Series: Kate Daniels
Author: Ilona Andrews
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published books: Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, Magic Bleeds, Magic Slays, Magic Rises
Next book: Magic Breaks, due July 29, 2014
Highlights: Multicultural folklore influence, uniquely unsexy vampires, THE BEAST LORD, kick-ass ladies who are also fully realized characters, suspense, action, romance
Fun Fact! Ilona Andrews is the pen name of a wife and husband writing team who met in a college English Composition 101 class. They look adorably dorky and normal
and I would just love to meet up and chat with them someday.
The story: In a near future Atlanta where sporadic waves of magic wreak havoc on modern technology, mercenary Kate Daniels has the far-from-prestigious job of cleaning up the supernatural messes left behind. Kate’s skills are actually much more specialized than that of a magical janitor, but she’s maintaining a low, lonely profile in order to hide from her extended family of ancient beings with a history of violence and plague-bringing. Despite her best efforts to remain mundane, Kate finds herself increasingly entangled in the politics and drama of the local supernatural community, including that of the handsome leader of the shapeshifters, Curran, aka THE BEAST LORD. Don’t be turned off by the ridiculousness of that title – Kate makes fun of it enough to keep the cheesiness in check.
Why you’ll love it: Full disclosure – this series starts off weak and I almost abandoned the first book. But I’m glad I persevered because once I got past the initial awkward pacing, clumsy world building and general sloppiness, the series’ overall quality drastically improved and I became obsessed with reading every other Kate Daniels book available. I’ve skipped an embarrassing amount of sleep, meals and showers for this series.
Kate herself is an amazing character – she kicks ass without turning into a super-snarky-tough-chick cliché – but I think the strong cast of secondary characters is what truly made me fall in love with this series. There is a romantic subplot between the main characters, but almost equal page time is given to the myriad relationships – romantic, platonic, familial, professional – between all other characters as well. This is best portrayed in the third book, Magic Strikes, which features my all time favorite fictional ensemble cast participating in one of the most suspenseful supernatural pit fighting scenes I’ve ever encountered – and supernatural pit fighting scenes aren’t that uncommon in the urban fantasy genre so this claim is completely reasonable.
Although the characters are more than enough to keep readers emotionally invested, the fantasy setting alone would make this series exceptional. The authors use obscure (well, from my limited perspective) folklore and mythology from a variety of world cultures to enrich their own unique take on vampires, werewolves and all sorts of other paranormal and fantastical creatures. From such well-known figures as the Minotaur and Baba Yaga to less familiar formorians and rakshasas, the sheer variety and well-researched attention to detail is fascinating.
I’m almost hesitant to recommend starting with the first book, but for full appreciation of the overarching plot and character development, the series needs to be read in order. And really, although Magic Bites is a little rough, how cool is it to witness a writing team mature and hone their craft as a series progresses? I hope these co-authors end Kate’s story on a high note before it inevitably starts to drag, but so far each new book is an improvement on the last.
So soldier your way through the flawed first book and continue on through the series, because by the time you reach the scene where Kate and her coolly psychopathic aunt sit down for tea to discuss their upcoming fight to the death, you’ll be glad you stuck around. You might also be sleep deprived and hungry, but it’ll be worth it.