Reviewed: June 11, 2010
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels Series, Book 3
Rating: 5 Stars
Length: 310 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Disclosure: This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
A few months after the events of Magic Burns (Kate Daniels, Book 2), Kate is still working the liaison job between the Merc Guild and the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aide when a phone call from Saiman drops her into a mess that's a bit outside her pay grade. Derek, the boy wonder shapeshifter and Kate's erstwhile protector, had tried to break into Saiman's condo to steal two tickets to an underground fighting bout that Pack are supposed to be banned from. For Derek to do so, to risk Pack law and the Beast Lord's wrath, something very serious is going on, but despite helping Derek out of the cage Saiman stuck him in by bargaining with the sex-focused body changer, Derek remains mum about his issues, and only asks that Kate, when accompanying Saiman to the fights as part of their deal, slip a note to one of the females on one of the fighting teams. Much like the shot heard round the world, that one note sets off a sequence of cataclysmic events that throw Kate into direct opposition of Curran's laws with Derek's life hanging precariously in the balance.
Hands down, Magic Strikes is my favorite of the first three books in the Kate Daniels series. While maintaining a level of excellence in both originality and execution of the plot, a standard for this series, this story is sleeker and more streamlined than the first two, to positive effects. Where the first two books had complexity almost to the point of convolution, the plot of Magic Strikes is cleaner, perhaps a bit simpler, but definitely far more personal to Kate and her friends. As a result, the connection between the plot and characters achieves a level of cogency previously unrealized.
Magic Strikes is a totally kick ass book from start to finish, and the overly-described scenes that tended to bog down the pace of the first two books to varying degrees are blessedly absent in this one. I love the solid continuity of even the minutest detail (blue panties with a bow, for example) that Ilona Andrews brings to this entire series, and the way that these characters develop and their lives intertwine as the stories unfold is fantastic and very satisfying for me as a reader. It builds a solid foundation of belief in these characters and the world they inhabit. In Magic Strikes, the conflict is very personal for Kate, and it shows in the increased intensity of her aggressions and her willingness to put everything on the line. Combine all of that with the fact that I've also always been a huge fan of Derek's and every facet of this book really worked for me.
I'm totally enamored with the slow, yet steady, methodical progression that's being made with issues and relationships over the series arc. What little mystery that is left of Kate's issue with her blood is addressed, though there was little surprise left by the time of the big reveal. The consequences of it, however, and the doors those consequences open for future development were shocking and the scenes surrounding it ultimately satisfying. Kate's growing cadre of friends, however reluctant she is to amass them, continues to ground her and humanize her, and along with her own mordant sense of humor, provide quite a bit of comic relief in this dark, cruel world (the scene with Jim after the first fight was funny enough to make me laugh out loud).
Now, let me pause for a moment and reflect on the ubergoodness that is the Kate/Curran relationship. Oh. My. God. I swear, I could eat them up with a spoon. The tension and slow (water-torture slow) development between those two is going to make me chew my nails down to the quick, but I love every single damn minute of it. It's quite possibly the most frustrating and most amazing relationship I've read in fiction recently, and I have nothing but respect for Andrews (husband-and-wife writing duo Ilona and Gordon) for addressing...in sometimes gut clenching ways...the complexities and pathos of two such individuals reaching for something that could be amazing, despite the risks inherent. Sometimes I want to drop a house on Kate and get her to wake up a little, but in truth, I sympathize with this solitary, tragic woman who has lived a life with burdens no normal human...or even the King of Beasts...could truly comprehend.
Kate is still one of, if not the top female heroine in any of the many, many UF and paranormal romance series I read. The steel spine, deadly habits, and dedication to honesty and honor surrounding that tiny grain of woman who desperately wants to be loved is a supremely appealing combination and I can not wait to see what she gets thrown into...or what gets thrown at her...next. Absolutely fabulous book, and series, that I highly recommend.
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