Well I finally did it. I’ve fully caught up with Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series.
Magic Shifts is the 8th book in the main Urban Fantasy series, starring the magic-wielding mercenary, Kate, in a post-apocalyptic world where magic and technology collide. After the very intense 7th book which brought about a major status-quo change for the main characters, the title “Magic Shifts” feels very appropriate.
This is a major transitional book for the series. Even though there’s a major status quo change, everything that’s enjoyable in previous entries is present here. There’s a lot of great action, the dialogue is entertaining as always and there’s a good balance between dark and fun. Like every other book in the series, the plot moves forward kind of like a mystery book; just a mystery that includes giant fire monsters, truck-sized scorpions and Kate’s ever growing blood magic skills. The ongoing romance between Kate and Curren continues to feel dynamic, with a good balance of working together very well, the occasional argument and enjoying their tender moments. Their relationship feels real in a lot of ways. Thanks to their status quo change, they share more page time together than in any of the previous books.
Other characters are great too. We learn a lot more about Mahon (a giant were-bear) and his family. Julie (a teenager Kate took in during book 2) involves herself in the plot a lot, and her teenage sass is fun as usual. Most of the new characters add to the plot in interesting ways. That said, some of my favourite supporting characters hardly have any page time in this book. Andrea only has one scene (thankfully a very amusing scene) and a couple extra lines here and there, and Saiman’s scene is so brief you might miss it entirely. This didn’t hinder my enjoyment that much, but it’s worth mentioning.
To properly discuss this book I’ll have to spoil book 7 (Magic Breaks), so from this point on there will be spoilers.
Book 7 brought forth a lot of revelations regarding Kate’s father, Roland. With this book there’s clearly still a major conflict between them, but he’s not the main focus for the first time. He’s turning out to be a fun character, straddling the lines between an overly controlling figure and someone who might actually care for his daughter. At this point it’s hard to tell exactly what his motivations are, but it only makes the wait for book 9 all that much harder. The main plot involves an ancient evil that ends up being a dark twist to Arabic Mythology. This creature is potentially powerful enough to even be a threat to Roland, although he still lets Kate deal with him.
Kate’s own power grew significantly at the end of Magic Breaks after she unintentionally “claimed” Atlanta with her magic. We also learn a little bit about what that means. Even though Kate is increasingly more powerful with each book, she doesn’t feel like a Mary Sue in any way. More so in this book than some others, she needs help from experts in specific magic fields. More importantly, she experiences her closest brush with death in the series yet, in a way that limits her for the rest of the book. Of course, this also brings us a few good jokes and some dramatically intense moments.
A good story, good characters and fun jokes doesn’t mean much if the writing is terrible. Thankfully, the husband and wife writing team of Gordon and Ilona are great writers. They come up with great ways to describe environments, Kate’s senses and they write some great dialogue. As a writer, it makes me want to use language in a more entertaining and varied way. That said, there is one minor mistake where they describe an event in Muslim history as “700 BC”. Islam didn’t show up until sometime in the 600’s AD. The mythology they used for the story predates Islam by at least a few centuries so other references to Arabic Mythology in BC isn’t a problem, but the Muslim in BC thing is worth mentioning. And to be honest, I’ve written entire scenes that base themselves on historical inaccuracies in my own work so one sentence isn’t that bad.
Although I hoped a few major supporting characters would have a bigger role in this book, I thoroughly enjoyed Magic Shifts. I would recommend this to anyone who thinks they could enjoy a series about a magic-wielding mercenary in a near-future world flooded by magic and halting technological development completely. It makes great use of mythology, both obscure and well-known, the characters are fun and the books strike good balance between dark and fun. That said, I would recommend that you start with book 2, Magic Burns. It’s a self-contained book, while after 3 (Magic Strikes), the Kate Daniels books become more and more of a series with each entry.
My next book will be Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I’m looking forward to this one because, even though the 6th movie is my least favourite, a friend of mine who’s a long-time fan of the series says this is his favourite book, and the movie is also his least favourite. There’s also the battle of the Astronomy tower, which didn’t happen in the movie. So yeah, I’m looking forward to how different this book is from the movie. After that, another non-fiction book, and then a vampire book I recently ordered and then either X-Wing: Rogue Squadron or Fellowship of the Ring.