Title: Ride the Storm (Cassandra Palmer #8)
Author: Karen Chance
Rating: Your Cup of Tea Maybe?
Genre/Category: Urban Fantasy, Vampires, Witches, Time Travel, Psychics
Release Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Note: I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All of the views in this review are my own. Additionally, this review talks about sexual assault and a creepy relationship the main character has. There are MAJOR spoilers for the book’s romantic relationships.
The New York Times bestselling author of Reap the Wind returns to the “fascinating world”* of Cassie Palmer.
Ever since being stuck with the job of pythia, the chief seer of the supernatural world, Cassie Palmer has been playing catch up. Catch up to the lifetime’s worth of training she missed being raised by a psychotic vampire instead of at the fabled pythian court. Catch up to the powerful, and sometimes seductive, forces trying to mold her to their will. It’s been a trial by fire that has left her more than a little burned.
But now she realizes that all that was the just the warm up for the real race. Ancient forces that once terrorized the world are trying to return, and Cassie is the only one who can stop them…
I’ve been reading Karen Chance’s Cassandra Palmer series since I was a teeny tiny high schooler. I count it as a formative influence and one of the first (and best) urban fantasy series that I’ve ever read.
That’s why it’s been so hard for me to write this review for the latest book in the series Ride the Storm.
Picking up right after the end of November 2015’s Reap the Wind, this novel follows Cassie and incubus lord Rosier as they travel through history in an attempt to save Rosier’s son (and Cassie’s sort of love interest) John Pritkin from being wiped out of existence.
Now don’t get me wrong, Ride the Storm is a technically sound book. Chance is clearly in her element and every ounce of her skills as a writer show in the way that she bounces Cassie and Rosier between the distant past and her present in addition to dodging Pythia (and assorted trainees) throughout history. It’s a well-written, interesting book that does a great job of closing plot holes and tying together this series with her Dorina Basarab one.
I enjoyed like… sixty percent of my time reading Ride the Storm.
I loved the parts when Cassie and Rosier were bickering between one another and trying to stay one step ahead of a trainee Pythia out for blood. I loved finding out what happened in between the last Dorina book and Cassie’s book. I like that Dory and Cassie’s stories are even more closely intertwined and that we get to see Mircea interact with two of the women that he cares greatly for. The fight scenes were on point and there’s one in particular, in the casino that all the “good guys” are holed up in, that left me with honest to god chills because of how well rendered it was.
But then there’s the other forty percent.
I mean it’s not a literal chunk of the book that equals forty percent nice and neatly, but still…
First, in over a decade of reading this series, I can’t remember Cassie being threatened with or subject sexual assault. There was a bit of a dustup with Mircea trying to complete a bond between them, but as far as I can remember, nothing came from that.
Ride the Storm has Cassie subject to sexual assault and sexual harassment. It’s made all the more upsetting by the fact that this is a book in Cassie’s point of view. So when she’s molested by guards who talk about her like she’s meat, it’s beyond hard to read.
The book also places Cassie and John Pritkin (in a past body) in a “Fuck or Die” scenario near the same scene. Either they fuck, or they’re killed (after Cassie is probably raped). The first time that Cassie and John get that kind of intimate is because they’re forced to do it and it just leaves a stain on the whole thing.
I don’t think the scenes were necessary and would’ve preferred the book without them. The goal is clearly to show the readers and Cassie how awful these fae guards are, but it’s unnecessary. This is a book where we’ve seen humans stolen into captivity by the fae and where we know that the human slave trade is still alive and well. We know that things are bad and that these are the bad guys.
So why the sexual assault?
Why the “fuck or die” scenario?
I think it’s an aspect of Ride the Storm that ruins the book for me. Unexpected and explicit sexual assault is not everyone’s cup of tea and it certainly wasn’t mine. I know that sexual assault has always been a reality and with Cassie going back in time to a period and place where women were less valued (especially because she’s technically human), I knew it could happen.
But knowing and knowing are two different things.
Then there’s the Mircea thing.
Look, I didn’t expect Cassie and Mircea to have this glorious romance of equals. He’s known her since she was a child and clearly still views her as one half the time. He holds so much back from her and doesn’t remotely see her as an equal. So… as much as I genuinely like Mircea as a character, I don’t think he’s right for Cassie.
But Ride the Storm makes the relationship even worse and super creepy.
Turns out, the reason Mircea has been so dang attentive to Cassie throughout her life well into adulthood, is because he’s needed a Pythia to do something for him for centuries and so far they’ve all refused. So, realizing that Cassie could be the next Pythia, he basically manipulates (grooms) her into seeing him favorably and even falling for him so that when the time comes, she’ll be more amenable to his request.
Yes, you’ve read that right: the main love interest for Cassie turns out to be extra creepy because he basically raised her to do a specific thing for him, has been manipulating her almost her entire life, and sleeping with her the whole time.
It’s just left such a bad taste in my mouth.
As I said earlier, Ride the Storm is technically sound. It’s a “good book”. But there are elements to it that I didn’t like or that made me uncomfortable. I don’t see why Chance made the decisions that she did and I’m annoyed enough that I might not read another Cassie Palmer book for a while. Ride the Storm might be your cup of tea but, despite the series being one of my favorites over the past decade, it wasn’t mine.