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Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Author:  Ilona Andrews (pseudonym for Ilona Gordon and Andrew Gordon)
Plot Type:  Alternate History; Urban Fantasy (UF)     
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality2-3; Humor—3 
Publisher:  Avon (an imprint of HarperCollins)     
          Burn for Me (11/2014)
     This dynamic writing duo has hit it out of the park once again with a great new series featuring a world in which power lies with mages. Set in Houston, Texas, this alternate world has a slightly different history than our real world. As the first book opens, the U..S. is recovering from massive territorial wars over magic in Central America and South America. Formidable mage Houses hold all the power in cities and countries around the globe, and the relations among the Houses are not always peaceful.

     Book 1 begins with an explanation of the source of magic in this mythology. Back in 1863, a serum was developed that brought out people's magic talents—abilities of all kinds. "Some people gained ability to command animals, some learned to sense water from miles away, and others suddenly realized they could kill their enemies by generating a burst of lightning between their hands." As the serum spread around the world, people soon realized that many magic users were taking advantage of their new power by using it for evil and violent purposes, and the serum was locked away. By that time, though, the serum's effects had reached into people's DNA, and their magical traits were passed down to their children—generation after generation—changing the course of history forever. Click HERE to go to a page on the authors' web site that discusses types of magic in this mythology.

     Currently, mages are segregated into five ranks: Minor, Average, Notable, Significant, and Prime. Mage families are rated by the power of the head of the House and his or her children, particularly the heir. Here, a character explains what life is like for a prime: "When you're a Prime, especially an heir Prime, your life stops being your own once you graduate from college. Certain things are expected. Your specialty is predetermined by your family's needs. It's understood that you will complete your education, work to further the family interests, select a mate whose genetic pedigree is most likely to produce gifted children, marry, and have said children, at least one but no more than three"—one prime and two back-ups. Click HERE to go to a page on the authors' web site that provides in-depth information on the ranks and Houses of mages in this world. 

     For a lesser mage to stand a chance against a Prime, that mage would have to have shockers permanently inserted into his or her arms. Here, a character describes shockers as "completely invisible from the outside, but it lets you shock anyone with magic. Hurts you like hell, but it hurts whoever you grab even more. Seriously nasty gadgets." Shockers work like an amped-up taser, except that instead of pulling power from a battery, shockers pull power from the magic of the person doing the shocking. If the shockers pull too much power, they can kill the person doing the shocking and/or the person being shocked. Early in the book, the series heroine has shockers implanted into her arms as a means of self defense.

     That heroine is Nevada Baylor, a truthseeker mage (the third rarest magic talent) and a licensed private investigator who lives with her extended family in a converted warehouse. No one outside Nevada's family knows about her truthseeker talents because if anyone found out, she would be pulled away from her family and forced to work as an interrogator for either the government or one of the Houses. Nevada is the chief investigator for her family's investigation agency and is assisted by her mother, cousins, and sisters. Her mother is an army veteran—a lethal sharpshooter, and her grandmother—a mech-mage—repairs and restores armored vehicles for various Houses, all of which take their security quite seriously. During Nevada's father's extended terminal illness, the family mortgaged their agency to the powerful Augustine Montgomery, head of House Montgomery and chef executive of Montgomery International Investigations (MII) so the Baylors work hard to build their image, and pull in clients in order to can keep up their monthly payments to Montgomery. 

     The Baylor family lives by three rules: "Rule #1: we stayed bought. Once a client hired us, we were loyal to the client. Rule #2: we didn't break the law…It kept us out of jail and safe from litigation. And rule #3, the most important one of all: at the end of the day we still had to be able to look our reflections in the eye," meaning that they had no regrets and were sure they had done the right thing.

     Click HERE to go to a page on the authors' web site that provides biographies and sketches of the main characters in this series.

     This writing team has produced two other terrific series. Click HERE to read my reviews of their EDGE series. Click HERE to read my reviews of their KATE DANIELS series.

            NOVEL 1:  Burn for Me               
     As the story opens, everyone in Houston is talking about the pair of rogue mages who set off a fiery explosion in a bank vault, killing and injuring several innocent by-standers. The most notorious of the two is Adam Pierce  son of one of the most prominent Houses in Houston. Adam is a supremely powerful pyrokinetic Prime who broke from his family several years ago and has spent his time since then causing fiery trouble of all sorts. "A pyrokinetic was considered Average if he could melt a cubic foot of ice under a minute. In the same amount of time, Adam Pierce could conjure a fire that would melt a cubic foot of stainless steel." The other mage is Gavin Waller, a much younger and weaker telekinetic. The families of both men reach out for help. Gavin's mother seeks aid from her cousin, Connor, who heads up House Rogan, and Adam's grandmother goes to Montgomery.

     Connor (aka Mad Rogan, the Butcher, the Scourge) is an extremely powerful billionaire Prime, an inorganic telekinetic who earned his fierce and deadly reputation during his years in the military during the Mexican and South American wars. Millions of people have viewed his video on the Internet in which he completely destroys a Mexican town in just moments and with seemingly little effort, slicing up huge buildings and destroying them completely, one after another. Connor now lives in relative seclusion and even refers to himself as Mad Rogan. After leaving the service, Rogan put together his own security army equipped with top of the line technology and weaponry along with complete medical services for all staff. His people are loyal to him because he takes care of them and their families. Everything Rogan does, he does for practical reasons, and emotions never get in the way of rational thought. He is a cold-blooded killer, and he has accepted and even embraced that aspect of himself. 

     When Adam's grandmother reaches out to Montgomery, he knows immediately that his security people won't stand a chance against Adam's powers, so he calls in Nevada Baylor and assigns her to track down Adam and return him to his family. Right away, Nevada realizes that Montgomery is forcing her to take this assignment because she is expendable and that there is no way that her puny powers can win against Adam's ferocious fire. Unfortunately, the Baylor family's contract with MII states that they are required to take any assignment MII gives them, so if Nevada refuses the job, MII will call in their loan and dump them out on the streets with only the clothes on their backs.

     So…we have two people going after Adam Pierce: a rich and powerful amoral telekinetic Prime with a murderous history and a righteous truthseeker who is an excellent marksman but doesn't have any magical fighting powers and has never killed anyone. Their relationship gets off to a really bad start when Rogan kidnaps Nevada and tortures her for information about Adam. To the surprise of both of them, Nevada breaks Rogan's mind-torture spell and refuses to divulge any information, even under painful mental and physical duress. Rogan isn't used to people standing up to him and saying "no" to him, and he is definitely intrigued.

     The story line follows the pair as they team up out of necessity and strategize on ways to track down Adam before he does more damage to the city. As they gather information, they begin to realize that Adam's actions are not part of his usual attention-grabbing behavior pattern. Adam is searching for something, and it's up to Nevada and Rogan to figure out what that is and where it is. As events begin to lead toward a violent conclusion, the two become Houston's only chance to survive total destruction. Meanwhile, the pair's personal relationship becomes more and more complicated as lust blossoms between them, lust that is fanned by Rogan and rejected by Nevada (at least she makes a valiant attempt to reject it).

     This is a terrific book that appears to be leading into another fantastic series for this talented pair of writers. Although the story is dark and violent, there are touches of laugh-out-loud humor as eccentric characters do their thing. For example, even during times of danger, Grandma constantly snaps pictures of the super-hero Primes, and Nevada's family members snipe sarcastically at one another. All through the story, Nevada comes up with some very funny mental pictures and wry comments. For example, she describes an overly put together receptionist in great detail, ending with this slam: "She wore a white dress that really wanted to be a sleeve." I love that line!

     The epilogue provides a tease for the second book when Rogan gets a message from someone who was deeply involved in Adam's scheme and who is seeking revenge. I can hardly wait for book 2 to see what happens next. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Burn for Me that includes the prologue and the first two chapters.

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