Okay, so I’ve been reading this “urban fantasy” series the wrong way, I’ll admit. Picking up what’s available, in whatever order I can find them, and then moving on. But it’s not like this series is Game of Thrones or something, with story lines too dense and complicated to follow if you miss one. While it would be nice to read the Magic series from start to finish, I think I’ve managed to fill in the gaps as I read along. The plots are clever, true, but the constant is unadulterated gore and spicy action, the characters carry through from novel to novel, and hero and heroine always survive to fight another day. And yet… and yet… I do wish I had started at the beginning. To the story, then.
[SPOILERS ALERT!] Kate is a human with vast and mostly untapped magic powers inherited from he-who-shall-not-be-named—that is, her father Roland aka Builder of Towers, a 5,000-year-old magic being who tried to kill Kate in the womb before she could challenge him, then killed her mother, her trainer/guardian, and is now after her. Roland’s warrior chieftain Hugh, whose training and skills are equal to–perhaps stronger than–Kate’s, wants her for his own and is furious that Beast Lord Curran, the werelion who heads the Atlanta-based pack of shapeshifters, got there first and claimed her as his mate and Consort. Each novel reveals a bit more about Kate and her relationship to her father, Kate and her relationship to Curran, and Kate and her relationship to the Pack. Vampires, wizards, necromancers, and were-animals of every stripe abound, and they switch allegiances with dizzying regularity. Just like humans, it would appear.
In Magic Slays, the fifth in the series where I came in (!), Kate is trying to get her private investigations company underway, Curran is otherwise occupied, and being hired by the Masters of the Dead to find and stop a rogue vampire is too good to pass up. Piece of cake, right? But it turns out the vampire broke free of its necromancer controllers because someone invented a machine that can cancel magic, with dire implications for Kate’s world should the machine be deployed on a larger scale. Ilona Andrews’ less-than-subtle metaphor for our own world’s potential for technology gone amuck, and the ethics of where, when and whether to draw the line, all surface in this narrative, which is in general a delightful and well-written mix of fast-paced dialogue, faster-paced action, and characters who are as true-to-life as one gets in a series about magic creatures.
Next, we get to Magic Rises, in which the Pack is given the opportunity to get access to a medicine that could prevent many of its children from going loup, or homicidal, for which the only treatment until now has been “termination.” Curran and Kate travel to Europe, where they are offered the medicine in payment for mediating a dispute between two ancient Packs. They suspect a trap, but feel they have no choice, and bring with them a close entourage of friends and security in hope of making it out alive. Little do they know that the trap is aimed squarely at Kate, and that her nemesis Hugh is behind it all. In Magic Rises, Kate’s faith in her lover is sorely tested, her magic skills take a dramatic leap forward, and she learns more about herself in the process. Unfortunately, so does Hugh, who is certain to bring the mysterious and scary Roland up to speed about his daughter. Also, because Kate and Curran are together throughout this novel, we get a closer look at what challenges—and binds—their relationship.
Finally, we get to the latest in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Breaks, in which Curran is once again largely absent from the scene, and Kate faces her greatest challenge to date. She is asked to represent the Pack in a conclave of supernatural forces from across Atlanta, but she arrives only to discover that another trap has been set, one that could lead to the total decimation of the Pack. One of the top three necromancers known as Masters of the Dead has been killed, apparently by a shapeshifter, and as the interim Pack leader, Kate is given 24 hours to find and deliver the killer, or face all-out war. Kate learns that the Masters of the Dead give their allegiance to her father Roland, and that the necromancer’s gruesome murder was just a setup for the Pack, timed to coincide with Curran’s absence. As Kate races to keep her enemies–including a traitor from within–at bay and solve the murder by the deadline, she worries for the life of Curran, who is gone on his diplomatic mission far too long. But it turns out it is herself she should be worrying about, as Hugh is out to break her by any means necessary. Magic Breaks races to a heart-stopping climax in which Roland makes an appearance and finds out what his daughter is made of, and also ends on a teasing note which promises us that the fight is far from over.
The clever couple who make up the author Ilona Andrews have figured out precisely what combination of action, gore, wit, and sex make for a winning combination in this popular series, and there are certain to be more Magic adventures to come.