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REVIEW: Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

Dear Ms. Andrews:

I have to confess: I have copies of the entire Kate Daniels series in both ebook and paperback form, just so I can read them anytime if I want to. For me, they are total comfort reads. To me, they write the perfect combination of urban fantasy, emotional realism and humor.

So as you can expect, I’ve been looking forward to the next installment of this series, and after reading it, I am pleased to say that I can definitely recommend it.

Magic Rises Ilona AndrewsKate and Curran are pulled out of their Atlanta home territory and into the muck of European shapeshifter politics. Desandra Kral is the only daughter of one of the most powerful alphas in Europe, and carrying the twins of two other high ranking alphas in Europe (each a child of different fathers). Since her firstborn will inherit an important strategic pass, the three European packs call for Curran to come as an impartial mediator and guard. Dangled before the Consort and Beast Lord is a European medicine that drastically reduces the chances of shapeshifter children completely losing their humanity and needing to be destroyed, which unfortunately happens to most shapeshifter children. It’s an offer that neither Kate nor Curran can refuse. Though the pair head overseas expecting a trap, it turns out that neither are truly prepared for the real reasons they are wanted in Europe.

One of the things I love about this series is that supernatural creatures aren’t just limited to garden variety werewolves. We have Babylonian lamassu, Greek shapeshifting dolphins and ochokochi of Colchis. Moreover I like that there is definitely a shapeshifter culture that informs their actions and personalities, rather than them just being humans who happen to don furry coats every once in awhile. When Kate arrives, she’s attacked by a mysterious winged, scaled feline creature that turns out to be an unknown shapeshifter, or so the other packs claim. Delving deeply into myths of scaled felines in various cultures lead them to the Babylonian lamassu, which everyone claims is ridiculous until it’s not.

Typically this series draws upon the myths and stories from various cultures which makes for more inclusive and realistic worldbuilding. I find that this series is one of the few that does diversity well without beating the reader over the head with a diversity bat. However, this book generally drew upon European mythologies, like Greek and Slavonic, which I suppose makes sense, since they are in Europe. But the Europe they portray reminds me a little more of a medieval wilderness than the modernly diverse Europe I’ve traveled. Still, if America is diverse, I didn’t see any reason why this area of Europe wouldn’t be as well.

While Kate investigates, shapeshifter princess of the U.S’s other most powerful pack is busy sniffing around Curran. Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of the jealousy-between-paired-lovers / why-aren’t-we-married storyline. I think it worked a little better here because she wasn’t instantly jealous. Kate mostly tried to give Curran the benefit of the doubt until she couldn’t anymore. But on the other hand, the previous books emphasized how shapeshifter mating practices were not like humans and that “to mate” meant a shapeshifter marriage. It seemed odd to me that the human version of the marriage would now be important other than as another way to turn up the tension.

Maybe because it felt like a trope, I felt that the emotional tension and issues between Kate and Curran was just not as strong in comparison to the other conflicts in the book. In fact, I thought there was more interesting stuff going on between Kate and the main enemy in this book. As a long time reader I thought that Kate learning more about the death of her adoptive father and the evolution of her feelings toward who he had been had more resonance. It was more interesting to see Kate’s evolving sense of who she is and coming to terms with living the life she had always been warned not to live. Still, Kate and Curran’s relationship development and resolution was definitely satisfying from a romance reader perspective.

I always felt that secondary characterization was one of the stronger aspects of this series. The interaction of various unique personalities not only makes for great humor, but really made each character stand out. For instance, the introduction to the mistreated Desandra paired nicely with the later revelation that she was actually an intelligent figure and also made her emotional journey come together nicely. In addition, the ultimate fates of some other long-running characters became some of the more emotionally vivid and visceral parts of the novel.

Reading this made me want to go back and reread the previous books because there were certain things that I had just forgotten. I think there’s enough here for the first time reader to get into the world, but this is definitely a must for Kate Daniels fans. As an urban fantasy, I think the story deserves an A- but if you’re reading primarily for the romance, I would say B+. I still can’t wait for the next one.

A-/B+

~Amy

 

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Amy

Amy is a feminist who never realized how much she would love being a stay-at-home mom (at least for now). She reads everything, but has a particular fondness for anything with speculative elements and romance. Her favorite authors change with the seasons but most recently include Ilona Andrews, Kristin Cashore, and Laini Taylor.

30 Comments

  1. Jane A
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 09:11:19

    This is one series that I have enjoyed very much in audiobook format, but that does not seem to be available yet. Since I love this series I may have to break down and get an ebook copy first. You’ve really whet my appetite for it. Thanks for the review!

  2. Lada
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 10:25:04

    I noticed that in the acknowledgements the authors suggest first reading the short story (An Ill-Advised Rescue) that’s included at the back of the book. Is that what you’d recommend?

    Thanks for the great review, Amy. Why am I stuck at work right now??

  3. Miss_Malapert
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 10:27:23

    Great review! I was soooo tempted to develop some sort of 24-hour “virus” so I could stay home from work to read this today. (Why are Tuesdays new release days?) The Kate Daniels series has become one of my favorites. So addictive. I love the cast of background characters too; they really add so much to the series.

  4. Ellen
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 10:32:51

    @Jane A:

    I think the audio version by Renee Raudman is available now.

    http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_3?asin=B00E67Q50W&qid=1375188816&sr=1-3

  5. Connie
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 10:50:22

    I started the first of the series, but was not turned on. Some suggest to start with the second or third. I am in need of a new series and everyone raves about Kate. Should I give the first another try? What do you suggest. This one sounds great but I think I need to start somewhere in the beginning. Thank you!

  6. Lada
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 11:13:46

    @Connie: It took me awhile to get into the first book…over 100 pages probably and I started and stopped it a few times. But you can easily start with the second book, especially because I think quite a few of the details from the first change any way. If you like UF, you should really give the series another chance. It hits its stride by book 2 and IMO, has only gotten better.

  7. Readsalot81
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 17:28:19

    @Connie – Even the authors themselves say that Magic Bites is really pretty rough – I’m in agreement with Lada – the first book does struggle to get going and keep you interested.. but it’s definitely worth a second shot. Magic Burns is better than Magic Bites – and they just keep getting better as the series progresses.

    I love Kate and Curran together, but for me, the romance took a backseat to everything else that was going on. I flat out loved the villain. LOVED HIM. I want more. lol

  8. Sneha B
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 18:04:29

    Hmmm.. Ilona Andrews is my Favourite author in the Urban Fantasy genre, bar none. And I have loved every single book in the fabulous Kate Daniels series. Some books- a bit more like Magic Strikes and Magic Slays and some a little less like Magic Bites.

    However, this book just didn’t work for me. I thought there were inconsistencies in the way the characters behaved, there was very little humour and the writing lacked that sharpness, that unique Ilona-Andrews touch . Most importantly, the Kate-Curran relationship-and-interactions were completely unenjoyable…

    The jealousy-between-paired-lovers trope seemed forced to me and I seriously didn’t get why everyone seemed so bothered they weren’t married.

    Kate just seethes internally about her jealousy and insecurities ; her interactions with the villain aka Hugh Ambray kept on becoming more fun to read. ( so much that I started rooting for him!!!)

    There were many new characters, fearsome creatures eating people, conspiracies and mysterious mountain men. But they didn’t stick with me… I felt that this book was consumed by too much Kate-Curran-new character drama.

    In spite of all this negativity, I do agree its a good book… I was just disappointed by the fact that their relationship is portrayed as unable to remain intact in the face of outside influences

  9. Susan
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 00:27:45

    Don’t snitch on me, but I called in sick today to read this. Overall, I liked it, but there were things that bothered me. I think I’m still processing it and may even need to take a few days to think about it before my next reread. (Yeah, I’ve reread all these books multiple times.)

  10. Angela
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 06:38:11

    I also really enjoyed, in fact loved, this book. It made me laugh, cry, cheer and kept me unable to put it down all the way through. The overall story arc was moved along nicely, and I loved the developments with Kate herself. I like that she’s ever evolving, and learning/accepting who she is. The plot with the “villain” was so incredibly intriguing and had me on the edge of my seat. And I understood the relationship stuff with Kate and Curran.

    I understood why he did what he did, so it didn’t really feel forced or tropey (to me), but I did hate it at the same time. I hated how he hurt Kate. HATED. If i could have kicked him in the head, I would have. Many times over. And I think I needed just a little bit more resolution between them. I think if…It’s really hard to talk about this without spoilers… If Kate had been allowed to get some justice over what had been done to her, I think I would have felt more satisfied. It’s not to say I was unsatisfied, but a little more wouldn’t have hurt either.

    My main reason I’m okay with it, though, is because while I would NEVER accept something like that in my relationships, it does work for both Kate and Curran’s characters. The reasoning, and discussion, they had rang incredibly true to me, for them.

    This book ripped my heart out, crushed it a few times, and then shoved it back in. In the end it’s right up there as one of my favorites in the series. After I finished, and managed to write my review, I guessed this would probably be a pretty divisive book.

  11. Victoria Paige
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 17:03:54

    I found this to be a great read but not one of my favorite Kate Daniels. The romantic conflict in this book didn’t work for me. Though after Curran explained it, it kind of made sense—and not— given what we know about our characters. I’m seriously disturbed that I found Hugh more intriguing and attractive than Curran in this book. Sigh, what is it about bad boys?

  12. Amy
    Jul 31, 2013 @ 22:41:59

    @Angela: Could you or someone else who has read this give me a spoiler (hidden via the spoiler tags for others) re how C hurt K? At this point I have really enjoyed reading about their relationship and the way it has progressed. But your comments make me wonder how bad things get and whether he’ll do things that are “unforgivable” in my book.

  13. Angela
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 09:25:41

    @Amy: Sure! Can someone remind me how to hide/spoiler tag something here? I forgot the code?

  14. Nicola W
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 11:17:15

    I’m really looking forward to reading this book, but amazon.co.uk still has it up as delivered in 1-3 weeks! ARGH! Also I don’t have a kindle. I’m trying to be patient. Really, I am. But it’s soooooo difficult.

  15. Cheryl Sterling
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 11:42:21

    Thanks for giving it two ratings. Different readers look for different aspects of a story, and your A-, B+ score will help each. I’ll add this to my TBR pile.

  16. Aoife
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 14:49:44

    Sigh. Why, why do authors feel as though they have to stir up an otherwise perfectly satisfactory and happy relationship with the jealousy angle. This all by itself has caused me to quit series that I have loved, and I was not happy to see that inserted in this latest installment of the Kate Daniels series. I hated this part of the plot, it changed the way I felt about both characters, and I didn’t think much of the resolution, such as it was. I’m not really sure I can buy into their commitment to each other at this point, and that, for me, was what made the series special.

    This and Toby Daye book in the fall were my most anticipated reads, and now I am really apprehensive about the Toby Daye book, because I really was extremely disappointed in the direction this one went.

    Drama for the sake of drama. Yuck.

  17. cleo
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 15:05:03

    @Angela: I think the code is this – just delete the spaces within the shush tags:

    [ shush reason=”spoiler”] text of the buried comment [ / shush]

  18. Holly
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 16:53:23

    I agree with Aoife about the jealousy. Now for spoilers (major spoilers, not just about C&K):

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    Curran went too far. The fact that he went to the point that everyone else thought he’d marry her – by standing too close to her naked, feeding her, letting her sit in Kate’s chair – was WAY too much. Some flirting and walking? Fine. But he lied to Kate as well, and he didn’t help her out. I was not happy with the resolution, particularly because he brought up her being nervous about marriage/children – well, then ASK HER ABOUT IT. I don’t like conflict that can be resolved with a conversation.

    I also didn’t understand all the marriage drama. Shouldn’t that have come up in the last book after everything Kate did for him in the fourth?

    Also the end- what happened to Lorelai? And why is Kate not suspicious of Christopher after finding out who Hibla really is?

    I really liked the book aside from the relationship crap. If that keeps up, I will stop reading the series. Watching a relationship grow through challenges? Fine. Jealousy and stupid misunderstandings the whole way? No thanks.

  19. Jane
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 17:11:25

    @Holly: The relationship issues were very hard for me to swallow as well. I felt like there was so much more attraction and tension between herself and the other guy that the scenes with Curran felt even more pedantic.

    Like you, everything about the book was great but for the romance. I almost would like that portion of the series to be excised or at least really backburnered.

  20. Amy
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 17:31:45

    Thanks to all who shared spoilers. From what I’ve read about Magic Rises, I’m seriously thinking that it would be best for me to skip this book. I’m a romance fan first and an urban fantasy/paranormal fan second. So I only read UF and P books that have good romance elements in it. In addition to the world building, I have really loved the development of Curran and Kate’s relationship, and that has been the key reason why I have continued to read this series. Everything that I’ve read in the series so far has led me to believe that they are a really strong couple — meant-for-each-other type of couple — who have come together amidst blood and pain. I believe in their ability to endure conflicts, resist outside temptations, etc. while they continue on the journey to battle their enemies. It appears that Magic Rises will destroy those beliefs for me. If I read this book, I don’t think I will be able to enjoy rereading the earlier books in the series. I also don’t know that I will be able to read future books that may work out these relationship issues because I would no longer believe in the strength of their commitment to each other, Curran’s integrity, etc. ; and I will always wonder who else may come along to cause Curran to act the way he acted. As Holly stated above, “Watching a relationship grow through challenges? Fine. Jealousy and stupid misunderstandings the whole way? No thanks.” What’s worse is the fact that the series up to this book has created an expectation (for me) about these characters and their relationship; and to change them now and in such a way is truly baffling and disappointing. I am really bummed.

  21. Holly
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 17:52:29

    @Jane Yes, I agree about the attraction etc with the other guy. Though ultimately I can see why she wouldn’t wind up with him, there are elements that made me see why she could, particularly with the contrast of the Curran scenes.

    I hope their relationship is on the backburner in the future as well. Let them just be together. There’s plenty of other things going on.

  22. Aarati
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 18:56:46

    For me, the storyline was an A and the romance was a B+. What Curran did was wrong IMO but it just goes to show that nobody’s perfect. While I was completely pissed at him at the time, I also eventually understood his reasoning, which was revealed later.

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    The naked thing wasn’t a big deal for me. They’re shapeshifters, after all. The food was, mostly because the reader knew how much significance food holds for the shapeshifters. But if he hadn’t done that, then the other packs wouldn’t have thought he was biting into Lorelei’s bait and Kate would’ve been a recipient of a lot more attempted assassinations. Maybe the reason I forgave him so easily is because I KNEW deep inside that there was an ulterior motive.

    Also, Ilona answered the question on what happens to Lorelei on her blog: “Lorelei thought she was a princess in a crystal. She thought that she was smarter than everyone else and that she was this seductive gift to men and that if only Curran spent some time in her company, she would wrap him around her finger. When they tell her to go and sit down, it’s the ultimate blow to her ego and to her view of herself. She doesn’t matter. They don’t even bother with killing her, because she is inconsequential. They just dismiss her and move on. She will never recover from that. Killing her after that seemed kind of redundant. My guess is, she would get out of the castle – because slimy little things like her always do – and go on to have a very mediocre life somewhere.”

  23. Holly
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 21:03:34

    @Aarati Thanks for posting that info from Ilona’s blog, I went and found answers to a few other questions that I had. Now will try to avoid spoilers for book 7 because whenever it comes out, it will be in H/C so I’ll have to wait for a library copy.

  24. Pam
    Aug 01, 2013 @ 21:50:51

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    text of the buried comment [/shush
    Rooting for Hugh? More attractive than Curran? Come on! How can anybody think Hugh is anything but the ruthless evil person he shows himself to be? Yes, Curran could have handled the situation better, but remember how Kate plays poker? And yes, at first Hugh did what he though might impress Kate, but then his true colors emerged. Kate summarized it herself when she compared him to Curran. He has shown himself to be a bigot when it comes to shifters, even worse than the people at the Order. And the final betrayal with the barrels of panacea proves just how rotten he is. I hope Curran gets to finish him off in the next book.
    Couples have problems and misunderstandings all the time, even in UF romances. Cat and Bones overcame a four year separation in their series and are more in love with each book! When so many of these series have the leads jumping from one lover to another, this series stands out. The deep love between Kate and Curran is the glue that holds the series together. I think that what happened in this book made their love even stronger in the end. (Open the box.) The authors are my favorite UF writers. I can’t even imagine K&C spltting up. I’ll stop reading if they do. BTW, what do you think “Oh boy”, meant?

  25. Amy
    Aug 02, 2013 @ 08:15:39

    @Lada: I think new readers might want to keep the short story for last, because it does give information that isn’t all that thrilling otherwise. Ongoing fans might want to read the short story first, but I think it works either way.

  26. Amy
    Aug 02, 2013 @ 08:17:49

    @Connie: I agree with @Lada and @Readsalot81 that you might want to start with the second book. It definitely gets better as the series progresses.

  27. Aarati
    Aug 02, 2013 @ 11:08:35

    @Pam:

    Buried Comment (Reason: spoiler)   Show

    I thought the “Oh boy” and “psych” was a reference to the end of Magic Burns.

    He put the book down. “As you wish.” He rose and walked past me. I lowered my sword, expecting him to pass, but suddenly he stepped in dangerously close. “Welcome home. I’m glad you made it. There is coffee in the kitchen for you.”

    My mouth gaped open.

    He inhaled my scent, bent close, about to kiss me…

    I just stood there like an idiot.

    Curran smirked and whispered in my ear instead. “Psych.”

    And just like that, he was out the door and gone.

    Oh boy.

  28. Sirius
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 09:11:03

    Count me amongst those who loved everything about the book but romance stuff. It is not the disagreement that bugged me – it is that I saw it as incredibly contrived. Reason for Curran’s actions made sense – his actions made zero sense to me. Kate’s insecurities? Sure she has those but insecurities in that situation? Sorry not buying at all. But I still loved the book overall and can’t wait till next one.

  29. Review of Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews | Fantasy Cafe | Reviews of Fantasy and Science Fiction Books
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 16:07:12

    […] Dear Author […]

  30. Angela W
    Aug 29, 2013 @ 21:04:44

    My heart was in my throat for most of this book, because unfortunately I over-empathised with the feeling of Kate watching Curran treat whats-her-face (ha! can’t remember her name) like his new Consort. I also loved the Kate/Hugh interactions, and a very tiny part of me was rooting for him, and hoping he and Kate would take off so she could grow her power. A very tiny part. I do hope whats-her-face turns up again though so that Kate can kick her butt.

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