About two years ago, I read the first book in the Kate Daniels series. Written by Ilona Andrews (the husband and wife writing team of Ilona and Gordon Andrews), it stars a magic-wielding mercenary as she deals with shapeshifters, the undead, mythical monsters and all sorts of weirdness in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s usually classified among urban fantasy books. Personally I would sooner call it somewhere between fantasy and high fantasy. So far I’ve enjoyed each book better than the last, and the first was a lot of fun. Can book 6 keep that trend?
For the most part, Magic Rises is great. It’s just as amusing as the earlier entries, but there’s also a lot more emotional moments. The story is complete with some big twists, fun characters, great action and the most epic climax in the series yet. This book also has a lot of characters, including a bunch of new ones. Somehow it’s never hard to follow and every character has a purpose. That said, some of the dramatic moments take a certain character a bit too far. Some fans will see his actions as a bit unforgivable. I felt that if his actions didn’t go too far, they were pretty close. The only other complaint I have, and this is relatively minor, is the way one death is handled. This is a major character in the series. The moment is well-written, but because it takes place in the middle of the climax there isn’t much time to breathe. With a 3 page epilogue, this character only really has a couple of paragraphs. I can’t help but feel there should have been a bit more of a focus on the aftermath.
Throughout the series, Kate is trying to keep her true identity a secret, and only a handful of people know. At the risk of spoiling the series for those who haven’t read it yet, Kate’s father is a very powerful and ancient leader, and she believes he wants her dead. When Kate and some of her closest allies face off against one of her father’s most prominent servants, it’s hard to keep her secret much longer. That’s where a good chunk of this book’s tension comes into play.
The plot is simple enough. The Pack (Atlanta’s main group of shapeshifters) is suffering losses from a lot of their young losing control of their abilities (going loup). When this happens, they go feral and have to be put down. The pack needs a certain substance to prevent their young from going loup. To get the substance, they must travel to Europe, and they all know they’re walking into a trap. They find themselves surrounded by several European shapeshifter clans– clans that don’t exactly get along. This leads to a number of tense moments.
Even with everything going on, there’s plenty of build-up for future entries in the series. The mythology about Kate’s father is expanded on in several ways, including hints that his intentions may not be what Kate believes. And of course, there’s an exciting moment where Kate finally learns to master a power she’s been trying to figure out since book 3. At this point I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book, where she finally has some sort of confrontation with her father.
The next paragraph contains spoilers, both for Magic Rises and previous books.
Curran (the Pack’s Beast Lord) and Kate have been in a relationship for about a year at this point. They may have had a bumpy start, but for the most part they get along very well. One of the new characters, Lorelai, gets in the way. When I mentioned a character going too far earlier, I’m referring to Curran. He accepts Lorelai’s advances and even pretends to be attracted to her, without telling Kate what’s going on. His reasons are explained later and it’s for Kate’s protection in the end, but it still makes him look like a total dick. When he’s been portrayed as an honorable man in the past (despite his short temper), this could damage him in the eyes of some fans.
This book has everything I’ve come to love about this series. Kate’s snarky narration brings laughs. The writing behind the action scenes is increasingly creative and fun with each entry, and it makes me want to get cleverer with my own writing. That said, the one character going too far with his actions did lesson my enjoyment of the book a bit. I’ve read that some fans consider this the weakest book in the series and I can understand why, but it’s still a good read overall. For personal enjoyment I’d rank it somewhere between book 2 and 3, but my score will keep in mind its flaws.
I would recommend the Kate Daniels series to anyone who enjoys fantasy books. It’s got zombie dragons, mythical figures for villains, a unique post-apocalyptic world and a fun cast of characters. And with all the build-up and reveals, long-time fans should read this book at least once. If you’re jumping in, I would recommend you actually start with book 2 (Magic Burns). The first two are self-contained and they’re both fun, but Magic Burns is better than Magic Bites in every way and explains Kate Daniels’s world better.
And since I didn’t use review scores back when I talked about the previous books, I’m going to give them all a score in order of release.
Magic Bites – been too long; I’ll have to re-read it before I score it.
Magic Burns – 8/10
Magic Strikes – 8/10
Magic Bleeds – 8.5/10
Magic Slays – 9/10
Gunmetal Magic – 8.5/10
In my last post I suggested that my next novel would be between a vampire book, or rereading either an X-Wing book or Fellowship of the Ring. Those are still on my list of to-read, but I’m very tempted to just read the next two Kate Daniels books now and finally catch up with the series. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Magic Breaks (book 7).