things more complicated – others are trying their damnedest to make her Pythia or to kill her and stop her from becoming it. On top of that is a lot of action and some time travel that occurs when some of the Pythia's abilities start to transfer to Cassie.

Now in book 2 we have some of the same problems – Cassie has enemies and her supporters aren't very clear cut. She still spends her time running from one place to another and again we have people who want her to be under their control or dead. I think the goal here is Cassie wanting to track down two people who she knows are her enemies and want to kill her, but she spends so much time getting there it was ridiculous. Subgoal – she has a geas placed on her by master vamp Mircea, her guardian from childhood which binds her to him and she wants it off.

This was the book: Cassie is somewhere, suddenly 4 random characters appear and chaos ensues, Cassie gets/runs away or other character/s leaves. Cassie is somewhere else (it doesn't help that she gets pulled back and forth in time too). Suddenly 4 random characters mentioned in book 1 or new ones appear and chaos ensues. Cassie runs away. Cassie is somewhere else.. suddenly more characters appear, chaos, fighting, someone runs away.. Cassie is somewhere else.. SUDDENLY…

Oh my god. First of all: does it have to be this way? And how slowly does anything happen in between all the action? Sure its interesting to see the world building here and the neat new characters with cool abilities (moving tattoos, incubi, magic bombs, portals, talismans, zombies, gargoyles), and fights and action is fine, but don't overdo it so that it bogs down the story. Save it for the next book!  Basically: too many characters, too much action without a break, too complicated. What really irritates me is that if the author cut down on her interesting ideas she would have a good story, but she has a tendency to just throw everything in there and mix. This COULD be a good book, but too much cool ideas = overkill. If there were less new characters added every scene or so, less action (does it have to happen every scene?), and less complications, the book would be AWESOME. Right now the pace is always high, and its tiring to read something with one pace. It needs breaks and it doesn't have any. Something is always happening and even when Cassie does her thinking and planning – she's doing this when she HAS to make a decision, so its all very forced march and it doesn't help that explaining her decisions is very complicated to read because the author adds a billion things to make things more complicated – mostly more and more characters with their own agendas. Cassie explains her thought process is this way: "If I d x, then this is how the vampires will react, this is how the mages will react, this is why its good for me, this is why its bad for me, this is probably the goal of the vamps, this is what the mages probably want.. blah blah blah". Very confusing and irritating that it has to be so complicated and take so long. I would like to see Cassie just make a decision and explain it in simple, straightforward, non wishy washy terms. What's sad is that because I see it could be awesome I keep reading, hoping the plot will get better.  Another thing: I really don't like it when the author finds a plot device where sex is needed in order to complete some ritual or where the characters get all hot and bothered because of a spell, both which are used in this book. Not to have orgies or anything, there hardly any actual sex in here, but it hangs over everything and the plot revolves around it and I suspect will continue to revolve around it.

Siiiiigh. I just ranted on that one. And yet: I still want the author to get it right in the next book and I'm willing to read it to see if she does. I liked book one better, so maybe I'll like book three better. Or I'm a machochistic.

General feeling – 4.5 (it was ok. I think it can be redeemed)

Plot – 4 (didn't like it, made worse by it came close to being good)

Writing style - 7 (The writing is good. Nit: were some typos I noticed in the early pages that bugged me – quotes in wrong place, same exact sentence used twice in a couple of pages that were right next to each other)

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