Written by: Ilona Andrews
Paperback: 384 pages
May 2010, $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Book Four of the Kate Daniels series
“Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for the magic. When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it rose.
Kate Daniels works for the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, officially as a liaison with the mercenary guild. Unofficially, she cleans up the paranormal problems no one else wants to handle—especially if they involve Atlanta’s shapeshifting community.
When she’s called in to investigate a fight at the Steel Horse, a bar midway between the territories of the shapeshifters and the necromancers, Kate quickly discovers there’s a new player in town. One who’s been around for thousands of years—and rode to war at the side of Kate’s father.
This foe may be too much even for Kate and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, to handle. Because this time, Kate will be taking on family…”
Once upon a time I picked up the first Ilona Andrews book, hoping to find something a bit different to tide me between the Mercedes Thompson books. I found it in the Kate Daniels series. Now we are four books into the series and I thought for sure that they would slow down as many series these days tend to do. Whoa was I wrong. What is even better is that this is a husband and wife team writing Kate, Curran and all of the rest of the inhabitants of Atlanta.
Suffice it to say you can begin with this book and not be completely lost and yet however it is like watching Return of the Jedi without watching New Hope and Empire first (yes I am pretending the prequels never happened, cause lets face it don’t we all want to wish it never happened kind of like the last Indiana Jones). My review will include spoilers, so first time Kate Daniel’s readers beware. I will try to stay vague, but I can only be so vague. This is a Smirking review after all and I am passionate about my books.
The book opens up with a very disappointed Kate. How can she not be when Curran is late and she humbled herself a great deal after the last book. Of course she has to put all of her feelings aside when the Steel Horse, a local bar is hit by something big. Something big enough not only to keep her clueless, but big enough to try and start an epidemic of massive proportions if it weren’t for some very quick thinking on Kate’s part. Eventually Kate discovers who is behind the attacks…family. And this time she cannot nor wants to do it with Curran’s help. He is the one who broke her heart after all.
Things I loved: I like Kate. I like her because her inner monologue mirrors my own. I like her because she is flawed like so many of the women heroes I love (can anyone say Kara “Starbuck” Thrace”) and yet she is fiercely loyal. Once you are in her good graces it takes a hell of a lot for her not to protect you with everything she has even if she is currently pissed off at you. Her entire life she has been told that being close to someone is a weakness, that it will only get her and those she cares about into really big trouble. But she is human. She cannot help but form friendships and fall in love. She cannot help but let those carefully constructed shields tumble down just a little bit.
I think that is why with the first chapter it hits home that much harder. I felt that punch in the gut when the infamous ‘Here Kitty, kitty’ former mercenary and general bad ass got her heart broken. It wasn’t being kidnapped or almost being killed, it wasn’t baddies or a boss that it is just an asshat that made Kate crumble. It was putting yourself out there, making yourself so incredibly vulnerable and not having it returned. I get that. I think anyone who has been in love has felt that absolute vulnerability and you pray and you hope that someone won’t shatter you when you feel at your weakest. Even though I knew it was all a misunderstanding, I also knew how much it must have hurt. We are seeing it all from Kate’s point of view. And it all felt extremely honest. As I said Kate doesn’t show her vulnerability because she has been taught that it will get her killed. And any strong independent woman can relate to that even if we aren’t kick ass magical heroines. In this way the book has magic, but its never really been about a magical Atlanta and sometimes urban fantasy gets lost in the setting and the magic of it all, that they forget about the most important aspect and that is the characters. The characters end up being forced or two dimensional. They don’t grow. They don’t lose. They are bound in clichés. And while Kate is the kick ass heroine so proudly depicted on urban fantasy covers everywhere, she is a hell of a lot more real and authentic than most out there.
On top of our main duo, I love the secondary characters. From Raphael to Andrea, Saiman and Jim. Andrea, in particular, grew as well for me. While some may not like the choice she may have taken, Andrea is always going to have that dual nature, torn between two things that make her who she is. In her personal life she has chosen to, in her own way, be part of the Pack and be part of who she is. But in her professional life Andrea chose to stay with the Order. For her the Order means control over so many different aspects of her life including her personal. It is something she clings to and just like Kate, I get that. When life gets out of control, you just hold onto what you can and the parts of you that you can control, to some extent anyway. It hurts just a bit that she chose Order over the Pack and ultimately the Order over Kate, but give the girl time. I don’t think that Andrea trusts that when push comes to shove that Kate will have her back when it came to the Pack because I don’t think Andrea knows how she would deal with that, nor does Kate. After all the Pack, if they really knew about Andrea might shun her or at least a good deal of them would and no one wants to face that sort of rejection. I think Andrea already thinks she is a bit of a monster and a freak, no one wants to hear someone else say it or treat you as thus. Like any true relationship or life in general, there are doubts. I think I might like Andrea less if she didn’t have doubts, if she didn’t need time to process it all.
I cant forget Saiman. Saiman, he’s that bastard you love to hate because in his own way he’s a bit charming (In a Hannibal Lector sort of way). Both Kate and he know that he wants Kate for purely selfish reasons. And they both know that once he gets bored with her or no longer finds a use for her that they will be enemies. In his own way Saiman reminds me a bit of Edward from the Anita Blake series (back when it wasn’t just smut with little plot).
*What else….ooh I loved how my girl got her moxie back. Not that she ever really lost it, but I loved how it was Kate that saved the day and every bit of the day and not Curran. Her reaction to the vote…absolutely priceless. Kate may not be a were but she is an alpha through and through.
* I loved the romance elements, the humor and the bits that make me love this verse and these characters (catnip, Jim’s expression, glued chairs, etc). Any book that can actually make me laugh out loud and cry along with the characters has done something wonderful. For that those two get shiny gold stars.
* The overall plot is coming to a head. We know who Kate is now. We know her capabilities and that of her ‘family’. In this way I like how there is an end to this series, even though each book has its own plot and happies for me to read. There is an end. There can be only one as Duncan or Connor McLeod would say (though I was always a bit of a Methos girl myself). My bets are on Kate because she has what Roland doesn’t, people who love and respect her…and occasionally fear her (with good reason…she does own power words after all).
*Finally, I love the prose. As we get the details and the story from Kate’s point of view, we get her inner monologues. They are real. The language is wonderful. It’s witty, it’s sarcastic, it is sad and it is descriptive when it needs to be. I don’t think it tries to hard and there isn’t a huge use of adverbs (Bethany you know this is true with Meyer). So yeah on that.
Things I didn't love so much: Not really gripe, just a surprise. I truly expected to see people come after Kate after the Games especially Hugh D’Ambray. Roland seems to much of a Cronus (who ate all of his children such as Zeus) to let Kate even remotely live. Then again maybe Hugh has his own reasons for delaying the report and not just for the reasons Kate thinks. I don’t think we have seen the last of him and I do believe he will certainly play a part very soon.
Buy or Borrow: Buy. Buy. Buy. If you like Urban fantasy or series like Mercy Thompson, buy buy buy. No borrowing. Just buy it. You’ll like it. I didn’t even need the guarantee from the publisher. My only problem is these books are getting so awesome that the next will probably be in hardcover which just ruins the symmetry of my bookshelf. (I have this thing where if two or three are paperback, they all have to be paperback or vice versa. It’s an OCD bibliophile thing I know, but *shrug* everyone has their quirks.)
Part of: a Series. The Kate Daniels Series
Magic Bites (Book One)
Magic Burns (Book Two)
Magic Strikes (Book Three)
Also Recommended: Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs or perhaps the Harry Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks
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