Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Brave the Tempest by Karen Chance

Brave the Tempest (Cassie Palmer book 9) by Karen Chance
Urban fantasy released by Berkley on July 30, 2019

Brave the Tempest by Karen Chance book coverCassie Palmer, chief seer of the supernatural world, faces her biggest challenge yet—her own allies! Everything’s on the line in the latest thrilling entry in the New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series.

Cassie Palmer has been chief seer of the supernatural world for a little over four months. In that time, she’s battled two gods, fallen in love with two men, and confronted the two sides of her own nature, both god and human. So it’s not surprising that she currently finds herself facing two adversaries, although they have a single purpose: to wipe out the supernatural community’s newest fighting force, leaving it vulnerable to enemies in this world and beyond.

To prevent catastrophe, the vamps, mages, and demons will have to do the one thing they’ve never managed before and come together as allies. Cassie has the difficult task of keeping the uneasy coalition intact, and of persuading her own two opposing forces, a powerful mage with a secret and a master vampire with a growing obsession, to fight at her side. She just hopes they can do it without tearing each other apart.

If paranormal romance/urban fantasy were on a spectrum, from vampires and shapeshifters being members of the mainstream society, to “the world will end if we’re exposed, but also, exploding buildings due to magical battles are a regular occurrence” then this series falls closer to the more over-the-top end of the spectrum. This series is, at the writing of this review, on its ninth full-length published novel and scheduled to have two more books released in the next year or so. And there’s a spin-off series that is up to its fourth full-length novel. So, if you’re one of those people who can’t handle reading incomplete series, I suggest that you go find something else to read for another year and then check back in on this one. If you don’t mind reading incomplete series that are over-the-top, then this is your series, and probably your book. This series is told from Cassie’s point of view, in first-person, very much in keeping with the urban fantasy tradition. What I like most about Cassie is that she’s new to her power and we’ve had to see her figure out how to wield it, and how to avoid being controlled by others who want to benefit from it. What is this power, you may be asking? Well, the cover copy doesn’t lie; Cassie is a time-traveling clairvoyant. I liked the book overall–Cassie has emotional and political conflicts–but I found myself losing track of time within the book, and I was sometimes a little overwhelmed by everything going on, much like the main character.

Cassie is in charge of making sure no one messes with the timeline. This means that humans, as a general rule, don’t know about vampires, werewolves, witches, demons, fay, and so on. She is supposed to act as a sort of referee between all of these factions, while not letting any single faction overly influence her decisions. There are some issues with that, though, which Cassie can’t quite seem to resolve in loe these nine books. The vampires and the “good” mages both want to influence Cassie for their own ends, which are not always in accord, and if they could, they would really like for Cassie to use her time traveling abilities to benefit them. Other elements within the magical world would really rather Cassie go away, leaving the timeline defenseless, and by extent, the world in general defenseless. I appreciate the complexity here, because it’s reflective of real life — which rarely can be boiled down to “good” and “bad.”
Cassie is stubborn and creative and willing to throw down with anyone she sees as a threat, even if she might not always be on the same level as her enemy in terms of capability or power. This is admirable, although it can result in lots of exploding buildings. We get to see Cassie stand up for what she wants, perhaps more than in previous books. For example, she has bodyguards that another character provided, and given her capabilities, it has taken a while to get the guards used to working with her. Now that other character needs them due to a change in circumstance and is slowly pulling them back. Cassie eventually works out a deal that allows her to keep most of her bodyguards. The deal comes at a great emotional cost to her, though.

Cassie has gone from a lone woman in her twenties to being in charge of a dozen or so young girls in training to become the next Pythia, with just as many vampire bodyguards, some witch bodyguards, a grumpy mage with an interesting past, and a vampire “ex-husband.” Which is quite the change. Cassie has to deal with all of those changes, as well as learn how to let people help her, even though she often has had to do things on her own, by the seat of her pants. She has several conversations about this with various characters during the book. That is a lot of emotional growth; I’m not sure yet if it merits nine books, but it is a lot of growth. And there is a persistent love triangle; I am not a fan of love triangles, which is all I will say here because this is a lengthy review.

But all of this complexity can be overwhelming. The action in this book takes roughly two weeks or so. And yet the book is really, really long. I’m not sure if the sense of being overwhelmed is purposeful on the part of the author — there’s a scene early on in the book where everyone is yelling at Cassie and Cassie is trying to juggle all of the demands coming at her at once — actually, there are two scenes where this happens. But the whole book feels like this, with lots of plot threads flying around, and no certainty about which ones really matter and which ones are just there.

Finally, do I think this is a good place to start the series? It’s doable, because Chance has gotten better about summarizing the highlights of the previous books, but it would probably be better, and you would care more about the characters if you started all the way from the beginning. At this point, you’d pick up this book and wonder why Cassie feels the way she does about certain characters, and why other characters feel the way they do about Cassie or each other. While this is explained by Cassie to a certain extent, it also wouldn’t carry the same amount of weight if you started with this book.

Given that Cassie has evolved as a character, that the love triangle persists, that the overall arc of the series has managed to progress more in this book than in other books, and that this book does not end on a substantial cliff hanger. I appreciate manageable cliff hangers.

Grade: B-

You can  read an excerpt here and buy a copy here. (And the mass market paperback is currently cheaper than the kindle price. The mmpb is on sale at $6.89)

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