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Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Author:  Ilona Andrews (Pseudonym for Ilona and Andrew Gordon)
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy with Romance 
Ratings:  Violence5; Sensuality2 in books 1-3; Sensuality4 in books 4+; Humor3
Publisher and Titles:  Ace

KATE DANIELS novels and novellas in reading order:
  .5    "A Questionable Client" (prequel novella in Dark & Stormy Knights2009) (also in Magic Graves, e-book, 2011)
 1      Magic Bites (2007)
 2      Magic Burns (2008)
 3      Magic Strikes (2009)
 3.5   “Magic Mourns” (also in Must Love Hellhounds anthology, 2009 (companion novella to Magic StrikesRafael and Andrea) 
 4      Magic Bleeds (2010)
 4.5   “Magic Dreams” (novella, also in Hexed anthology, 2011Jim & Dali)
 5      Magic Slays (2011)
 5.1    "Magic Tests" in An Apple for the Creature (2012, Julia's story)
 5.4   Gunmetal Magic (2012, KATE DANIELS worldRafael & Andrea)
 5.5   "Magic Gifts" (available as an e-book; also included in Gunmetal Magic (2012) 
 6      Magic Rises (2013; includes story, "An Ill-Advised Rescue") 
 7      Magic Breaks (hardcover & e-book-7/2014; paperback-2/2015)(includes story, "Magic Tests") 
 7.5   "Magic Steals" (novella, also in Night Shift anthology, 11/2014Jim & Dali) 
 8       Magic Shifts (8/2015) 
 8.5   "Magic Stars" (novella, 12/2015—Derek and Julie)
 9      Magic Binds (9/2016)
10     (to be announced) (FINAL)

KATE DANIELS WORLD (but outside KD story line):
      “Retribution Clause” in Hex Appeal (2012) 

This ongoing post will be revised and updated on 9/23/16 to include a review of Magic Binds, the ninth (and penultimate) novel in the series. That review will appear first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of novels 5 through 8 and two of the series novellas. 

                        NOVEL 9:  Magic Binds                        
     Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-Shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this. 

     Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar.

     Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead. 

    The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules.

     As we near the end of this great series, Kate Daniels is racing against time to defeat her father, Roland, once and for all. Several oracles have foreseen that Roland will kill both Curran and Kate's future, yet-to-be-conceived son, and she is determined that neither of those events will occur while she still has life in her body.

To review: In a previous novel, Kate was tasked with protecting Atlanta, but instead, she claimed the city, essentially becoming its queen, or Sharrim. Nobody is happy about that—including Kate herself—but she had to make the claim in order to ensure that everyone in the city survived. Something else to keep in mind: Ghastek and the Atlanta office of the People (the Masters of the Dead and their vampire army) technically belong to Roland, even though they live in Kate's Atlanta. This fact will become an important part of the plot of this novel. And remember that Curran is no longer the leader of the Pack. That position is now held by Jim, who has had a rocky relationship with Kate from the very beginning. And one last thing for Kate to worry about is the fact that Roland appears to be grooming Kate's niece, Julie, to become his next Warlord, a position that had been held by Kate's longtime enemy, Hugh. Hmmm...Why would Roland need a replacement for Hugh?

     The action in the novel begins when Kate confronts Roland over his kidnapping of Saiman, another supernatural being who has been at odds with Kate ever since she arrived in Atlanta. But even though Saiman isn't a friend, he belongs to Atlanta, so Kate is determined to demand his release. From that point on, all bets are off and the war is on between father and daughter (and anyone who stands between them...or next to them).

     Early on, the authors establish a pattern in which Sienna, a Witch Oracle, sends Kate clues about the next obstacle she must successfully vanquish if she is to succeed in defeating Roland. Naturally, all of the clues are completely out of context and impossibly vague in nature. For example, "He's coming...Fly higher horse..." (Who's coming? What horse?) and "The head may cause a problem. Be very careful." (Whose head?) First, though, Sienna lets Kate share her visions of the future and tells her, "As of now, one or the other will come to pass. The son or the father gives his life, Atlanta burns and the rest of us suffer. I can't see any other possibilities." But if Kate can to use her magic, that future vision will change dramatically. "You're the wild card," Sienna tells Kate. "If you are the pin on which this future hinges...then you have the power to alter it."

     Two main story lines weave in and out of the novel from beginning to end. First and foremost is Kate's deadly feud with Dad, but also important is her upcoming wedding. Kate chooses Roman to be both her wedding planner and the officiator of the vows. Roman is stunned (but quite pleased) at Kate's request because he is a priest of Chernobog, the Black God, also known as the Black Serpent and Lord of Darknesshardly the type of priest you'd want to officiate at your wedding. But he is Kate's friend, and she insists. Roman's involvement in the wedding provides the comic relief for the story. Roman takes his duties quite seriously (going way over the top), while Kate is inclined to believe that no one will mind if she shows up for her wedding wearing jeans and a tee-shirt with her sword on her back. At one point, Roman asks Kate, "What do you think this is, a party where you get to show up, say 'I do,' and go home?" And she has to admit that, "Yes. That's kind of how it went in my head."

     This duality—the back-and-forth scenes between the wedding planning and the battle fighting—work perfectly. Just when the fear and suspense build to unbearable heights, Roman strolls in with a tray of cake slices for Kate to taste, or he sends a crowd of bossy seamstresses to trap her into a fitting session. 

     Kate's magic has been growing in power, and she has no idea how to control it. Worse, her magic overwhelms her when it rises, making her forget about her friends and family and seducing her into letting it take over completely. She is desperate to find someone to train her, but Dad won't help, so who can she find who understands the family magic and is willing to help her? Kate's deepest fear about her magic is that it is turning her into her father, and she'd rather die than have that happen. The answer to Kate's problem is a twist that you'll never see coming.

     For regular readers of the series, you will be happy to learn that we get Christopher's full story in this book: his true identity and the reason for his mental breakdown. In a sad and unexpected twist, we also lose a supporting character who has been with the series almost from the beginning.

     This is a terrific build-up to the upcoming end of Kate's story. At the end of Magic Binds, we're just a few dangerous and painful steps from the big finale in the final novel. Please do not read this book as a standalone. If you have not read the previous novels, you will be completely lost because of the frequent references to people, places, and events that have played major roles in past adventures. Although I will be sorry to see the series end, it has been a wild and crazy ride that I am happy to have been a part of since the very first book.

    Click HERE to read an excerpt from Magic Binds on its page by clicking on the cover art.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Magic Binds is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are entirely my own.

     In an alternate Atlanta, waves of magic and technology ebb and flow across the city. When the magic rises, it knocks out all technology, and the supernaturals’ powers increase. Citizens must alternate between using horses and cars for transportation because cars (and other technology, like electricity and telephones) don’t work when the magic is up. Here is a quotation from the author's web site describing the KATE DANIELS world: "The world has suffered a magic apocalypse. We pushed the technological progress too far, and now magic returned with a vengeance. It comes in waves, without warning, and vanishes as suddenly as it appears. When magic is up, planes drop out of the sky, cars stall, electricity dies. When magic is down, guns work and spells fail. It’s a volatile, screwed-up world. Magic feeds on technology, gnawing down on skyscrapers until most of them topple and fall, leaving only skeletal husks behind. Monsters prowl the ruined streets, werebears and werehyenas stalk their prey; and the Masters of the Dead, necromancers driven by their thirst of knowledge and wealth, pilot blood-crazed vampires with their minds." 

     As the series opens, Kate is a powerful magic-using mercenary with a mysterious genetic heritage. She is recruited by the Order of Merciful Aid (aka the Order), a group run by knights and crusaders, whose purpose is to protect humanity against harm. Kate is a typical urban fantasy heroine with her sarcastic sniping, tough street cred, and excellent fighting skills, and she doesn’t respond well to figures of authority—like her bosses at the Order. Kate’s usual plan of attack is to “go and annoy everyone involved until somebody tries to kill you.” (Magic Strikes) Here, Kate summarizes her tragic family history—the source of much of her angst and her magic: “I was the biological by-product of a megalomaniac and a woman who magically brainwashed others into doing her will, and I was raised by a man who reveled in the knowledge that my biological father would one day kill me.” (Magic Slays, p. 122)

     The following quotation provides an insight into Kate's cynical and violent view of life: “Outside, the sunrise split the horizon, sudden and bright, like a gush of blood from a knife wound.” (Magic Slays, p. 156)

     One part of the series mythology that is new and very different from the usual depiction is the mythology of the vampires. In Kate’s world, vampires are sorry creatures, completely under the control of their Masters. They serve as mindless minions—used as household servants, messengers, guards, lookouts, and self-sacrificing soldiers. Their physical appearance is horrific: bald, skeletal, black-lipped, red-eyed, and foul smelling—far removed from the sophisticated vamps we usually find in paranormal fiction. This is definitely not your Eric Northman or Jean-Claude kind of vampire.

In Kate’s world, there are two primary groups of supernatural power brokers:
> The People, run by necromancers (Masters of the Dead). They are devoted to the study of the undead, animating them as vampires who serve as non-sentient, but powerful, slaves. Their supreme leader is Roland, who has a mysterious link to Kate’s past.
> The Pride, a unification of all of the shape-shifters under Curran Lennart, Lord of the Free Beasts (aka “Beast Lord”), who becomes Kate’s nemesis (and eventually her love interest). Members of the Pride live in and around the Keep, a huge, fortified residence, reminiscent of a castle.
     Other groups who turn up as either supporters or enemies in various books are the Natives (Native American shamans), the Norse Heritage group (Vikings), the College of Mages, the Temple (Jewish philosophers), witches, volhvs (Russian warlocks), druids, and more. Many magic users hire themselves out as mercenaries (aka mercs) to the Guild, which works somewhat like the craftsmen guilds of the Middle Ages. Kate worked for the Guild before she was recruited by the Order, and she has many friendsand enemiesamong the mercs.

     Plots include horrendous supernatural battles, with the expected level of injuries. Kate faces dozens of deadly creatures as she fights her way through life. Some of the weird supernatural villains are reminiscent of those in Simon R. Green’s NIGHTSIDE and Rob Thurman’s CAL LEANDROS. As the series progresses, Kate learns more and more about her family heritage, and not much of it is good news. She also must deal with the fact that her powers are increasing, and that some of them are very dark. The first four books take Kate through many dangerous adventures, but they also follow the development of her romantic relationship with Curran. Their rough and rocky romantic road includes lots of arguments, separations, and drama, but eventually ends with their HEA.

     Click HERE to go to the official WORLD OF KATE DANIELS web site which includes a character guide and a map of post-shift Atlanta. Warning—most of the links within this site are no longer active.

     Click on the following links to go to various series-related wikis: 

 > Kate Daniels WikiaThis wiki contains little more than the descriptions of the main characters. 

 > All the Tropes Wiki: Kate Daniels: This one has an interesting analysis of the tropes of the series that includes memorable quotes from the main characters.

 > Reference Questions Wiki Thread: This is a thread from the Ilona Andrews Forum in which the authors answer questions that fans ask about the KD series. The answers can be quite snarky (and funny) when the fans get hyper-critical about the quality of the writing.

                      NOVEL 5:  Magic Slays                      
     As the story opens, Kate and Curran are newly mated, and she is trying to get used to living in the Keep and being called “Consort.” In addition, Kate has resigned from the Order and opened her own business: Cutting Edge Investigations (in honor of her magical sword, Slayer). Early in the story, Kate’s friend, Andrea, shows up after being MIA for several months while she healed from injuries incurred in the battle that climaxed the previous book. Andrea is a shifter who masqueraded as human until her cover was blown after that same battle. As a result, she lost her job with the Order as well as most of her friends. Kate immediately hires Andrea as her very first employee.

     Kate’s first client is the Red Guard, an elite security organization that was hired to “protect” (i.e., imprison) Adam Kamen, the inventor of a mysterious machine. Both Kamen and his machine have magically disappeared from secure protective custody, and the Guard wants Kate to find both man and machine. No one will tell Kate what the machine can do, but all those who know anything about it seem very frightened. Some are even leaving Atlanta in a big hurry. Also on Kate’s worrisome agenda is Julie, her young ward, who has (once again) run away from the boarding school where Kate had hoped to keep her safe. 

     As Kate investigates Kamen’s kidnapping, she eventually learns what his machine is capable of, and she becomes just as frightened as everyone else. Soon, Kate discovers that two different groups are involved in the kidnapping. One group has Kamen, and the other group has the machine. When Kate and her friends are attacked by a magic-hating group called the Lighthouse Keepers, Kate begins to connect the clues, and the plot heats up. In short order, Kate and Curran are able to pull together a very temporary coalition of all the rivalrous magical groups in Atlanta for one big apocalyptic scene in which they battle the Keepers for the future of the magical world. In this book, Kate learns some troubling information about her mother and step-father. She also makes the surprising discovery that she has some relatives she never knew she had. 

                NOVELLA 5.4: Gunmetal Magic (Andrea and Raphael)               

      The romance between Raphael (Rafe) Medrano and Andrea Nash began back in the novella "Magic Mourns." Unfortunately, it hit a huge bump in Magic Bleeds, when Andrea made the decision to stick with the Order instead of the Pack. Rafe took that as a direct insult, and the two have been on the outs ever since (several months). Here's a review of these characters' biographies: Rafe is the male alpha of Clan Bouda (hyenas) and has been spoiled and treated like a prince all of his life. Andrea, on the other hand, is a beastkina hybrid bouda whose mother was a werehyena (a human who turns into a hyena) and whose father was a hyenawere (a hyena who turns into a humanoid creature that is barely human). Because beastkins are feared and hated by many shapeshifters, Andrea was beaten and tortured throughout most of her childhood by members of her bouda clan. As a result, she has always suppressed and hidden the bouda side of her identity. Rafe, on the other hand, has always gloried in his bouda heritage. 

     As Gunmetal Magic begins, the Pack asks Andrea to investigate the deaths of four shifter guards at one of Rafe's Atlanta reclamation sites. At that point, we know we're in for some new and rocky episodes in the Rafe-Andrea romance. Andrea is still getting used to being a civilian, having been kicked out of the Order after they discovered that she was a shape shifter. Now, she works with Kate at Cutting Edge Investigations. The plot is complex, with multiple levels of villainy and numerous story threads. Andrea's investigation eventually leads her into several vicious battles with gigantic, meat-eating insects; huge venomous snakes; and the monstrous demon Ammit"as big as a rhino, its head with a huge mane armed with long crocodilian jaws" (p. 145). She and her allies also have run-ins with a draugr and a power-mad Egyptian jackal god.

     The romance plot and the action plot are woven together in a most satisfying fashion. Andrea proves herself to be an able investigator as she pretty much solves the case on her own, but Rafe, of course, eventually comes along to fight at her side. The couple has many scenes together as they try to piece their relationship back together, and those scenes include lots of sarcastic gibes balanced by an equal amount of angst-filled emotion. 

     Supporting characters, as is usual in this series, play important roles, both dramatic and humorous. The most entertaining supporting character is Ascanio, the arrogant young bouda prince, who accompanies Andrea throughout her investigation. Other prominent supporting characters are Aunt B, the female bouda alpha and Kate Daniels herself, who shows up near the end to assist with the requisite climactic battle. Roman, the handsome, womanizing volhv (Russian warlock) who tangled with Kate and Andrea in a previous book, also shows up to help out, and his scenes with the jealous Rafe provide some nice comic relief.

     This is the first novel in the series that is not written from Kate's point of view, and it's just as good as the regular KD novels have been. This series specializes in fully developed characters and complex plots that are intricately designed and difficult to predict. You could read this book as a stand alone, but if you haven't read the KD novels, I suggest that you read them first. Click HERE for an excerpt.

                       NOVELLA 5.5:  "Magic Gifts"                       

     The action in this novella takes place during the same time period as the events in Gunmetal Magic, but from Kate's point of view instead of Andrea's. Several scenes overlap between the two books, but most are separate from the Gunmetal plot. In this story, Kate is presented with two completely separate problems: First, she must cast the deciding vote in determining who will head up the Guild (after the death of the former leader, Solomon Red, in the preceding book), and, second, she must find a way to save the life of a young boy who is slowly dying because his loathsome mother has placed a magical, energy-eating, seemingly unremovable necklace around his neck. 

     Most of the story revolves around the latter plot line as Kate and Curran rush from one bizarre supernatural creature to another in search of a way to remove the necklace before it kills the boy. There are any number of entertaining scenes, with two stand-outs: a short but hilarious run-in with the Vikings and a great come-uppance for the arrogant Ghastek (a leader of the People). There's also the essential climactic battle in which Kate takes down yet another nasty monster—the draugr (the same one that we meet at a later point in time in Gunmetal Magic). That battle explains Kate's hesitation in Gunmetal when Andrea asks for her help in getting information from that very draugr. I'm not sure whether it's best to read the novel first or the novella. I suppose it doesn't make too much difference.

     This is a nice story that gives us insights into Kate's new position as a Consort and how that role changes her relationship with her former colleagues—the mercenaries (aka mercs) who work for the Guild. By the end, Kate has to accept the fact that her position in the Pack comes with responsibilities, and that she must take on those responsibilities whether she wants to or not. As usual, there is plenty of sarcastic and humorous interplay among the characters and lots of action in the climactic showdown between Kate and the draugr

                      NOVEL 6:  Magic Rises                      

     The authors recommend (and I agree) that the best reading sequence is to read the short story, "An Ill-Advised Rescue" first because its events precede those in Magic Rises, and it provides the reason why Kate's old nemesis, Saiman, gets involved in the action of the novel. The story, which is included at the back of this book, involves Kate's rescue of the insufferable Saiman after he is kidnapped by some disgruntled Red Guards.

     The novel begins with the scene that is the heart of the plot: teenage werebear sisters from Curran's pack succumb to Lyc-V, the shapeshifter virus, and the pack has no medicine to cure them. Shifters with Lyc-V become insane and can no longer maintain a pure human or animal form. This is called "going loup," and the pack has no alternative but to put them down. All shifter parents live in fear that their children will succumb. The cure for Lyc-V is a rare substance called Panacea, and it is manufactured only in Europe by an unknown person or organization. The Europeans don't share their Panacea, so 25% of adolescent American shapeshifters die every year from Lyc-V. When the Europeans offer Curran a deal that will pay off in a shipload of Panacea, he and Kate decide to go for it, even though they know that it is a trap of some kind.

    In order to earn the Panacea, Curran and Kate and their bodyguards must guard Desandra, a pregnant female werewolf who is at the heart of a huge multi-pack political intrigue. Some people want to kill Desandra; others want to keep her alive; others want her babies dead; others want them alive. One of those who wants her dead is Desandra's father, Jarek Kral, a vicious sociopath who is determined to build an empire and destroy anyone who gets in his way. Jarek has already married Desandra off to two different shape shifters, pulling her back each time when a better deal comes along. In the process, Desandra has become pregnant with twins. The catch is that each twin was fathered by a different man.

     The European packs look with disdain on Curran and the other North American packs. They believe that they are more powerful and more entrenched in their culture than the Americans, and they don't try to hide their feelings. About ten years ago, Curran had some dealings with the Europeans, during which they managed to outsmart him, and he is determined that that will never happen again. The European packs don't realize how powerful Curran has become, so they are in for a big surprise. Kate also gets a huge surprise when Curran is familiarly greeted by Lorelei, a beautiful young werewolf princess who apparently developed a close friendship with Curran when he was last in Europe. If you thought that Kate's loving relationship with Curran would continue on its smooth path, you're in for your own surprise in this story.

     The plot follows the machinations of the Europeans as they put the pressure on both Kate and Curran. Kate has her hands full with the petulant pregnant lady, while Curran appears to be dallying with Lorelei. Also adding to the tension is Lord Megobari (aka Hugh d'Ambray), who is the warlord who serves Roland, Kate's vicious and powerful biological father, who tried to kill her when she was still in her mother's womb. Hugh owns the castle in which the shifters are gathered, and he controls the entire village surrounding the castle. Kate is terrified of Hugh, because he is a powerful magic user and a skilled swordsman, having been trained by the same man who trained Kate. She is certain that Hugh wants her dead, but she soon learns that he wants much more than that.

     This is a terrific storywell plotted and full of action and suspense. As events play out, Kate faces relationship problems and personal attacks, but she also gets more information about her biological father and about the death of her foster father. The tension begins to build from the time Kate and her group get on the ship that takes them to Gagra (a small town on the Black Sea), and increases exponentially after they land. That ship belongs to Saiman, who accompanies Kate's group as part of repaying the favor he owes her for rescuing him from his kidnappers (in the short story). The Europeans display their worst arrogant behavior, and events get particularly nasty when some mysterious monsters begin to attack Desandra, Kate, and the other Americans. Kate and crew must battle the monsters, protect Desandra, and get out alive with their payload of panacea. 

     Eventually, the authors rely on a deus ex machina to assist in saving the day, and I am usually critical when this type of literary trope is used. But this time, they have fitted it in so well into the plot action that it works perfectly. Once again, the authors have produced a winner of a story that is particularly poignant when Kate realizes that she is the sole human among the shapeshifters (other than the monstrous Hugh), and that she will never really be a part of their culture, no matter how deep her friendships may be. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Magic Rises (scroll down a bit to find it). 

                      NOVEL 7:  Magic Breaks                      

     The book begins with an annotated character list and an extensive series summary entitled “From the Journal of Barabas Gilliam.” Barabas is the Pack’s lead legal counsel as well as being a skilled knife fighter. For series enthusiasts, these sections serve as a nice review that puts this novel into perspective. For new readers or readers who have skipped some books, these segments will fill in the blanks on Kate’s adventures in previous books. In their introductory note, the authors suggest that, “if you are a long-standing fan of the series, the information in those two sections will probably sound redundant, and if you choose to skip them, you won't lose anything." 

     This is one of those books in which Kate and Curran are separated for much of the story. Curran is off on a hunting trip, while Kate is left alone and in charge of the Pack for 2/3 of the book. Naturally, things fall apart almost immediately, particularly when Kate is confronted by her sworn enemy, the arrogant and powerful Hugh d'Ambray. Hugh serves as Roland’s chief warlord, and he has always been determined to take Kate away from Curran and keep her for himself. Hugh’s appearance is a huge shock to Kate because she believed that he died in the explosion and fire that climaxed the previous book. Hugh claims that one of the Pack has murdered Mulradin Grant, one of the leaders of the People (aka Masters of the Dead), and he gives Kate just one day to identify the killer. Hugh promises that her failure will trigger a war between the People and the Pack. The early part of the book finds Kate and a small crew sneaking through the People’s territory to get information from one of the Pack’s undercover spies. Although the action is exciting and suspenseful, this trip doesn’t seem important enough for Kate to risk her life (against hordes of vampires, a wendigo, and Hugh himself). She is, after all, the Consort and is charge of the Pack while Curran is away, so why would she go off on such a dangerous journey when others in the Pack could have done the job? 

     As the rest of the plot plays out, Hugh out-maneuvers Kate again and again, always seeming to be a step or two ahead of the Pack. Eventually, Kate is put into extreme danger and Curran finally gets back to town in time to help her out, but a feeling of doom hangs over the story all the way through. Later, another one of Roland’s warlords enters the story, but his role is relatively small. At the end, Roland forces Kate and Curran to make a major life decision, but for me, Curran’s acquiescence doesn’t ring true. I can’t say any more without giving you a spoiler.

     The series story arc for the first eight books has always been headed for the big confrontation between Kate and her father—the arrogant, maniacal Roland, whose magical powers are stronger than anyone else in the world. The plot of this book leads us closer and closer to that fateful meeting, but when it finally does come, it’s over very quickly and has an anti-climactic feel to it. The final scene ends with a message from Dad that foreshadows his continuing involvement in Kate and Curran’s life, and the authors (in their “Dear Readers” note at the beginning of the book state that “Magic Breaks might finish the story arc, but it doesn’t finish the story.” So…I’m guessing that the next three books will deal with lots of family problems between Kate and Roland and Curran and Roland. And don’t forget Julia. She doesn’t play much of a role in this book, but Roland is definitely interested in her and her magic. Obviously, Roland has plans for Kate; we’ll just have to wait and see what they are and how she responds to them. 

     The humor in this book comes mostly from the snarky banter between Derek and Ascanio, both of whom perform heroically during the action scenes and provide some very funny comic relief during their down time. It will be interesting to watch what happens between the two of them when Julie is on the scene. Another source of humor is Cuddles, the huge donkey that Kate rides during the first part of the book. Some have criticized the authors for making too much of the donkey, but I thoroughly enjoyed those scenes. 

     One of my favorite lines comes when Kate explains to Curran that she met up with her grandmother’s skeleton deep in an underground cave and that Grandma gave her a rather gristly gift (which I can’t identify for you because it’s a spoiler). Curran’s response: “Do you know what most people have from their grandmother? A tea set. Or a quilt…If your family had a quilt, it would be made out of chimera skin and stuffed with feathers from dead angels.” (p. 300) So. true.

     Two supporting characters add interest and entertainment to the story. First is Ghastek, the new leader of the People. At first, he comes across as just another pompous politician, but when he and Kate bond after getting kidnapped together, we learn more about his unhappy childhood and begin to view him more sympathetically. When he finally discovers the identity of Kate’s father, his reaction is priceless. I’m sure that we’ll be seeing more of him in the final books. Then, there’s Desandra, whom we met in the previous book. She has become the beta for Clan Wolf and is getting ready to challenge Jennifer for the alpha position. She also goes along with Kate on some her more dangerous missions and proves to be courageous, aggressive, and sarcastically humorous. 

     It is obvious that Kate is getting tired of her “fishbowl” life—always on call, always being criticized by Pack members, always facing danger, and never getting any credit for putting her life on the line for the Pack. At this point in the series, she reminds me of Sookie Stackhouse at the end of her series in that both heroines have come to the point that they just want a normal life that doesn’t include daily battles with people who want to kill them and their loved ones. Kate has never really felt that she belongs to the Pack because she isn’t a shifter, and many of the Pack members have been happy to reinforce this fact, both to her face and behind her back.

     Although the Kate-Roland confrontation was kind of a bummer, I did enjoy this book immensely and couldn’t stop reading once I got started. I loved the opening “summary” sections because they provided an opportunity to review some of the details I had all but forgotten. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Magic Breaks.

     Also included in this book (at least in the hardback edition) is the story “Magic Tests,” which is a mystery story told from Julie’s point of view. That story was previously published in An Apple for the CreatureClick HERE to read my review of the stories in that anthology. 

                      NOVEL 8:  Magic Shifts                      
     After breaking from life with the Pack, mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate—former Beast Lord Curran Lennart—are adjusting to a very different pace. While they’re thrilled to escape all the infighting, Kate and Curran know that separating from the Pack completely is a process that will take time.

     But when they learn that their friend Eduardo has gone missing, Kate and Curran shift their focus to investigate his disappearance. Eduardo was a fellow member of the Mercenary Guild, so Kate knows the best place to start looking is his most recent jobs. As Kate and Curran dig further into the merc’s business, they discover that the Guild has gone to hell and that Eduardo’s assignments are connected in the most sinister way. 

     When the Pack offers Curran its stake in the Mercenary Guild, he seizes the opportunity—too bad the Guild wants nothing to do with him and Kate. Luckily, as a veteran merc, Kate can take over any of the Guild’s unfinished jobs in order to bring in money and build their reputation. But what Kate and Curran don’t realize is that the odd jobs they’ve been working are all connected. 

     An ancient enemy has arisen, and Kate and Curran are the only ones who can stop it—before it takes their city apart piece by piece. 

     Kate, Curran, and Julie are living in the Atlanta suburbs, frightening the neighbors, building up their depleted financial reserves, and waiting to see which pack members will separate from the pack and join their team. Then, Georgetta (George) Delaney, a pack werebear, begs them to find her werebuffalo fiancé, Eduardo Ortega, who has vanished without a trace. Eduardo has been working long hours as a merc for the Mercenary Guild so that he and George can get married and buy a house, but now he has disappeared. As Kate and Curran investigate, strange events begin to occur: hordes of savage ghouls enter the city; a human family is attacked by a wolf griffin that disgorges a huge, vicious magical insect after some mercs kill it; and a maniacal giantformerly an average-size humannearly destroys the Mercenary Guild and then disgorges an army of carnivorous, poisonous, dragon-like lizards after Kate kills it. All of these horrific creatures are obviously being created and controlled by someone wielding powerful magicsomeone who seeks immediate vengeance against anyone who fights back. Who is this villain? What is his/her/its end game? That is what Kate and Curran have to figure out, and their journey to the truth takes many dangerous twists and turns, including yet another near-death crisis for Kate. Even after Kate figures out the magical identity of the enemy (about half-way through the book), she still has to determine why it is in Atlanta, who or what it wants, and how to kill it or banish it once and for all. 

     Other story lines are woven through this main plot: George's feud with her father, Mahon, over his refusal to accept Eduardo into the family; Curran's decision to take over and rebuild the Mercenary Guild; and intrusions by Kate's father on her new non-pack life. Two supporting characters from past books play important roles in this adventure: Mitchell, the former mage who is now a ghoul, and Christopher, the magical genius who was mentally and physical tortured by the evil Hugh d'Ambray. After Kate rescued Christopher, he lived in the Keep, looked after by Barabas, the Pack attorney who also contributes his skills to this case.

     This is another enthralling tale that kept me turning the pages into the wee hours of the night. Although some of the explanations of Arabic mythology slow down the action a bit, that is never a real problem, particularly since the villain behind the monstrous attacks comes directly from the folklore and legends of Persia and has a sinister connection to some innocent citizens of Atlanta. Here, Kate summarizes the Arabic connection: "everything we've run across while trying to find Eduardo comes from Arabian mythology, which means it comes from the same geographical region as my magic. Same as my father's magic." So…could Dad be the one behind these attacks?

     Remember that in the previous book, Kate accidentally claimed Atlanta for herself while she was trying to prevent her father from taking over the city. Now, she feels a physical and emotional bond with the city, kind of like the way the hero of Kate Griffin's MATTHEW SWIFT SERIES is connected to London, but on a slightly lesser scale. As a result of her new and powerful link to Atlanta, Kate feels compelled to protect the city's inhabitantsboth human and supernatural. Early in the book, Kate explains, "Apparently it meant that I had assumed guardianship of the city and the safety of Atlanta was now my responsibility. In theory, the magic of the city was supposed to nourish me and make my job easier, but I had no idea how exactly that worked." As Kate is forced to call on her powers in times of danger, her connection with the city begins to pick up more strength. At one point when she is near deathKate feels "a tiny hint of a current pushing me up. It was weak, oh so weak, but it was there…The land I'd claimed was trying to keep me alive." As the story progresses, Kate's connection with the city becomes stronger and stronger, opening up all kinds of magical possibilities.

     This series continues to hold my interest all the way through each and every book. In one of the final chapters, Kate muses about her life: "There was a moment…when I wondered if it was ever not going to be like this. But then I decided I was crazy. It would always be like this, riding to certain death every few months, trying to protect people we would never meet. Some people painted. Some people baked. We did this, was. I just didn't want to die. I didn't want Curran to die…I wanted there to be a stretch of normal, if not for a few months, than at least for a few weeks." Unfortunately for Kate and Curran (but luckily for readers), the authors foreshadow some perilous adventures in their futurerisky business with the Mercenary Guild and more threats from Roland, Kate's egomaniacal father

     This is definitely not a stand-alone book, even though the authors do recapitulate some of the key events of the previous book. Do yourself a favor and start from the beginning of the series. I guarantee that you won't regret it because this is one of the best urban fantasy series currently in publication. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Magic Shifts

                        NOVELLA 8.5:  "Magic Stars"                        

     Scarred, solitary Derek Gaunt has separated from his Pack, and is truly a lone wolf. With no family he answers to no one; but is fiercely loyal to a chosen few. So, when several of those close to him are murdered, he’ll stop at nothing to hunt their killer through the magic-drenched streets of Atlanta. 

     Never one to be left on the sidelines, equally determined—some might say stubborn—Julie Lennart-Olsen soon joins in his pursuit; and what began as revenge turns into a race to save the city. Their search pits them against powers they never imagined and magic so old, it predates history. It may cost Derek his life, but there are things for which even he would risk everything.

     I have seen this novella labeled as 8.5 in the KATE DANIELS SERIES (KD) and .5 in the GREY WOLF SERIES (GW). For now, I'll keep it here in the ongoing KD post, but if more GW books are published, I'll start an ongoing post for that series as well. Derek is the Grey Wolf, once a handsome, sociable young man, but now an introverted loner after having his face badly scarred by molten metal in a previous novel. Currently, he is serving as Curran's assassin. Derek's co-star in this novella is Julie, Kate's 16-year-old ward, who now has the title of Herald of the City. Julie is a sensate who sees magic in an array of colors. She also has some powerful witch skills, and she has been getting magic lessons from Kate's egomaniacal, not-to-be-trusted father, Roland. It's pretty obvious that Derek and Julie are destined to become soul mates, but this story takes place in the very early stages of that whole process.

     The plot focuses on Julie and Derek's investigation of the brutal slaying of a human family by three shifters new to the Atlanta pack. The shifters were hired by the warlock, Caleb Adams, to steal one of three stones that have some type of magical power when they are brought together. Julie can see magical objects and Derek has shifter tracking skills, so they decide to work together to find the stones and punish the warlock. 

     The straightforward plot and the easy-going narrative establish the friendly relationship between Derek and Julie by allowing them time to pass teasing comments back and forth, work successfully together on a case, and learn that their feelings for one another run pretty deepespecially when each one is put in danger, only to be rescued by the other. 

     I hope that this does become a new series because both of the lead characters are interesting people with terrific back stories. This novella is a nice introduction to their relationship. Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from "Magic Stars" by clicking either on the cover art or the "Listen" icon.

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