Reviewed: July 29, 2011
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Passion of the Soul, Book 1
Rating: 3 Stars
Length: 288 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle, Nook
Piper Anast came home from elementary school one day full of excitement from a teacher's praise. She walked into a bloodbath, her slaughtered mother's body sprawled out on the couch, broken and torn in incomprehensible fashion. The police never found the 'who.' Piper has never understood the 'why.'
Now twenty-four, Piper lives a life closed off from people, barred from humanity by a unique ability and a soul-deep rage that is as much a part of her as her breath or the color of her eyes. She functions as best she can with her ability, the one thing that has always kept her apart, marked her as abnormal. She is an empath of sorts, and through her touch can sense feelings and see visions of things and people. The darker the soul, the more twisted her visions. As if that wasn't reason enough to wear full body armor, men are inexplicably drawn to her, and their touch fills her mind with every one of their prurient fantasies.
She doesn't date any more.
In fact, she has no social life at all, and if it weren't for her best friend, Detective Tally Jensen, and her Ducati, she's probably never leave the house she shares with her mother's best friend, Mabel, the woman who took her in sixteen years ago and gave her a home and a love that she can never, since that fateful, bloody day, truly return.
Using her ability to help the police find missing persons is something she feels is her duty, but that ability has limits and exacts a painful toll. Accepting the pain is Piper's cross to bear to help bring the lost home. When a new case stirs memories of childhood horror, though, and a request for help from a friend of Mabel's nephew can't be denied, Piper realizes that the past is not truly done. In certain circumstances, it can and does come back to haunt you, to taunt you, and if you're not very careful...to kill you.
Drawn into a world of vampires and demons, of truths too bitter to be accepted, horrors too intense to be believed, catching the bad guy isn't the only imperative. To survive, Piper will have to do something even more difficult: discover the truth about herself.
I loved the world that Rachel Firasek has created here, and I adored the concept for the novel. The touch-sensitive empath Piper works with the police to find missing persons and her past is traumatic and cloaked in mystery. Her life is limping along until a new case strikes too close to home and Bennett Slade drops into her path, asking her to help him find his missing daughter. I can say with absolute authority, I've never read a book in which a vampire is searching for his abducted child, so it was very original. I also thought the backstory and mythos surrounding the vampires as a race was nicely conceived. I've seen similar themes in other books and series, and it's one I favor in the genre.
All of those points served the novel very well and make for a compelling read. Unfortunately, the writing suffered from execution problems, and I had some major issues with the main character.
There's a lot of story in the book, a lot of different plot points and developments, a lot of stuff happening to the characters. While that's a good thing when everything is given time to develop and evolve, the narrative of the book speeds through plot points, developments, and happenings like a juiced horse at a stakes race, and the cost for that haste was keenly felt in other integral areas.
There was a decided lack of depth in the all the characters, but it was most notable in secondary characters Tally and Mabel. They seemed more like caricatures than actual people. The emotional expressions and reactions in the book always felt slightly off to me, flashing and changing like quicksilver, overly exaggerated and unnatural to the characters or the story situation. In particular, Piper and Slade both seemed to suffer from emotional ADD, and the wildly fluctuating emotions in their budding association/relationship didn't allow for me to really connect with either of them.
I had the biggest problem with Piper in that...and every other regard. I just couldn't get a bead on her character from one moment to the next. Her emotions and personality were all over the map. Of course if I didn't like it on one page, I just had to wait until the next, as it quickly...too quickly and often...changed. I spent the vast majority of the book vacillating between tolerating her and at least understanding her latent hostility and issues with her nature to detesting her childish, selfish, whiny ass to the point that I wished someone would just behead her. Not to mention, she was not a particularly nice person throughout most of the book, and the way she treated her 'inner circle' was disturbing at times.
There were also some contradictions in the plot, some inconsistencies, and some things that didn't make a lot of sense. One pretty egregious moment occurred between one page and the next. Slade is pleased that Piper can use her abilities at will, saying that they now "have a way to fight back." Literally one page and two lines of his dialogue later he's telling her she's not going to the very fight in which he wanted her abilities as a weapon. That was a bit of an eye-rolling moment for me. Another serious contradiction happens towards the end of the book, and I threw up my hands totally at that one. Details withheld to prevent spoilers.
There was a lot of promise in the book, and a lot of things I'd like to see continue to develop. I wasn't exactly thrilled in the telling of it, but the story itself was full of original ideas and unique situations. I'd give a second book a try to see how some of the chips fall, but I'd want to see a smoother, less helplessly frenetic narrative and a bit more emotional stability and depth in the characters. Without that, the series would end there for me.
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