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Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
--- Book Synopsis ---
When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake.
Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems. But when Kate's guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta's magic circles.
The Masters of the Dead, necromancers who can control vampires, and the Pack, a paramilitary clan of shape changers, blame each other for a series of bizarre killings--and the death of Kate's guardian may be part of the same mystery. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she's way out of her league--but she wouldn't have it any other way...
--- Review ---
"It's a reflex. Hear a bell, get food. See an undead, throw a knife. Same thing, really."
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews (wife and husband writing team) is the first book in the adult urban fantasy series starting Kate Daniels, who is fast becoming one of my favourite kick-ass heroines to read about.
Thankfully I am not, but if I was only given three little words to sum up Magic Bites I would have to say:
I found that the story was immensely EASY to get involved in and it took me no time at all to get invested in the characters and the whole book kept me ENTERTAINED to the point you I nearly burned the dinner, I really should stop reading when cooking! And for me Magic Bites was a really FAST read because I just couldn't put it down and I read the book in no time whatsoever.
Until very recently Magic Bites had actually been sitting on my to-be-read shelf for almost a year and I blame the cover for putting me off picking it up sooner. Yes, yes, I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but it does contribute. And I was a little worried that the story wouldn't live up to the high expectations I had about it, especially since Magic Bites has received some absolutely glowing reviews (all you have to do is check out GoodReads for yourself if you don't believe me). The Kate Daniel series and Ilona Andrews in general are loved by a lot of people, I didn't want to be let down and I'm glad to report that I certainly wasn't.
If I'm completely honest for the first thirty or so pages of the novel was not the best and it started off like a poor imitation and failed to set itself apart from some of the other great urban fantasy books out there. It took me those thirty or so pages to warm up to Kate and it took me a while to warm up to the world building, which I did find a tad confusing to start with. However, when the book found its stride, the pacing was fast, the action was constant and although the very basic story was similar to alot of other urban fantasty books I've read it was still unusual enough, well written and with some great characters that all made Magic Bites stand out.
In the opening books to a series, especially a series that has the potential and drive to go on for many books there is a really fine line between info dumping to help the readers come to grips with the author's world and not providing quite enough information for the setting to make sense. This is one area where I felt that Ilona Andrews failed, it wasn't really until the end of the book that certain aspects of Kate's world finally clicked into place for me. I don't really want to say too much for fear of giving anything away but the world suffers from ripples of magic flowing around and when the magic strikes technology fails until the invisible magic wave recedes and you can once more click the light switch on for instant illumination. On the plus side of being a little confused about some of the smaller world building details I am looking forward to reading more about Kate's world in future books. It's quite a unique concept for an urban fantasy world and it combines magical aspects in a less high fantasy way that makes it feel more gritty and real. And although I did take a while to get to grips with Kate's world it's a memorable place and it does help make Magic Bites stand out from a very saturated urban fantasy market.
One of the main reasons that I enjoyed Magic Bites as much as I did was that there is also no shortage of interesting characters and I loved Kate more or less from the beginning, she is a fun, feisty and snarky individual. It may all sound like a tired combination in the paranormal romance genre but I still liked her and I'm looking forward to getting to know her better as the series progresses. And if I'm honest I may be developing a bit of a fiction crush on the very masculine male lead Curran -The Beast Lord extraordinaire. Yes that's right I did say Beast Lord, the world of Magic Bites is full of all types of shape shifters, from the more typical wolf like animal to rats, snakes and cats. It's also a world where necromancers (along with their super creepy and far from sparkly vampires) and magic orders exist, there really is a lot going on but after you get into the story it is easy enough to keep up.
For me the ending of the book was perfect, it wrapped up all the main plot points within Magic Bites but left some massive cliff hangers about who Kate Daniels really is and some pretty charged steamy tension between Kate and Curran. Ilona Andrews definitely did a great job at leaving just enough open story threads to start the beginning of some intriguing potential series wide plot arcs. It's becoming a BAD trend in series books lately (especially the YA genre for some reason) to just stop mid swing rather (and in the middle of the story) than ever end a book. That when I do read something that feels complete it makes me even more keen to pick up the next book in the series rather than roll my eyes, throw the book at the wall and get all sulky over not being given any conclusion to a story that I have become attached too.
Really despite a little bit of a slow beginning my one major complaint with Magic Bites (and it's not really a serious one) was the lack of pages, it was by far too short. The book only comes in at 260 pages and I flew threw it finishing it over a couple of days, I could have read more, I wanted to read more and although the main story arc was wrapped up I wasn't done. Ah well, I suppose it just means that I will have to go and track down book number two.
Magic Bites won't be winning any literary awards any time soon but if you are after something fun with some entertaining paranormal and romance moments complete with a crime story and a kick ass heroine then look no further.
Overall, the book definitely gets a four out of five star rating from me and I don't think it will be long before I pick up the next in the series, in fact I am sure it won't be.
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews comes highly recommended from me.
Genre - Adult, urban-fantasy
Published by Gollancz Fiction (Sept 2010)
Paperback 260 pages (£6.99)
It's a strange thing but it's often the books I put off reading because I think I won't like them which generally turn out to be some of the best I've ever read! Magic Bites is just that sort of book.
I love urban fantasy but because the back cover blurb gave the impression that the premise of this one was predicated upon magic and magicians it led me to suppose it erred more on the straight fantasy side than that of urban fantasy, so I had resisted reading this book for a couple of years. It was on the shelves at the library on a day when there didn't seem anything else particularly appealing so I borrowed it and I am so glad that I did.
In Atlanta at a time in the future when magic has returned to the Earth, making technology somewhat unreliable, Kate Daniels is working as a mercenary. She gets sent in to deal with problems which arise when magic and technology clash. When the magic is up, rogue mages can cast spells to summon up horrendous monsters and when the magic subsides, technology comes back but intermittently, so that lights fail and cars refuse to start.
In a world peopled by mages, necromancers and shape-shifters, there's always friction but now someone or something is killing beings from all these groups. One of those killed is Kate's guardian and the Order for which he worked have asked Kate to investigate. Whatever is killing these beings is unbelievably strong and Kate is going to need all her resources, plus a few friends, to come out of this investigation alive.
Urban fantasy is a relatively new sub-genre within Science Fiction/Fantasy but over the last couple of years it's become very popular. Unfortunately, much of it revolves around vampires and although there is some excellent vampire fiction out there, there is also a lot of Twilightesque stuff featuring vampires who bear little or no relation to the original conception and which have degenerated into little more than romantic fiction. Not so with this book.
In terms of characterisation, plotline, world building and sheer readability, this is an exercise in how urban fantasy should be written. Ilona Andrews is in fact a husband and wife team, Gordon and Ilona Andrews and although I've been disappointed by collaborative works in the past, this books is the exception to the rule. Most urban fantasy, with only a couple of exceptions, seems to be written by women and their description of some male characters could best be described as wishful thinking. They aren't real men but more how women would like men to be. However, the amalgam which is Ilona Andrews gives us male characters who burp and fart - well, not literally, but at least behave like men really do, and women who are capable of reasoned thought. In fact, the ying-yang balance is just about perfect.
Kate Daniels belongs with the group of magicians known as the Order, whose organisation roughly mirrors that of the Knights Templar or perhaps The Knights of the Round Table, although she prefers to operate outside of their domain. Her father belonged to the Order as did her guardian, Greg, a powerful mage, who has been ripped to shreds by some monster which bears the DNA of both animal and human. Kate's companion on her mercenary missions is Slayer, her sword, a living thing which requires feeding!
In Kate Daniel's world there is great suspicion between the main factions but by far the most devious and unpleasant of these are the People, who are necromancers, manipulators of the dead and that includes vampires. These vampires, however, aren't the pasty faced, pretty boy types but are more akin to the creature depicted in the old black and white film Nosferatu. These are vicious bat-like creatures with needle-sharp teeth who scuttle about in the dark.
The third group are the Beast Masters which encompasses all shapeshifters including wolves, rats, bears and big cats. Previously, Kate has always dealt with Jim, one of the deputies of the Beast Master but this time she's been summoned to meet the big man himself. Their relationship doesn't start well as Kate, deducing that the Beast Master is of the big cat variety, calls out "Here kitty, kitty!" refusing to be cowed by his superior strength and power.
The Beast Master, Curran, and Kate reach an uneasy alliance, however, determined to discover who or what is wreaking such havoc amongst their kind and their investigations lead them to some astounding discoveries.
This book grabs the reader from the first page and Kate is a very appealing lead character showing a good deal of intelligence and strength of purpose. It soon becomes clear that although the three groups rub along together, there is more antipathy towards the People, who are arrogant and manipulative, regarding themselves are being above the Order and the Beast Masters. Kate isn't one of these too-stupid-to-live heroines who goes rampaging into dangerous situations alone, but accepts the protection and back up offered by Curran and his shapeshifters.
It's pretty clear that there is some kind of relationship developing between Kate and Curran but it's in its very early stages and in this book is little more than a flicker of attraction but there's enough spark there to make me want to find out how things will progress.
Curran was a very attractive character, certainly in human form, although he does demonstrate alpha tendencies as would be expected of the Beast Master. His other self is a huge lion-like creature, predatory and lethal, but great to have when you're backed into a corner.
There is some very sophisticated world building in this book but it's quickly understood by the reader and as it's developed alongside the storyline the story never drags. I find that frequently with first books in a series, too much time is spent on describing the background rather than concentrating on the characters and the plot. Magic Bites has managed to marry a strange and alien fantasy world with a first rate thriller storyline to produce a book which is top class.
This isn't a light and fluffy read and has a much darker edge to it almost bordering on the horrific at times and I think it would appeal to both male and female readers, stretching as it does across genres from fantasy to horror. There are currently five books in this ongoing series and now that I've discovered this excellent writing partnership and the wonderfully dangerous world of Kate Daniels, I can't wait to read the next one.
Book details and availability:
Published by Gollancz
Magic Bites is currently on sale through Amazon UK for £4.44 new or from Amazon Marketplace from £2.16.
Kate Daniels series:
1. Magic Bites
2. Magic Burns
3. Magic Strikes
4. Magic Bleeds
5. Magic Slays (published May 2011)
Welcome to Illona Andrews' world of the Heroine Kate Daniels.
Set in a world where magic and technology phase with one being strong one moment and the other the next.
ie in Earths past magic reigned, then technology became ascendant. At an undisclosed time technology fell and now the pendulum is swinging between the two unable to settle.
The world is very Post-Apocalyptic in it's feel as many areas of the city of Atlanta, where the action is set, are derelict or full of skyscapers that could no longer stand when the magic hit.
Inhabitents have magic and tech lights, magic and tech cars etc.
Vampires are undead husks controlled by Necromancer style Controllers, chained when they are not 'driven',
The Were population is divided into the different species with an overall King who can become Beastform at will (half animal- half man)
You also have your magic users, some other weird shapeshifters, and alot of other supernatural beings.
We're introduced the Kate's world and the death of her mentor and friend who works for a police organisation. Kate although having high test scores rejected the restrictions of this group and is now a mercenary. So she decides to stick her nose in and find out exactly what's going on, why her only friend is dead and what's going on with the undead in town.
There's alot of tension between Kate who's sassy, violent, charming and funny as well as haunted by her past and the Beast Lord Curran who's arrogant, condescending and clearly has a thing for Kate.
As a book this may be slim butIi loved the style of writing, I thoroughly enjoyed the sparks between the two leads and was pretty happy that it was only tension in this book. You can empathise with all of the authors characters, they feel very fleshed out. Although the idea sounds complicated it's all explained clearly and you don't get confused or bewildered by anything that's going on.
This is a brilliant book as a start to the series and i give it one of my top authors status', if you love supernatural fiction with a bit of sass then give it a go.