Ilona Andrews has created a very dark world in her urban fantasy series featuring mercenary Kate Daniels. Kate doesn't like authority or conforming to the rules. Set in Atlanta, Georgia, where magic fluctuates, coming and going, leaving technology nonfunctional in its wake. In Andrews' world, vampires are not the pretty and seductive creatures of other urban fantasy novels. They are empty vessels controlled by necromancers called the Masters of the Dead, and are part of a large corporation/cult called The People. The city is also filled with shapeshifters, led by the nearly invincible Curran.
In Magic Bites (ACE Fantasy, 2007), Kate's guardian has long been trying to get her to accept the protection of the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, but Kate continuously refuses. When her guardian is discovered murdered alongside a vampire, Kate has little choice but to turn to the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid if she wants to find her guardian's killer. Two rival magical factions in the city are bent are proving the other is responsible and are hoping Kate will get to the bottom of it and quickly.
As a first book in the series, Magic Bites was a strong start. Readers get to know many of the main players, some of whom will make appearances in future books. We learn that Kate has a secret she doesn't want anyone to discover, and while there is a hint of romance, it is kept far in the background.
Magic Burns (ACE Fantasy, 2008) finds Kate in the middle of a fight between gods as a the magic flares come more frequently and threaten to get out of control. At the heart of her investigation is a missing coven of witches, one of whose members is the mother to a young girl named Julie. The city is at stake and Kate is determined to save it.
Magic Burns was just as good as the first book in the series. Kate is used to working alone and yet again she is forced to work with others to resolve the recent catastrophe that threaten Atlanta. Kate can hold her own though, as she proves over and over. She is strong and brave but not invulnerable.
Magic Strikes (ACE Fantasy, 2009) takes Kate undercover in the Midnight Games, an illegal preternatural fighting tournament when one of her friends is injured and on the verge of death. An evil plot is uncovered that threatens the very existence of shapeshifters. Magic Strikes was an intense read. As the series has progress, I have appreciated the development of Kate's character as well as that of Curran. With each book, a little more is revealed about the characters' pasts, but never to the point of being drawn out too long, like it has in some series.
And this holds true for Magic Bleeds (ACE Fantasy, 2010), as the natural progression of the relationships and character development continues. Magic Bleeds takes an even more personal turn when Kate goes up against her own family. The secret she kept guarded for so long, the one about her own heritage, can no longer be kept if she is to save her friends and the man she loves. Magic Bleeds is the best in the series yet.
In some ways, the series is similar to other urban fantasy or paranormal series, including having a strong female lead with a bit of a mouth on her. But what Ilona Andrews has done is create a world like few others. And it's a very interesting one. I was especially impressed with the little nuances that went into the world and characters the author created. There is the familiar as well as the unusual. Add to that the complex story lines, and they make for an intense and entertaining reading experience. Although I don't think I would ever want to live in Kate Daniel's Atlanta, I do enjoy my visits there and look forward to reading more in the series.
Ratings for all four books: (Very Good)
Ilona Andrews is a husband and wife writing team. For more information about the authors and their books, visit their website.
Source: I bought copies of Magic Bites, Magic Burns & Magic Bleeds with my own hard earned money. The copy of Magic Strikes was provided by the author's publicist for review.
© 2010, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.