Newest Review: ... that his emotions are manifested in a realistically male way. This book catches up with Kate some two or three months following her first... more
What Katie did next
Magic Burns - Ilona Andrews
Member Name: ladybracknell
Magic Burns - Ilona Andrews
Advantages: Great characters, world building and storytelling
Disadvantages: Absolutely none
As a dyed-in-the-wool fan of urban fantasy, I'm always delighted to come across a new author and my experience of reading the first book in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews had me hooked from page one. Not surprisingly, I then looked for the exciting next instalment in Kate's eventful life.
The best way to describe urban fantasy, which is a relatively new sub-genre, is that it marries together elements of traditional fantasy, horror and the thriller genres played out in a setting which is invariably contemporary. In many ways they are similar to alternative reality novels but the edges are slightly blurred by the inclusion of creatures of myth and fantasy.
Ilona Andrews is, in fact, a husband and wife team of writers who have produced a unique and original heroine in Kate and their books are peopled by strange and charismatic characters who, despite the outlandishness of the plots, seem all too real. The reason they score so highly with the realism of their characters is, I'm convinced, down to the dual perspective of their writing. I think it's fair to say that women tend to create better female characters than men and vice versa, so with a male and female writing partnership we have a win-win situation. This works especially well with the male characters who never descend into romantic mushiness as so often happens when they've been given life by a female creator. I'm not saying the male lead in this series, Curran, isn't capable of gentleness or sensitivity but just that his emotions are manifested in a realistically male way.
This book catches up with Kate some two or three months following her first adventure and she has now been offered employment in a more permanent capacity by the Order, a group of gifted magicians who try to keep a balance between the worlds of magic and technology. Often, "when the magic is up", technology fails to work and a portal is opened which allows creatures from another dimension to enter and wreak their havoc.
Kate's world is a post-apocalyptic land, divided into three distinct groups: her own Order, who are human, rather like Knights of the Round Table but with the ability to deal with the magic; the Pack comprised of shape shifters of all animal persuasions, controlled by the Beast Lord, Curran, who has taken something of a shine to Kate and it's sort of reciprocated, and, finally, the People. The People are necromancers who manipulate the undead such as zombies and vampires. In these books, however, vampires are much more things of nightmare than the suave and sexy vamps of paranormal romance. These vampires are leathery and dessicated creatures who scuttle about in the darkness.
This time Kate has been called upon to help find some maps which have been stolen from under the noses of the Pack. The magic ebbs and flows across the landscape but every seven years it flares up, allowing the magic to run rampant, and this is just such a time. Kate finds she's involved in something much bigger than mere theft; she's bang slap in the middle of a monumental tug of war between two gods, both working towards their rebirth and total domination and if either of them wins, Kate's world will be history.
The first book in the series, Magic Bites, introduced Kate along with the principle characters who appear in all of the series and in Magic Burns, we get to meet a few more characters who I suspect will have recurring appearances throughout the series. One of these new characters is Julie, a young girl whose mother has gone missing. Julie's mother belongs to a weird, fringe coven and their incantations have been responsible for some pretty drastic events taking place. Kate recognises a power in Julie which is, as yet, untapped and the girl's vulnerability appeals to Kate's protective instincts and she determines to make sure the girl isn't exploited by the unscrupulous.
Kate is a first rate fantasy heroine: she's feisty and independent but, just like young Julie, she also has a vulnerability of her own. There is a secret in Kate's past, something to do with her parentage and inherited powers that is yet to be revealed to the reader. Her feelings for Curran, too, ring true. She hasn't fallen straight into bed with him as so often happens in paranormal romances (a sub-genre which frequently carries the misnomer of urban fantasy) but there is a definite spark between them which is developed slightly in this book but can in no way be described as a romance, although I suspect over the course of the next few books, this may develop further.
Curran, too, is an intriguing character. He's been the Beast Lord (I know, it's a cheesy title!) since he was a teenager and as such, he presents an all-powerful persona and sometimes act in ways that go against his true nature. As a shape shifter, his alternative form is that of a huge lion and he demonstrates many of the characteristics of that creature even when in human form.
The secondary characters, too, even those who only appear fleetingly, are all well rounded and believable and add to the authenticity of the story. In this second outing, rather than remaining static, the characters of Kate and Curran, along with their friends and colleagues, have all been further developed which, again, adds a depth of realism to the story.
I won't pretend that this book is great literature. Occasionally I will still read a literary novel but more often than not these days, I read fiction to be entertained and this book certainly does that. It's an action packed tale, filled with colourful and well-rounded characters. It can be read as a stand alone novel without too much difficulty as the basics of the back story are retold here but I suspect that anyone reading and enjoying this book will want to go back and read the previous instalment as well as the following two books.
The series so far comprises:
1. Magic Bites
2. Magic Burns
3. Magic Strikes
4. Magic Bleeds
5. Magic Slays (due out May 2011)
I borrowed my copy from the library but this second in the series can be bought new for £4.49 from Amazon and possibly cheaper elsewhere.
Also posted on Ciao under the same user name.
Summary: Another episode in the exciting life of Kate Daniels