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Daring by Elliott James
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The second book in the series, this one was a bit darker. The focus is on werewolves and the Knights, thus the reader learns more about werewolf society and Knight politics. It is narrated by John Charming and it works in this novel. It helps make the twists and turns believable.

And there were plenty of twists and turns. I didn't see them all coming, but neither did John. The ending left plenty of room for the next book.

I particularly liked the recap at the start; it was sassy and made me laugh. The line that made me snort this time was "Chai was a very literal and serious werewolf, which sort of sounds like the first sentence of a children’s story, but I can’t help that."

If you like urban fantasies, you can start here without too much trouble, but you'd be better off to start with Charming. ( )
  Jean_Sexton | Dec 25, 2016 |
I really enjoyed this second outing of John Charming, former Knight Templar and current werewolf. Roger Wayne's narration was, in my opinion, outstanding.

"Daring" tells us more about John's early years with the Knights, but the focus of this book is on werewolves. We do get to see Sig again, though :)

James' writing is as funny, if not funnier, than it was in "Charming". I can't wait to read "Fearless", which is slated to come out in August 2015. ( )
  WeaselOfDoom | May 7, 2015 |
Wheels withing wheels within wheels. John Charming is the only one who is who he is. I miss Sig in this book. ( )
  bgknighton | Jan 21, 2015 |
Given my heavy reading load and lack of time, this book almost didn’t make it onto my review list. I enjoyed its predecessor Charming, though as a first book in an urban fantasy series it was probably a bit too standard and conventional to be truly memorable. But UFs are generally quick reads, not to mention I realize some series do need a bit of time to take off, so I was more than willing to give Pax Arcana another shot with Daring.

The book jumps right back into the life of John Charming, a young man who comes from a long line of Charmings – yes, that family of swoon-worthy princes, heroic dragon slayers, and rescuers of damsels in distress from evil witches and their dastardly curses. But John isn’t your average Charming, despite his illustrious family name and long years spent training with the modern day equivalent of the Knights Templar. A werewolf attack on his mother right before his birth resulted in John becoming a new type of strange hybrid, and his own people have hunted him ever since the first day he manifested his symptoms.

But now, instead of trying to kill him the Knights Templar are actually trying recruit him. They believe John’s ties to werewolves makes him the perfect man to infiltrate the werewolf packs that have been uniting under a mysterious leader, while the Templar themselves have failed time and time again. They’re dealing with creatures with noses that can sniff out an interloper from a mile away, after all. John agrees, but only because he was forced to and it would also help keep the woman he loves out of danger.

I have to say this book left me a bit torn. I do think Daring is a better book than Charming, but probably not by much. Like I said, the first book didn’t make much of an impression on me; a few months after reading it I found I could hardly remember anything specific about the plot. Needless to say, that affected my ability to jump right into this one. Even though the “ten things you need to know” type recap at the beginning was humorous and a clever way to get the reader up to speed again, I didn’t really find it all that helpful.

But the question here is how does book two match up? Well, I do think there’s a lot more to like about Daring. I thought the comedy factor was more pronounced in this book, even though the overall themes are bit darker. And sometimes it’s not the action scenes and the flashy trimmings that I find the most memorable (in fact, a lot of times it’s the opposite and those tend to blend together) but the more subdued and serious scenes. I liked the chapters that flashed back to John’s past, for example, revealing his childhood years as a talented but outcast novice in the order of the Knights Templar, as well as the experiences in his love life that have shaped him. Likewise, when John joined up with the werewolves in the woods, I got a kick out of the quiet moments of introspection and meditation with his new lycanthrope clan mates.

Then there were the things I didn’t like so much. While the overall story was enjoyable, as to how much it will stick with me this time around, that remains to be seen. I suspect much of what happened after the part with the new age-y wolves will become a blur for me. There were the requisite bells and whistles and twists and turns. But what was missing for me were the supporting characters I met in book one! Where’s Molly? Where’s Choo? And I could have done with more than just a small cameo from Parth. I also wasn’t too convinced of John’s budding relationship with the Valkyrie Sig in the first place, to have her absent for the most of this book was a mistake in my eyes.

And finally, perhaps my main disappointment with this book is the same one I had with the first. The description for Daring states that this series “gives a new twist to the Prince Charming tale.” I still feel that it’s a bit of an overstatement, and wish that the “twist” to the Prince Charming angle could be more inventive and unique. A lot of what makes this series different is based on gimmicky factors like punny chapters titles and a split paragraph here and there; I know this is probably going to sound a lot harsher than I intend, but I really do think a new urban fantasy needs to stand out more these days to set itself apart.

Pax Arcana continues to be fun. My opinion of these books hasn’t really changed for the better or the worse since the first one, which means despite my gripes my feelings are still favorable towards this series. I’ll be open to checking out the third book when it comes out. Now, if this had been an epic fantasy series and the books were each 500+ pages long, that would be a different story, but urban fantasies do not require the same time investment and I know they’re always a good time. I’ll decide once we get closer to the release date of Fearless. ( )
  stefferoo | Nov 4, 2014 |
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads.

I was left with mixed feelings when I finished CHARMING a few months ago; I liked John’s character, Roger Wayne’s narration, and the author’s quirky writing style, but the love interest, and info dumps were definite cons. However, when I read DARING’s blurb and discovered that the werewolves were going to be front-and-center in round two, I just knew that this series deserved a second chance. And, even though I didn’t love this installment either, it was more along the lines of what I’ve come to expect from Urban Fantasy, and my issues with this one were vastly different that its predecessor, so at least it was a step in the right direction. The story was darker, the humour more subdued, and I did struggle to see the links between the four parts, but it all came together in the end which made this novel marginally better than its predecessor.

The prelude was a hoot, James shared a list of the ‘top ten things that people who didn’t read the first book really ought to know’ which served as a good recap while also turning a boring necessity into a fun intro. The opening section was my favourite because it not only explored John’s past as a Knight, but provided some much needed clarification about his insta-attraction to Sig, and set the tone for the rest of the story. The second part was somewhat of a mixed bag; I liked learning more about this universe’s werewolves, although certain aspects were a little overly touchy feely for me—too much zen, not enough predator. The final two were the meatier pieces with plenty of action, unanticipated twists, and an ah-ha ending. The world-building was also greatly muted which made this installment more about the journey than the magical rules which was a welcomed tweak.

DARING was nowhere near as funny as book 1, but given the nature of this tale, it fit. That’s not to say that I still didn’t crack a couple of smiles while listening because I did, however the overall tone was much heavier. I was disappointed that the majority of the secondary characters that the protagonist formed connections with previously were for the most part MIA, although they were replaced with new ones, so at least the author found a way to fill that void. Sig’s role was minimal which made me exceedingly happy because she was my main problem with CHARMING, so I liked that the Valkyrie was pushed to the back burner for the time being. John’s POV continued to delight and entertain; I loved how he talked directly to the reader, and his keen wit and sarcastic dialogue are the main reasons why I am diggin’ this series so much.

As expected, the narrator delivered another winning performance which was why I had no qualms about pre-ordering this audiobook. His voice is well-suited for James’ writing style, and he absolutely nailed Charming’s first person POV. The hero gets his butt handed to him on multiple occasions, and Roger Wayne helped to add authenticity to that fact by slurring his words as though he himself had gotten punched in the teeth. He also showed adaptability as a narrator by taking a step back from the first installment’s snark, and adopting the more somber tone that this tale demanded. It normally takes me a week on average to listen to nine+ hours, but in this case my listening time was cut in half thanks in large part to Wayne.

DARING is proof that werewolves make everything better! ( )
  RabidReads | Oct 2, 2014 |
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