Touch Of Madness
by CT Adams and Cathy Clamp, fantasy (2007)
Tor Romance, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-5663-5


Touch Of Madness follows Touch Of Evil from the previous year. This is a genuine sequel to the previous book because it features the same characters running around exchanging the bird with the bad guys. Since I'm lazy, I'll just direct you to the review of the previous book for a crash course on the premise of this series.

This one is more sedately paced than the previous book, but I feel that the writing has improved, especially with a noticeable reduction of cheesy lines that make me cringe. This one is still pretty much a violent brawl between psycho bitches who are Just Insanely Jealous of our Mary Sue heroine Kate Reilly (she even gets to improve on her Jesus-like skill of healing people in this story) and the marvelous Kate herself, but the tighter narration has me finding this one harder to put down.

Like all horror movies where the sequel inevitably reveals that the now dead bad guy has left behind some offspring to cause more trouble, here we learn that the insane Hive Queen Monica had some eggs that are yet to hatch. Naturally a beautiful and sexy (and therefore, in this universe, insane and evil because only Kate can be beautiful and sexy and wonderful) researcher ends up causing the eggs to fall in the hands of Kate's old enemy (another sexy and beautiful and therefore insane and evil woman). The Hive orders Kate to retrieve the eggs for them, promising to show her a way to restore her Eden zombie brother Brian to normal in return. Meanwhile, her werewolf boyfriend Tom comes under heat from his pack for hooking up with someone not approved by the pack to be his brood mare. If that's not enough, Kate has to deal with sibling blues and some bizarre lawsuits.

I hate to say this but the best thing I can say about Touch Of Madness is its readability. Simply put, I just cannot put down this one because the authors have me hooked on the story from the first page to last. Even when my brain registers a protest at yet another one of the many, many problematic aspects of the story, I still find myself compelled to keep reading. I really like the world the authors have created here and a part of me that adores TV shows like V loves the whole parasitic colonization thing going on here.

However, I have a really big problem with this story. Early on, Kate points out that some countries are actively eradicating the threat of the Thralls by eliminating anyone suspected to be a Host, so it's not as if no one is unaware of the existence of the Thrall. And yet, here, Kate finds herself slapped with a lawsuit for failing to stop a Host from killing some hapless character for ill-explained reason, with the judges and jury member all discussing the Thrall and Host matters openly.

So, I'm now confused. Has America been completely taken over by the Thrall that nobody now bats an eyelid about the existence of the Thrall? Is this why they're now blaming a human for a death that clearly is not Kate's fault? Is it a conspiracy to sic the smelly stick at our Beautiful, Hot, Talented, Psychic, and Now Miracle Healer Heroine? I really don't understand why there is no active resistance movement against the Thrall here, or if there is one, why Kate the Best Heroine Ever is not invitated to join lead the force. Other countries are actively fighting back, it seems. So why is everyone in this story, including Kate, acting as if the existence of the Thrall is just a cross they have to bear?

The authors also need to stop creating cartoon psychotic villains. I am starting to suspect that every beautiful and sexy female character not named Kate Reilly will be automatically evil and insane from now on. Still, a two-for-two villains all being female, evil, and insane may be impressive for some but to me, this is problematic because compelling villains are at least two dimensional. Very compelling villains usually exhibit some traits that the reader finds himself or herself identifying with despite the reader's best intentions. One-dimensionally evil and psychotic female villains who are Just Insanely Jealous of our heroine are not interesting, compelling, or even entertaining.

Oh, and despite how engaging I find this story to be, the last few chapters are anticlimatic and sort of fizzle away.

On the bright side, the secondary character, the Host named Lewis Carlton, is very intriguing and I hope I get to see more of him in future books. He will make a pretty interesting enemy of Kate, I believe, but alas, because Kate is the Best Heroine Ever, naturally he, like every hunky and available guy in the world, likes her so I can only hope that he won't be stuck in some future book playing Ranger to Kate's Stephanie Plum.

Yes, I think I will continue to stay with this series despite some serious problems that I have with it at the moment, because at the end of the day, I really like the whole Thrall and Host concept here that the authors have used to give vampirism a new twist. There are many things here that I find intriguing. Therefore, I can only wish that the authors will, for the love of all the pretty little things in this world, come up with a compelling villain in the next book and expand Kate's world a little bit so that I can see how the rest of the country is dealing with this Thrall thing.

I am very torn about the rating I should give for this book. On one hand, I find it a very compelling read and I love the setting, but on the other hand I feel really conflicted about the problems I have with this book. Still, this book affects me in a way and has me agonizing over what to do with it, so I suppose it is only fair that I give it a score of 80.


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