140 of 141 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Paranormal Thriller!
Touch the Dark is a fast-paced dark fantasy with a wry sense of humor and great characterization. It opens with Cassandra Palmer, a clairvoyant on the run, finding her own obituary pasted onto her computer screen. The newspaper clipping informs her that she will die in a little over an hour. It's a warning, she assumes, from the vampire who had been chasing her for years...
Published on 18 July 2006 by Rune Z
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three and a Half Stars
Three years ago Cassandra Palmer betrayed the vampire mafioso who killed her parents, to the human authorities. According to a cryptic computer message her past has finally caught up with her and it's time to run again. However, when escaping is no longer an option, she has to turn to the Vampire Senate for protection, but their help doesn't come for free...
Published on 24 Sep 2007 by Lesley70
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140 of 141 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Paranormal Thriller!,
Touch the Dark is a fast-paced dark fantasy with a wry sense of humor and great characterization. It opens with Cassandra Palmer, a clairvoyant on the run, finding her own obituary pasted onto her computer screen. The newspaper clipping informs her that she will die in a little over an hour. It's a warning, she assumes, from the vampire who had been chasing her for years. Cassie had been his personal clairvoyant until she found out that he had her parents killed in order to use her abilities for himself. She tried her best to destroy him three years ago, but failed, and now he wants revenge.
Cassie gets away, but to stay safe, she needs to cut a deal with the vampire Senate, a group who rules the other vampires with an iron fist. They are not known for being sympathetic, but they are willing to make an exception in her case in order to control her power. Cassie has to find a way to retain control over both her independance and her head, in the middle of a vampire war that threatens to destroy her world.
Touch the Dark manages to incorporate mystery, action-adventure and romance into the story-line, yet keeps the fantasy foremost. If you like modern fantasy with a bite to it, you'll love Touch the Dark!
63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it - can't wait for the sequel,
What a great debut novel.
The plot revolves around a series of interlinked supernatural power struggles with Cassie, a runnaway clairvoyant, at the centre of it all - and it slowly becomes clear that a rather large destiny is about to come her way. Although there is lots of backstory, it's pretty apparent that there's a lot more going on underneath it all (as I'm sure will become clear in later books in this series.)
I tend to flit around the edges of this genre, not having read anything by some of the big players like Laurell H, but I thought that this book was enjoyable and accessible, while still being quite dark and densely packed with detail.
I liked the humour and humanity of the book and the fleet of different characters, magical creatures and supernatural beings. The dialogue was snappy and readable and had fun with a few stereotypes, like when Mircea commands Cassie to come to him.
Characterisation is a real strength of the author. Cassie is a great heroine - I didn't think she was passive at all, just very aware of the strengths of those around her and slowly coming to realise what her new powers meant.
The vampires were fabulously written. Suitably enticing, but with real ambiguity in their intentions. I liked the idea that many of them were famous historical characters.
Mircea was gorgeous, but managed moments of apparent vulnerability which only added to the attraction. When he finally lost his temper, you were left in no doubt of why he held a senate seat.
One of my favourite characters was Pritkin the barking mad, demon-hunting war mage. He has an awful lot of unattractive features, but there was just something about his single-minded determination.
I loved all the backstory and complications. It reminded me a bit of Simon R Green's Deathstalker and Nightside novels - those books also have a phenomenal number of beautifully realised characters, lots of intricate backstory and some mind-bending time travel. I rather suspect that like Green, Karen Chance will be picking up tiny strands hinted at in this book and weaving them into later installments.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Three and a Half Stars,
Three years ago Cassandra Palmer betrayed the vampire mafioso who killed her parents, to the human authorities. According to a cryptic computer message her past has finally caught up with her and it's time to run again. However, when escaping is no longer an option, she has to turn to the Vampire Senate for protection, but their help doesn't come for free.
Karen Chance can tell a rollicking good story. Her characters are fantastic, her dialogue is witty. And she is very good at building up sexual tension.
She starts off with a great first line:-
"I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw the obituary. The fact that it had my name on it was sort of a clue."
The story powerhouses from there.
Some of it is hysterically funny. Possibly my favourite section of the book is when they're trying to get Jimmy out of the cage. It's like a textbook example of things rapidly going from bad to worse. And when Cassie initially possesses Tomas and is telling Louis-Cesare to shut up, and LC thinks it's Tomas (not understanding it's Cassie in there), is just hilarious. Karen Chance pulls this three-way conversation off brilliantly.
I love how all her characters are individuals with their own little quirks. Pritkin in particular. It's a great name and fits him to a tee. He reminded me of a banty rooster with apoplexy whenever he came on-page.
However, even though I loved the story I did have a few problems.
The author often stops in the middle of the action to infodump - whether it's on magical wards during the first fight scene, why people become ghosts, or magical theory. It's annoying. Yes, I'm interested in this stuff if it's going to be important to the story, but not halfway through some major action.
The number of times that other characters say to Cassie either that she belongs to the Silver Circle, or that she is a sybil. And she just ignores them. The reader has clearly heard the comments but somehow they pass Cassie by. This happens not once, but on several occasions. She doesn't question this 'til page 223. It's as if she has selective deafness.
Things happen and I wasn't always clear about what's going on or who's present. Cassie needs to pay better attention to her surroundings so it's not so confusing for the reader. You wouldn't know people were in the same room as Cassie until they started talking or fighting, then it's like `Who are these people?'.
Finally the ending, which I think in another story might have annoyed me. There isn't really a conclusion as such. Do we assume that the good guys won the day? Cassie left Mircea in the past, we never come back to the future, so we don't know for sure what happened. But somehow this ending fits with the rest of the story. I wasn't disappointed I just wanted to get onto the next book.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars READ THIS FIRST!!!,
right, i am an avid vampire fan, love twilight books and anything lovely dovey vampire stories. however, this book, doesnt match that kind of scenario, or does it??... well to be perfectly honest, you must be patient with this book, before i even liked it i had to read 200 pages, yes 200 pages!!!... but as the reviews are excellent i pursued this story, its very complicated and there are sh it loads of carectors, but if you read slowly and take it all in, after page 200 you will not be dissapointed, seriously, ive read all three books, and am waiting for my 4th to arrive, this book needs patience, the ideas are outstanding, very imaginative, constant action, romance and mind boggoling concepts, yes, at times it gets so complex that i have to re read a few pages to grasp it.
the ONLY bad thing ill mention, aside the "get past the 200th opage to enjoy it" is is overly descriptive, whereby most book fans love detail, this one focues TOO much on detail, thats the only down fall, i read at least a book a day with some time to spare, this book took up my whole day and left me itching for more.
i will not sit here and tell you plot lines as all have done this, just know if you love vampires, imagination and romance, GET THIS BOOK NOW.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touch the Dark,
I'm not a huge fan of romance vampire novels but I bought this one upon some good recommendations -- thankfully it didn't annoy me like Twilight did by taking itself too seriously. The major strength of this book is its dry humour, over the top writing, and funny larger than life characters. Cassie (the main character) points out the ridiculousness of her situation a great deal and always with aplomb.
The plot is slightly convoluted at times and the writer relies on heavy exposition to explain things. This can be a bit 'whaat?' but in general the plot is engaging and fast paced -- there are some raunchy scenes in 'Touch the Dark', which were well written in my opinion and were way less crude than some other stuff I've read. The novel in a nutshell focuses on a clairvoyant named Cassie Palmer who is on the run from a vampire mobster, on the way she starts learning things that don't make her feel any safer. Without spoiling it, her journey leads her to learn things about herself and her origins.
Character-wise I adored Cassie, she reminded me of a more cynical Buffy, indeed she certainly shared her sense of irony and pop culture references. The pop culture was welcomed as it grounded the novel a little more in reality... Touch the Dark does have a post modern sense of humour about it which is part of what made it very well written. The book is primarily driven forward by its characters and without investment in them it's hard to invest much in the plot. We see everyone through Cassie's eyes so investment in her is paramount.
Generally all of secondary characters were well defined, but some were a little 'flat', in that they didn't have a lot of depth. For instance, I didn't like Tomas at all -- he had no discernable personality and bored me to death. The constant whinging was really irritating.
One character I loved was the mental mage Pritkin. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be enough room to give him much page time -- but hopefully that'll come in the sequel! He certainly made an impression though, and you always knew he was present when he was in a scene. I liked his horrified reaction to the vampires feeding, since Cassie seemed kind of nonchalant about it, and his horrified reaction to her nonchalance.
So all in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I can't wait to read the next one! Highly recommended especially if you like supernatural type fantasy books that are funny.
EDIT: As an aside, having read the whole series now I know that all the info-dumping and confusing plotlines prevelant in 'Touch the Dark' are all gone by the second book (which put some people off continuing). Also, this series is extremely character-driven and ends up being more colourful/zany and humourous with darker tones underpinning things than romance driven (although there is plenty of romance in the other books); consequently, a bit different from this book (better, in fact) which is more focused on vampires and "romance". The tide kind of changes in the second book which gives you a much better indication of what the series is actually like. Also, one character that becomes very important to the series isn't in this book much... so his presence in the second book and beyond makes a big difference. The point is, things improve, keep going.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vamp-tastic!,
I happened across this book in the fantasy section of Waterstones. I was looking for some new material in that genre that wasn't necessarily a best-seller and therefore thrust in your face at every opportunity. I'm now very glad I took the time to look. I love vampire novels, and books about various ghosts and beasties and I was immediately drawn after reading the cover blurb of this one - "Can you ever really trust a vampire?"
Desperate to find out, I bought this book and the sequel. I was drawn in right from the beginning of Touch the Dark. The narrative voice is very easy to read, a very conversational style, with not many big words! As I continued to read I was grateful for this easy style as the novel is so action-packed with so many different characters and events, it's already hard to keep track!
The book begins right in the middle of the action. The main character Cassandra Palmer returns to her desk at work to find a note attached to her computer, containing an obituary. Hers. Most people would be horrified by this prospect, but as we soon find out, Cassie isn't just anybody. She's a clairvoyant with a great deal of power and this makes her both desired and feared by other magical people - not least vampires.
Cassie immediately goes on the run and takes flight to warn her roommate Tomas and let him know that she has to leave town. Just as she is trying to get away with explaining as little as possible, the two are attacked. Cassie tries to protect Tomas, but as the violence continues, she discovers he can hold his own - because he too, is a vampire. Once the threat has dissipated, Cassie wants answers. But they're not necessarily what she wants to hear...
Cassie's powers are sought after by many magical groups, some who would like to use them for good, others not so good. The problem is, Cassie has been brought up her whole life in the company of a most unsavoury vampire who exploited her powers to make himself rich. And now Cassie wants him dead and out of her life for good so she can continue with a fairly normal and quiet existence. But what she doesn't realise is many, many more people are looking for her... some to protect her, some to kill her. Before long, she has no idea who she can trust or where to turn... will Cassie ever get the quiet life she desires?
I thought this book was fab! It was completely action-packed from start to finish and you have to make sure you're paying attention to who's doing what, or you'll quickly get lost. But this book has everything; action, great characters, magic, and even a little bit of sex to spice things up even more!
Readers into this kind of genre will love this book. It's very dark and threatening; you can't take your eye off the ball for one minute, but once you start reading, you won't want to. It's definitely my favourite vampire novel so far, but then, I've yet to read the sequel... I'll post the review as soon as I'm finished!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, fast paced - I got sucked in and enjoyed the ride,
I must admit that I was a bit shell-shocked for the first third of the book. The author dumps you right into the thick of a very complex world and you have to go with it. So much so that I spent a lot of time thinking that the back story should have been made into a separate book. However, by the end of it I really missed the style and pace and couldn't wait to start the next two sequels.
Don't expect full resolution in this book. It's more like a Janet Evanovitch 'Stephanie Plum' book in it's treatment of the heroine and the main male characters. I've read the sequels now and I still couldn't tell you who Cassie is going to end up with (although she has had some great encounters with some of them!). The suspense of that alone means that I can't wait for more from Ms Chance.
It's vivid, funny and perplexing. There are some fantastic characters and ideas. I'm hooked.
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Psychics, Mage and Vampires- Promising Debut,
Coming from the Roc Fantasy stable gives this debut an air of establishment given that stablemates include the best selling Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher, as well as Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series among many others. Chance almost measures up to these stablemates; she creates a unique world in terms of urban fantasy with enough twists and quirks to make the story unpredictable.
The novel's protagonist is Cassie, a young woman who happens to have psychic powers, whose parents were killed when she was 5 years old. Cassie grew up in a mansion, under the rule of Tony a vampire from the age of Henry the 8th, who uses her precognitive abilities for his own gain. The novel begins in media res after Cassie has been on the run from Tony's goons for nearly 3 years; one night she receives her own obituary via her computer, believing it to be a threat from Tony she goes on the run once again. Her major flaw is her basic good heart and she is loathe to leave her roommate Tomas possibly vulnerable to Tony's vampires but when she goes to warn him, she is kidnapped by the Vampire Senate.
Cassie discovers that the vampire senate want to protect her, for their own ends, a chilling thought in itself given that the senate defines the word ruthless. She feels utterly betrayed when it's revealed that Thomas was sent by the senate to keep her safe and report on her powers. The senate is locked in a power struggle with a renegade vampire who has challenged and killed several key members of the council, in the hopes of gaining ultimate power for himself. If that wasn't bad enough, the mage circles want to claim Cassie as one of their own; the ones who control her also control the new powers that she has manifested which include an ability to shift through time.
Good points in this novel's favour include that Chance's world building is perhaps one of the most detailed and well thought out political and social structures for supernatural beings that I've come across in a modern urban fantasy. Her characters, in particular Cassie, are likeable enough. Cassie is accepting of her faults and vulnerable enough to have the reader rooting for her; the other secondary characters are for the most part nicely crafted, but the novel has a few very distracting flaws. The main flaw is that Chance doesn't handle the pacing of the novel well, which leads to the exposition seeming more heavy handed than it is, as the bulk of the backstory takes over huge chunks of the plot which would have been better used building the tension. Other minor flaws include;
The action scenes are initially well paced and packed with tension, but once Cassie is ensconced in the senate the narrative flow is frequently disturbed to accommodate entire pages of backstory. Whilst interesting and well thought out the backstory threatens to overwhelm the main plot.
The romance angle is awkwardly handled; Tomas seems to reciprocate Cassie's feelings for him, but there is an abrupt and confusing switch as Mircea, a vampire that Cassie once looked upon as a fond uncle, is suddenly promoted to romantic lead.
It may be a fault in me as a reader, but the time shifting powers and the plot arc that Cassie might be the chosen psychic to become Pythia, a position that dates back to the oracle of Delphi, really threw me out of the story and confused the hell out of me.
The main cast of the novel is largely formed of real historical figures; Mircea is the second son of Vlad the impaler, Cleopatra is the senate's head, Jack the Ripper is the Senates' personal torturer, the man in the iron mask, Raphael, Christopher Marlowe is the senate's spy master and Rasputin, the vicious challenger to the senate's power. Some of these additions work and are handled quite well, but for many readers I suspect this historical cast list will wear thin.
This started out very promisingly but lost my interest midway. Stylistically, Chance is reminiscent of early Laurell K Hamilton and aside from a few flaws has real potential to create a solid urban fantasy with these characters, provided someone takes the time to encourage her to edit and drip in her backstory.
The second in the series is titled 'Claimed by Shadow'
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story, great writing style, great characters,
This book came as a very good surprise. It's the story of Cassandra, a talented Clairvoyant raised by a Mobster/Vampire, that eventually is involved with more Vampires, Spirits, Mages and more.
From the very first page you are immersed in the deeply involving story, the gripping writing style and by depth and originality of the characters, and such quality is maintained throughout the book.
Even if the story revolves around a few locations (four, to be exact), each is rendered memorable by the revelations and events that illuminate both the reader without interrupting the flow of events.
The novel is very eventful, action packed, and eventually there is a satisfactory explanation behind every small action and event. There are even some sex "scenes", which are integral to the story, but never become too explicit or foul.
All in all an excellent book, I just wished that Tony (Cassandra's nemesis) would die a horrible death, but for that I guess we will have to wait the sequel (due to come out in April 2007).
43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not another Anita Blake - a book with its own strengths and foibles,
I suppose at first glance a reader might think this is another Anita Blake novel - we have a feisty heroine who is surrounded by vampires and keeps getting herself into complicated situations. Like the Anita Blake series, you're never entirely sure what's going on and the roster of things-that-go-bump-in-the-night seems to grow as you move through the book.
I don't think this IS another Anita Blake book - our heroine Cassandra Palmer isn't a vampire hunter, for a start - she's a Clairvoyant. She was raised by Tony a vampire after he had her parents killed and she eventually managed to escape him. The book starts with her discovering her obituary on her computer with the details of her death - to take place in an hour's time. She knows that Tony must have found her and is sending his vampire hit squad after her, so she must flee. First of all, though, she needs to warn Tomas her roommate as he is at risk. When at the club with Tomas the vampire hit men arrive and Cassie has to try and escape and to defend herself and Tomas and, at this point, she is plunged into something a lot more complex than she had ever imagined.
This complexity is at the heart of the book - Cassie finds herself dealing with vampires, ghosts, mages, witches, sybils... the list goes on and on and I, for one, got a bit confused between the Dark Circle and the Light Circle and the Vampire Senate and all the rest of it. The story is packed with events, discussions, characters... it is difficult to keep up with everything and all the plots, twists, different viewpoints, changes of motivation etc.
Cassie is certainly not Anita Blake - she doesn't kill vampires, for a start. She's perhaps more passive than some heroines - things seem to happen around her. A lot of the action takes place in words - people discuss what events mean, what happens. Cassie also finds herself possessing other people's bodies now and again which is a very interesting aspect to the story but gets confusing again.
I presumed there would be a vampire love interest in the book as we have four or five eligible vampires paraded before us. However this doesn't work out quite as you might expect either, and in fact the sex scene towards the end of the book felt rather like something the editor had requested the author included rather than an integral part of the plot. It felt tacked on, somehow, and I think the book would have been just as good, or better, without.
Her vampire characters were good though. Of course many of them are people famous from the past (Raphael, Dracula's relatives, Rasputin and other well-known names) and they all have their own charms and scary sides. The vampires were particularly well described and were great characters - there's even a French double-barred vampire; no, not Jean-Claude, this one is Louis-César. I liked it when Cassie interacted with the vampires because they were such complex characters and Cassie was aware of this and read the deeper meanings in a lot of what they said. That was well written.
I have some criticisms of this book, the main one being I wasn't really sure what was going on and, now I've finished it, I don't think I really understand it - and I don't consider myself dim. Maybe a re-read would help but I don't know if I enjoyed it enough for that. I felt that the world Karen Chance had built was perhaps a little overcomplex for the first book - maybe she should have added aspects over time rather like Laurell K Hamilton did (although she added way too much over time).
Although I enjoyed reading Touch The Dark I also read three or four other books over the time I was reading this one. In other words, it wasn't unputdownable at all. It's all set up for a sequel but I don't know whether I enjoyed this one enough to search out the next book in the series when it's published.
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Touch The Dark by Karen Chance