Tag: Ilona Andrews

Review – Magic Slays

Posted October 7, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Slays by Ilona AndrewsMagic Slays, Ilona Andrews

This is, what, the fifth Kate Daniels book? So it begins true to type: everything explodes into chaos as Kate takes on a job that looks routine on the surface, and quickly devolves into apocalyptic-level stakes. Personal matters are also fraught, with Kate’s kid Julie refusing to stay in school where she’s safe and heading home, right into an Atlanta that’s boiling with trouble. Curran’s got his own worries, and Kate’s brand new business isn’t doing so well, though she’s gaining employees faster than she’s gaining contracts.

It’s fast-paced and I think rather more even than the earlier books. The pacing doesn’t feel sticky here: it just goes and goes and goes. I’m still in love with the world they create here: the magic waves, the way people get round them, the way society has evolved… and there are still things I don’t love, like the rigid roles in the Pack and the way some behaviour is excused because “that’s how shapeshifters are”. But there are also parts where that gets called out and Curran takes a deep breath and apologises, so… there’s that in the balance as well.

In this particular book, there’s a little more background on Kate’s history, a few hints as to how she might power up… and at the end a terrifying hint that she might have been noticed at last. There’s also a high-powered showdown, and Kate learns a little more about how to use her magic out of pure necessity. This is another thing I love: although Kate wants to be the badass lone-wolf mercenary right at the start, her strength comes again and again from her friends and allies. Alone, she’s a smartass with a sword; with people she loves, she finds a way to be more than that, to accept and use her power to help them. She wouldn’t get there without them, despite the way she was raised, despite her feeling that she’s safer not loving. That’s a pretty powerful thing to take away, and that it comes from the men in her life as much as the women is great too.

In any case, the stakes continue ramping up, but it doesn’t feel like a middle-of-the-series dead book either, by a long way. Everything is advancing the overall arc, yes, but also everything has meaning within the confines of this book. I enjoy this series a lot, and I think people unfairly dismiss it way too often.

(I mean, it’s okay for it not to be your thing! But I think people dismiss it because it’s dubbed paranormal romance, and okay, yes, Kate does eventually get together with Curran and their relationship is a key driver of the plot, but the focus is Kate, what drives her and what she’s running from or toward. Romance is just a part of that.)

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted August 21, 2019 by Nikki in General / 7 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

What are you currently reading?

Most actively, I’m neck-deep in Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan, the sequel to the Memoirs of Lady Trent series! Audrey is a delight, and I do so adore the way these books showcase the scientific and academic processes — coming from a background of both literature (with a lot of focus on translation) and later science as well, it’s just. Yay!

Cover of Magic Bleeds by Ilona AndrewsWhat have you recently finished reading?

I read Magic Bleeds on our flight back from Worldcon! (Well, half of it; I read the first half before — the flight isn’t that long/I don’t read that fast!) It has some of my pet peeves in fiction (miscommunication) and yet Kate and Curran are so extreme and stupid it ends up just being funny to me.

What will you be reading next?

I don’t know! I still have a crowded TBR for August, and I haven’t read even half of those books yet. I have a bunch of them half-finished, though. I know that the library really wants the book on the Aztecs back (in fact, the lady was reluctant to re-issue it at all) because someone shouldn’t have let me have it (it’s a reference book), so maybe I’ll get on with reading that!

What are you currently reading?

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Review – Magic Strikes

Posted August 2, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Strikes by Ilona AndrewsMagic Strikes, Ilona Andrews

In the third book in this series, Kate finds that Derek’s got himself into some kind of trouble, and it seemed to be tangled up with Saiman’s involvement with an underground arena that pits people against one another in gladiatorial bouts, with real blood, guts and death. It’s pretty obvious where that’s going to lead, and yes, there are some epic team-ups in the arena. There’s also progress on Kate’s non-courtship with Curran, and we get to see several characters old and new kicking butt in lovely ways.

(There’s also finger-gnawing anxiety for one particular character, and no shortage of high stakes, but that’s what you get with Ilona Andrews!)

As always, I find myself pondering the classification of these books as paranormal romance. I’m wary of saying a thing isn’t paranormal romance just because I like it… but I think that genre label is sometimes used to dismiss a book that (if written by a man) would be urban fantasy, and I’m also wary of that. The thing is, I really don’t see these books as being all that much about the romance, especially not the first two or three. The real driver of these books is Kate’s given purpose in life — to kill her biological father — and the way she struggles with it, sometimes willing to follow it, sometimes throwing caution to the wind. It’s a slow process of her letting people in, and that doesn’t mean Curran, primarily: it means having a best friend, it means having an adopted kid, it means trusting and protecting Derek…

I mean, there is romance there: there’s a lot of sexual tension between Kate and Curran, and their stupid banter is the reason these books crease me up with laughter. (A particular kind of laughter which my wife can pinpoint to meaning “ah, Nikki’s reading that series”, embarrassingly.) But I’d more readily categorise something as romance when the plot is all about driving the characters together and the end payoff is the relationship. The drive in romance is typically toward Happy Ever After — to the point where people get very upset if something is billed as romance and doesn’t have a Happy Ever After — but I think the real drive here is about Kate facing her demons, and the romance is just one part of that.

On the other hand, I am also totally ready for Kate and Curran to hurry up and get together already, so that’s probably a vote that it is romance — I don’t have opinions this strong about Peter Grant and Beverley Brook, after all. And there are things about the relationship that are pretty tropey: His Furry Majesty can be kind of creepy at times, in a way that can be very wish-fulfillment-y for some people. (Never mind that Kate usually flings that back in his face and things are rarely less than equal between them.)

The point is, there’s a lot going on in these books, and though romance and sex are a part of it, there’s also a very long game being played concerning Kate and her biological father, and that story is also pretty riveting. This book takes a step further in that direction… but just a step.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Burns

Posted June 14, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Burns by Ilona AndrewsMagic Burns, Ilona Andrews

The second Kate Daniels book plunges straight into action, with Kate teaming up with Jim to fight a guy using a salamander to set things on fire. Things escalate from there, as is usual for Kate, while the book also introduces more important secondary characters in the form of Julie and Andrea. Julie is a vulnerable girl Kate spends most of the book trying to protect; Andrea is a knight of the Order who can put a bullet through a pinhead at god knows what distance. (Together, they fight crime! Well, kind of, a little bit, actually.)

There’s more mythology mixed into the pot — including a healthy dollop of Irish mythology, with the appearance of the Morrigan and a warrior with a skillset like that of Cú Chulainn — and a lot more frenetic fighting, running and pure badassery. I love the hints towards Kate’s heritage — I’m not sure why I never twigged further in advance, given the evidence, but somehow the first time I was not going in the right direction at all.

And as before, another thing I love is that Kate is indeed a total badass, but a badass who knows that sometimes the fighting has got to stop. That some things you have to protect, and sometimes you want to just go home and find the person you love waiting there. The fact that she’s willing to be vulnerable — not only that she wants these things, but that she’s willing to say she wants them — makes her a surprisingly positive character for me, where you might expect a female mercenary to be, well, more mercenary.

There’s still no real romance here — some flirtations, of course, and hints at what’s to come. But for those who expect paranormal romance to be a total sex fest, well… either this book has been mislabelled, or you’re maligning the genre unfairly.

did find that the fast pacing here sometimes left me behind a little. I’m not sure if that was the speed I was reading or just the frenetic pacing, but a couple of times I did end up thinking “wait, what now?” and have to read back a little. It’s not a perfect book, in stylistic terms: I still find a lot to enjoy, all the same.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Bites

Posted May 10, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 8 Comments

Cover of Magic Bites by Ilona AndrewsMagic Bites, Ilona Andrews

The first time I read this book, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. This time, I was surprised by the way the world was stripped back and all the stuff I remembered from later book was not here yet… though there is some delicious foreshadowing, and really, if you’re paying attention, you have some idea of what’s up by the end of this book.

I’d also forgotten how much these books make me laugh.

Magic Bites gets dismissed as paranormal romance, but there’s really not much romance in this book. There’s one potential romance that fizzles out because the main character is suspicious, emotionally unavailable and wedded to her job (her job is killing things), and there’s a hint at what’s to come in later books. But for the most part this book is Kate Daniels going it alone. She’s a mercenary who gets herself involved when her mentor gets killed. Wherever there’s trouble, she’s there, and half the time she’s the cause. Try saying ‘here, kitty, kitty, kitty’ to the Lord of the shapeshifters, a lion shifter… yes, that sounds like a good idea.

I love the setting of these books. It’s set in Atlanta, post-magic-apocalypse, where the world alternates between magic and tech — so you need a jeep and your horse if you want to be sure of getting around. It’s a wilderness of old tumble-down buildings that should have stood for years, and a world where shapeshifters and vampires (very creepy vampires) rule the shadows.

Really, those who dismiss this as paranormal romance and decide it’s not their thing because everyone knows paranormal romance is just ‘sex with a plot’… might just want to give it a go. Kate’s tough as nails and a lot funnier, in a deadpan scary sort of way, and the world-building is actually an interesting set-up. It’s not all about who Kate gets in bed with, and honestly in this book it’s barely even about that at all. I’m not saying it’s perfect: I think some people struggle with the worldbuilding, because you’re expected to take it for granted, and I think it’d have given me more pause the first time too. I think some characters you’re supposed to like come off fairly badly.

But it’s funny, and there’s so much potential. After Magic Bites, there’s so much more to come. Looking forward to revisiting the books I’ve read before, and finally reading the newer ones!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Shifts

Posted September 13, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Magic Shifts by Ilona AndrewsMagic Shifts, Ilona Andrews

It’s been a while since I read this, and I’m not sure why I didn’t write a review at the time. Since it’s been a while since I read it (eek, a year!) I can’t comment in much detail, but it’s a worthwhile addition to the series, starting a new chapter in Kate and Curran’s lives — and spending more time dealing with who exactly Kate is, what Roland can do, and what Kate and Curran are going to do without the Pack.

Not that they’re entirely without their old allies, of course…

It’s pretty much what you’d expect from this series, in other ways: pacy writing, Kate and Curran being badass but also idiots, and some really weird shit going on that they really should deal with. If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, you’ll enjoy this one too.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Breaks

Posted September 10, 2016 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Breaks by Ilona AndrewsMagic Breaks, Ilona Andrews

It’s hard to believe this is the seventh novel of the series. Somehow it still manages to feel fresh, and I’m not ready for this arc to come to an end. Yet that’s exactly what this book does, featuring Kate bigger and more badass than ever, with Curran at her side and ready to fight with her, against something she’s been preparing for her whole life.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t quite go as expected.

As usual, I found the Pack politics somewhat frustrating. One minute they’re all loyalty, and the next they won’t follow Curran and Kate, even though they’ve proved themselves, even though they’d give their lives for the Pack. I did enjoy the by-play between Desandra and Jennifer, though, and how that whole storyline wove throughout the book and joined the main storyline in places. Desandra’s a fun character, even if her humour isn’t always my thing, and she’s come a long way from our first glimpse of her.

The only place this falls down for me is that, well, I just don’t believe Curran’s going to bow out gracefully. It’s convenient for Kate to doubt him or think he’s dead or whatever, but I never do. And with Kate as the narrator, I never believe that she’s really in danger either.

I really want so many more of these books stretching out ahead of me, though. Something about them just hits the spot perfectly.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Rises

Posted September 5, 2016 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Rises by Ilona AndrewsMagic Rises, Ilona Andrews

Magic Rises really ups the stakes. It opens with a serious dilemma for the Pack being made really crystal clear to Kate: the likelihood of the Pack’s children to ‘go loup’, at which point the pack have to kill them. To make sure we really notice, one of the children affected is a friend of Kate’s adopted daughter, and then the Pack receive an offer: go and mediate issues with a woman who is pregnant by two different men, whose father uses her as a way to control and divide territory. In return, you’ll get a load of the stuff you need to drastically reduce the odds of loupism.

It’s a trap, of course, and the trap is really well baited. The only question is really who it’s set for, and of course, it turns out that this advances the overarching plot as well: Kate’s heritage comes more and more to the fore, and her relationship with Curran has to weather that. At the same time, there’s a price paid within the story for every advance they gain, and lots of impossible choices to make.

My main frustration is that Kate and Curran start being idiots again. Communication, people. It’s not a myth. Use your mouths and talk to each other. Argh! Even if they don’t agree on tactics and so on, I wish their personal relationship felt less shaky and superficial at moments like this. I believe that Kate needs Curran, loves him. Now make the two of ’em act like it!

Also, the whole Andrea-and-Raphael issue is just all of a sudden solved. I’m guessing this is the point where it’d have helped to read Gunmetal Magic.

It’s a really fun read, though: it just races along at breakneck pace, and you never know exactly what’s going to happen next. The writing team that is Ilona Andrews don’t pull their punches.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Magic Slays

Posted August 30, 2016 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Slays by Ilona AndrewsMagic Slays, Ilona Andrews

Argh, this book brings the feels. Characters we love get endangered and characters we love are worried about them, serious issues in the Pack’s way of life start to become apparent, and Kate finds out that some things she took for granted weren’t true at all. We also get to see a bit more of Kate’s past and more about her mother, which we have been lacking, in the form of the witches. There’s also more about Kate’s father, about her bloodline and what it means, and what it means she can do. Plus, more honesty with Curran about those things!

Kate and Curran continue to negotiate their relationship and their respective stubbornness. They’re not perfect at it, but they do it, and they do also manage to express themselves. I’m not 100% a fan of how focused on Curran Kate can be at times (the whole having missed him while at work thing, for example), but it makes sense.

I’m not sure how much this advances the overall plot; it feels like a bit of an interlude, after the events with Erra, except that character-wise it is fairly momentous, and Kate does inch slowly towards an understanding of the cost she might have to pay, but also why she shouldn’t run away.

I find these books solid fun and really easy to read; there’s no way I’m stopping here.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Clean Sweep

Posted March 19, 2016 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Clean Sweep, by Ilona AndrewsClean Sweep, Ilona Andrews

Okay, the concept reminds me of Tanya Huff’s Summon the Keeper, which I haven’t read yet but which is held in high esteem by some of my friends. But Ilona Andrews’ writing is just darn fun. Dina is funny and takes no crap, the whole concept of the inns and the responsibilities of the inn keepers is good, and while Sean Evans is kind of an ass, he’s the kind of ass that can grow on you — like Curran, from the Kate Daniels books. I actually read this in one sitting, despite rather wanting to go to bed before I started, and when done, I handed it straight to my sister.

And come on, if nothing else grabs you, the unique “vampires” from actual outer space are a really cool concept. Between this and the magic/technology mixture in the Kate Daniels books, you’d better believe that the Andrews team can come up with some great settings and interesting worlds.

Guess I’m going to have to get my hands on Sweep in Peace, though I sort of hope that neither potential love interest turns out to be the one. Shoo, Sean. Go pee on someone else’s trees.

Rating: 4/5

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