Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A world where technology and magic collide

Kate Daniels lives in an alternate, future Atlanta, Georgia, which has become a strange place indeed. It has periods in which magic takes over and technological things (cars, electric lights, etc.) stop working. And it has other periods when the magic phases out, and technology takes over again. The fluctuations can be inconvenient, particularly if you are driving in your car at the time. There is no reason given for this situation - the reader is simply thrown into the story and, without huge infodumps to stop the action, the background becomes quickly evident.

Kate is a mercenary who is very talented at what she does - so much so, in fact that her guardian has repeatedly encouraged her to join him and work for the Knights of Merciful Aid, as he does. But Kate is stubborn and has issues with kowtowing to authority, and she has always refused, preferring to work for herself, make her own decisions, and keep certain things about herself as private as possible. As the book opens, however, Kate receives the devastating news that her guardian has been killed. This time the investigation is personal, and Kate goes against her instincts to join the Knights in her hunt for her guardian's killer. It appears the Masters of the Dead, a group of necromancers who control vampires (which are creepy, mindless creatures controlled remotely by the Masters) and the Pack, a group of paramilitary shapeshifters, each blame the other for a number of recent murders, and Kate is suddenly thrust into the midst of the mire when it becomes clear that her guardian's death is connected.

Patricia Briggs has a blurb on the cover of this book: "Splendid...an edgy, dark fantasy touched with just the right amount of humor." I don't know that I'd call it splendid, but it did hold my attention, presenting an intriguing world and interesting characters. Frankly, it is hard to pick up a new urban fantasy series without bracing myself for all the clichés and stereotypes that are bound to be there. Yes, we have the tough, stubborn, "kick-ass" heroine, once a refreshing character but now omnipresent in the genre. We have tense, potentially violent political situations among supernatural groups of characters, and we have the usual cast of were-creatures, vampires, wizards and the like. But happily there were new angles - the bizarre, creepy nature of the vampires, for one, as well as an interesting take on the way magic works - and some intriguing hints of mysteries to be explored in future books of the series. I found the choice of title to be unfortunate, however; it led me to expect a lighter, more amusing story, when in fact the novel tends more toward the serious and dark. Serious and dark is fine with me - it's the false expectation that was confusing. I will be interested to see how Kate's story evolves in the second book of this series.

Books in the Kate Daniels series:

1. Magic Bites
2. Magic Burns
3. Magic Strikes


Magic Bites (#1 in the Kate Daniels series) by Ilona Andrews (Ace Books, 2007)

Also reviewed at:
Look What I Found in My Brain! - "There's a lot of good action in the novel, and I appreciated that it goes to some fairly dark places."
Reading, Etc.: "I enjoyed the second read of this book. I like the fact that Kate has problems, foibles and isn’t perfect. I look forward to learning more about her in future books."

9 comments:

  1. Good review. I think this is one of those rare series where I thought the second book was actually better, so curious to see what you think after you read Magic Burns.. :)

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  2. Janicu - I'm glad to hear you say that! I really try to give first books in series the benefit of the doubt - there is so much to be done with that book, so many things to set up, characters to develop and, with fantasy, a world to build. I'm looking forward to #2 even more now - thanks!

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  3. Oh I'm so adding this to my list. I grew up right outside of Atlanta and I've always loved books set there... even if it is a alternate world!

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  4. Without having read the book I quite like the title, but you're right, it makes me expect something at least a bit tongue in cheek. Too bad it was misleading!

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  5. Ladytink - I bet it will be an unfamiliar Atlanta, but a fun one! :-)

    Nymeth - Titles can be hard, can't they? I recently read an article about that mentioned Lauren Myracle's young adult novel Rhymes with Witches - apparently she wanted to call it Bitches, but the editor thought that might lead to it being challenged, or not purchased for school libraries, etc. So they changed it, and ironically it's being challenged because some people imagine it has to do with the occult! I guess sometimes you just can't win. :-)

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  6. I hadn't really considered the title that way but I see know that you could. As you mention there are plenty of unique elements here to distinguish this series from many of the other UF series out there.

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  7. SciFiGuy - Yes, there sure are, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the next book goes. There were a lot of intriguing things I'm curious to learn more about!

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  8. I picked this up a while back because of the Patricia Briggs blurb actually. It's a shame it wasn't quite as good as it suggested, but it seems like you enjoyed it for the most part.

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  9. Rhinoa - I did enjoy it, and I do plan to read the next one. I'll let you know how it goes!

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