Reviewed: June 9, 2010
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels Series, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 260 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Disclosure: This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Some time in the future...or someplace just on the other side of the mirror...an alternate Atlanta is slowly decaying as magic and tech war against one another in widening waves of ever increasing hostility. Magic is winning.
Kate Daniels, a mercenary for the Guild, is the magical equivalent of the average handyman/pest control person. She's hired to solve other people's problems that crop up when magic or magical beings start creating havoc. Sometimes rude, always vigilant to keep her abilities hidden, and having a major a problem with authority, Kate doesn't play well with others. She's very alone in this dark, urban jungle, and never more so than when she finds out her guardian Greg has been brutally slaughtered. Old loyalties and fierce emotion force her hand and Kate steps forward to find out who and what is responsible for his death. For once, her only investigatory ability - poking her nose into things better left alone until the persons responsible try to kill her - may come in very handy. If she survives.
With an almost disparate blend of lyrical descriptions and rampant brutality, the world of Kate Daniels comes into reluctant focus, though some of the edges remain a bit muddy and confusing. There's not much light in Kate's world, metaphorically speaking, and she seems rather friendless and solitary as she limps through the case of Greg's murder. The big picture and widening danger start to clarify, almost despite Kate's best intentions, and a war brews between the People, necromancers who rule the dead and crave money and power, and the Pack, the free weres of the city, both faction believing the other responsible for deaths of its members. The plot continues to branch off into darker and more dangerous currants and Kate struggles at times to keep her head above water.
At times, so does Magic Bites.
Ilona Andrews, pseudonym for the husband and wife writing team Ilona and Gordon, has created an incredibly complex world with the Kate Daniels series and I'm at times in awe of the thought and attention to detail given to the backdrop of the city of Atlanta affected by magic. While I think the pacing of the plot is a little slow at the beginning as the world is fleshed out for readers, it was a solid start for a series.
One issue that kept me from being totally wowed with it: I was left feeling Magic Bites is a bit too focused on plot and world building and because of that, it falls a little short on character depth and definition. Kate is a relatively stereotypical UF heroine, all kick-ass smart mouth and surface aggression. There just isn't quite enough development or originality in her personality. There are a few mentions of a secret she's keeping and the struggle she's had to keep the truth of her blood hidden, and while that provides some interesting potential in further development, it also serves to keep the reader at a superficial level with Kate as a person throughout the book. The secondary characters, even Curran, never seemed fully individualized and real for me...except, maybe, for Mahon - for some reason I loved the Kodiak of Atlanta, pack executioner. As for the rest, they would have benefited from a bit more attention to their personalities beyond surface feelings and reactions.
Despite the character issues, Kate's interaction with the Beast Lord Curran provides some nice teasers for future development (not to mention some much needed humor) and their scenes were among my favorite in the book, as opposed to the time waster of any scene with Crest, whom I found far more tedious than Kate apparently did.
Overall I really liked Magic Bites, and for a first book in a series, I found it well done, though perhaps not a total success for me because of the lingering issues I have with the characters. The plot was definitely intricate enough and the world detailed to an extent that I remained entertained throughout, but my preferences lean towards character driven stories so I'm hoping the next book delves a little deeper into the characters of Kate, Curran, and the rest.
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