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REVIEW: On the Edge by Ilona Andrews

Cover image of On the Edge by Ilona AndrewsDear Ms. Andrews,

On the Edge was the first of your books that I’ve read, but it will not be the last.

Rose Drayton and her two young brothers, Jack and Georgie, live in the Edge, an area where two dimensions known as the Weird and the Broken overlap. In the Weird, people have magical abilities and magical creatures exist there as well. The Broken is our world, where no one possesses magic.

Rose and her brothers do have special abilities, and in Rose’s case, hers are powerful enough that men from both the Edge and the Weird want to marry her in order to make use of her gene pool. Rose has refused all these offers in no uncertain terms.

Since her mother died and her father abandoned her family, Rose has been raising Jack and Georgie. To support the boys, Rose works as a cleaning lady in the Broken. She has to save every penny just to buy Jack shoes, and between his shifting and Georgie’s raising creatures from the dead at the expense of his own health, she has her hands full.

One day an earl from the Weird turns up on the Draytons’ doorstep. The man, who goes by the name of Declan, wants Rose to come away with him to the Weird. Declan possesses powerful magical abilities and can therefore do Rose a great deal of harm, so Rose cuts a deal with him. She will issue Declan three challenges and if he completes all of them successfully, she will go with him. If not, Declan will go away and leave Rose and her brothers in peace.

Shortly thereafter, Rose loses her cleaning job through no fault of her own. Because the household is in desperate need of money and because Declan rescues Jack from two menacing magical creatures which he calls hounds, Rose agrees to let Declan stay under her roof in exchange for a gold coin a day.

Rose soon finds herself attracted to the handsome and clever Declan but she mistrusts his motives. The boys, who have no male figure in their lives, begin to look up to him. As the four of them join forces to fight the dangerous hounds, the connection between Declan and the Draytons deepens.

While I liked them both, at first I felt that Rose and Declan were a little too good to be true. As I kept reading, though, I began to see that they had a few limits and flaws. Rose is stubborn and mistrusting where men are concerned, though she has good reasons to be that way. Declan isn’t always as upfront as he could be, though he too has his reasons.

It takes a little while for the story to get rolling and for Declan to appear, but the wait is worth it. The romance between Rose and Declan echoes fairy tales and folk tales, while at the same time being refreshingly grounded in the reality of Rose’s daily struggles to make ends meet and cope with all the trouble her brothers get into. The secondary characters, especially the shape-shifting Jack and the necromancing Georgie, are also delightfully real.

The villain of the story is really over the top, and that was one of the very few problems I had. I felt that the book lost some of its grounding in the real every time this villain or his minions made an appearance.

The romantic in me would also have liked for Rose and Declan to have more time alone together than they did, but I was pleasantly surprised at how satisfying their courtship was even with two children around most of the time.

I really enjoyed On the Edge, and I especially loved the way reality intermingled with fantasy in the world of the book. The characters might have magical powers needed to save their world, but they also shopped at Wal-Mart and had to stretch their pennies to pay for gas and groceries.

I would recommend this book to fans of Charlaine Harris and Patricia Briggs, and to anyone who enjoys a romantic fairy tale now and again. I had great fun reading it and I feel that its spot on my top ten list of 2009 favorites was well-deserved. My grade: B+/A-.

Sincerely,

Janine

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in Mobi/eReader/epub format from Fictionwise or other etailers.

This book was provided to the reviewer by either the author or publisher. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free. The Amazon Affiliate link earns us a 6-7% affiliate fee if you purchase a book through the link (or anything for that matter). We do not earn an affiliate fee from Books on Board through the book link.

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character-driven books. Examples include novels by Shana Abe, Loretta Chase, Patricia Gaffney, Cecilia Grant, Judith Ivory, Carolyn Jewel, Laura Kinsale, Julie Anne Long, Alison Richardson, Nalini Singh and Pam Rosenthal. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, "Kiss of Life", appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com. or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

32 Comments

  1. Preeti
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 16:58:09

    I had skipped this authors’ books during my oh-not-another-urban-fantasy reading burnout a few years back. But then I read an Ilona Andrews novella in MUST LOVE HELLHOUNDS with impressive romantic and sexual tension b/w h/h. I’ve been meaning to check out the novels in the series ever since. Is this the first book?

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  2. Janine
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 17:13:20

    @Preeti: This is a different series than the Kate Daniels series. The first book in that series is Magic Bites, which I haven’t read. Here’s the order of the Kate Daniels series, taken from Ilona Andrews’ site:

    1. Magic Bites
    2. Magic Burns
    3. Magic Strikes
    4. Magic Mourns (novella in Must Love Hellhounds)
    5. Magic Bleeds.

    On the Edge is part of a new series and is the first book in that series. Readers who have read both series may be able to tell us how different they are. I have only read On the Edge at this point.

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  3. Janine
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 17:24:25

    Forgot to add: Jane reviewed Magic Bites here.

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  4. jmc
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 18:57:55

    @Preeti: The two series are quite different in tone, voice and style. The worlds in which they are set are very different, with only “magic” in common, and that only very generically. In On the Edge, the normal and the magical co-exist in the equivalent of modern day; Kate is set about 30 years in the future (I think the date is given or calculable based on info in Book #3), in a world in which “tech” has fallen and “magic” comes and goes in waves. The POVs/narration are different, too: Kate is the only narrator of her series, while you get more POVs from the other series.

    For all the adventure in On the Edge, the Weird/Broken series looks like each one is going to be a stand alone romance, with related MC’s and a consistent world, and a HEA/HFN for each. The Kate Daniels series is most emphatically not genre romance; although there is a romance thread, I’m curious about how HFN or HEA it may ever be. I’m a relative noob to UF, so I’m not sure how original the series is; the world building seems quite distinctive to me, but someone who has read more widely might disagree.

    I’ve enjoyed both series so far, but if asked to pick a favorite, it would be Kate Daniels. Probably because I’ve had three books to get to know her, and I like her voice.

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  5. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 21:43:55

    Man, I adore Ilona’s stuf. I was lucky enough to get an early read of Magic Bleeds and it is so, so good. The Kate Daniels are one of my fave series.

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  6. Susan
    Jan 05, 2010 @ 22:25:48

    Does anyone else get hooked on a series (in this instance the Kate Daniels books) and then doesn’t want to try a new series/book by the same author because they just want the author to focus on the first series? That is how I felt about this book. I didn’t want to read it b/c I am dying to read Kate Book Four (aka Magic Bleeds) and didn’t want to be distracted from my longing. But in the agony of waiting I gave in and read On the Edge. And I’m so glad I did. What a great story and now I’m waiting for more books about the Weird/Broken.

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  7. Janine
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 00:18:31

    Susan, I am your polar opposite in that I am usually wishing my favorite authors would stop writing same-character series and write more stand-alone books, or series where the focus is on different characters in each book! I like to read about new-to-me characters so I am glad the next Edge book will not be about Rose and Declan.

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  8. Brandy
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 01:00:40

    I came to read Ilona Andrews books through On The Edge. It was my first book by the author and I enjoyed the world building and characters. After that I HAD to try a Kate Daniels book and soon became hooked and read all the ones published until now in a week. The next book set in the same world as On The Edge has (so far) been titled Bayou Moon (and is set to be released early Fall) and Kate book 4 will be released later this May. (According to the author’s website.)

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  9. Ilona Andrews
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 05:34:43

    Hi Janine,

    Thank you so much for reading the book and for the review. I really appreciate it.

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  10. Ilona Andrews
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 06:13:00

    @Preeti: Hi Preeti,

    ON THE EDGE is about 50/50 romance and a modern fantasy. It was meant as a fairy tale and it’s a bit over the top in some parts. It’s romantic, it has a noble hero and a scary villain. When my husband and I were writing it, I used to joke that we packed every romantic staple into it except for the secret baby. It’s almost like a regency set in rural Georgia, with magic, and demonic critters. The humor is more subtle, the tone is lighter.

    The Kate Daniels series, which Janine was very kind to list, is an urban fantasy. There UF is a wide genre; some books lean toward the mystery end of the spectrum, some lean toward romance. The Magic books are more sword and sorcery, almost like a UF version of Thudarr the Barbarian. The setting is rich with a lot of mythology thrown in, problems are typically solved with a sword, and the humor mostly consists of sharp one liners. There is a romantic thread, but it builds slowly over several volumes. If you’re looking for a hotter read, it might not be the right thing.

    I don’t want to discourage you from reading my work by any means, but it would be dishonest to misrepresent the books. There is a lot of romantic tension in the Magic series but the relationship doesn’t really start rolling until the third book and even then it’s mostly witty repartee and kissing in the hot tubs.

    If you do decide to give the Magic series a shot, the first book is probably the worst of the lot. Each is a complete story, so some people start with the second one. There are some excerpts here: http://kate.ilona-andrews.com/ together with the breakdown of some characters and the world.

    PS. I’m so glad you liked Magic Mourns. Andrea and Raphael are a lot of fun to play with.

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  11. Kelly L.
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 07:41:25

    @jmc: You may be a noob to urban fantasy, but IMHO, you’ve intuited correctly. The Magic series has some of the most distinctive world-building I’ve seen in the genre. Heck, some of the most distinctive world-building in any type of fantasy. I love Andrews’ stuff…

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  12. LizJ
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 08:02:45

    I like both the Kate Daniels series and the new one that began with “On The Edge” – I would say that “On The Edge” might appeal more to those who like romance and who don’t typically venture into the SF&F section of the bookstore, not only because of the HEA contained within the storyline of the book, but also because the style IMO is more like a romance novel than an urban fantasy (although I do believe it was shelved in SF&F in the bookstores I frequent).

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  13. Estara
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 09:09:55

    @Janine: Heh, I’ve liked all Ilona Andrews books so far myself, but actually I wouldn’t have minded reading up on another Rose adventure in the Weird this time. However I really liked the hero of the next EDGE book in the first one, so it’s all good.

    I’d like to break a lance for her great science fiction romance novella from Samhain, Silent Blade, as well! Which I would love to have a series follow-up… well, as far as I can see, I’ll like whatever she writes anyway.

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  14. Melissa
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 10:46:56

    I am reading On the Edge right now and I am really enjoying it so far. The story is very unique and interesting. I am primarily a romance reader but I have dipped my toe into the urban fantasy realms with Patricia Briggs series (which I love) and Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. So far, On the Edge has enough romance to keep me happy. I would like to know more about the hero’s motives but I figure they will become more clear as the story progresses.

    Ilona – wonderful book! I am going to try the Magic series next. Have you said who is going to be the hero of the next Edge book or does the story continue to follow Rose and Declan?

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  15. Janine
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 11:32:09

    @Ilona Andrews: You’re welcome! It was a pleasure to read it.

    @Estara: I didn’t mean it as a slight to Ilona or to the characters of Rose and Declan. I would read a followup book about them as well, and likely enjoy it — but chances are, not as much as I enjoyed the first, because for me, getting to know characters is one of the pleasures of reading, and later books in series that follow the same characters usually have diminishing returns for me. I think I’m very much in the minority in this. I’m always game to read a first book, and if I liked it, even the second, but if I get to the third book in such a series, my ability to enjoy it is usually limited, and I almost never go on to the fourth book. It feels as though my appetite for reading about those characters has been satisfied.

    I don’t know anyone else who feels this way about them, so I don’t mean this as a criticism of any author. I’m just grateful that Andrews is (are) writing a series that introduces new characters with each book. I will likely read the first book in the Kate Daniels series as well (or maybe the second, as she recommends), but based on my reading patterns, the odds are much better that I’ll stick with the Edge series because it introduces new characters and has a greater focus on romance.

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  16. Janine
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 11:32:50

    @Melissa: So glad to hear you are enjoying the book!

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  17. Ilona Andrews
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 12:43:49

    @Melissa:

    So glad you like it!

    The second one is about William. :)

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  18. Sabrina M.
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 12:51:40

    Great review!
    I enjoyed “On the Edge” a lot and was also a bit suprised about how different it is from the Kate Daniels books. I like that the new series is a bit lighter and concentrates more on the romance.

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  19. Melissa
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 13:02:03

    @Janine,

    Yes, I am really enjoying it! I am about halfway through and am wishing the next book was coming out soon! Thanks for the great review.

    @Ilona Andrews,

    Thanks for answering! I will be looking forward to William’s story, he seems like a good guy from what I have seen so far. I am really enjoying your writing style and the very imaginative world. Plus some of the parts are a bit funny too, with the Teddy bears’ names – I’ll take a Mr. Bana!

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  20. Estara
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 13:05:11

    @Janine:

    I didn't mean it as a slight to Ilona or to the characters of Rose and Declan.

    Don’t worry, I got that! Coming from fantasy and scifi into romance myself, I have no problems with long series. I like getting to know characters, but if I love them I love exploring their further adventures.

    Some fantasy authors manage that in one book (Robin McKinley – The Blue Sword, Beauty – Emma Bull, War for the Oaks … come to mind right away – they both have romance subthreads), but often they don’t and then I enjoy the series. I still like most of the new Eve & Roarke books, too.

    *grins* Ideally I’d wish they’d have the time and the contracts to write new character/stories and old character/stories both.

    And of course if a series gets stopped in the middle by anything less than the creator’s death I can be very unhappy (reading blogs like DA has made me more aware, though, that some series just don’t have the sales to support further books).

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  21. MaryK
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 14:34:55

    @Ilona Andrews:

    If you do decide to give the Magic series a shot, the first book is probably the worst of the lot.

    Well, for “the worst,” it’s not bad!

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  22. Janine
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 15:31:31

    Thanks, Estara! Agree with you about series that get stopped in the middle. It can be frustrating. And thanks for the recs!

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  23. BevQB
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 16:25:52

    I love the Kate Daniels series, it has some of the most unique world building I’ve come across (and that includes the first one, Ilona).

    I had a couple of problems getting into On the Edge. However, they were problems *I* created, not Ilona!

    First, I didn’t realize that they weren’t set in the same world as the Kate Daniels books, so I spent a good deal of the first chapters confused about how the world fit in with the Magic Bites world. I finally realized that it isn’t in the same world so I could sit back and let Ilona show me this new world.

    But my biggest mind-block was THE BIG GIANT HEAD on the cover! I’m a “visual” reader in that I must play the story in my head like a movie as I read. But every time Declan walked on stage, I kept picturing his BIG GIANT HEAD. ACK! Seriously, even if the cover model was my “type”, I still would have had trouble picturing Declan the way Ilona’s words described him.

    And it never failed, as soon as I scrubbed the BIG GIANT HEAD visual out of my brain, I’d get interrupted and get another glimpse when I picked the book back up.

    Nonetheless, Ilona has created another fascinating world and I’m looking forward to exploring more of it. But PLEASE, Ilona, if you have ANY say-so with the cover art, I beg you to request that BIG GIANT HEADS be banned!

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  24. Janine
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 16:49:24

    LOL Bev! I don’t have a problem with giant heads but I do find the cover model looks different from the way I pictured Declan.

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  25. Jocelyn Z.
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 20:49:02

    I kind of agree about the big giant head.

    Also, all you romance readers, I wanted to let you know: DON’T LISTEN to Illona about there not being enough romance in the Kate Daniels series to satisfy a romance reader! The romantic tension with Curran is amazing in book three, and very much present in book two. Seriously, it’s good to the point that my husband (who I can’t get to read a romance to save his life) ends up laughing out of the blue sometimes and quotes the phone call from the chicken booth at me. “That was worth ten dollars.” Yes it was.

    I’m a romance/fantasy aisle cross-pollinator, but def. think that the romance element is fully accounted for in the Magic series, especially if you read Magic Burns as a prequel (which I’d recommend, btw – it’s good but book two is a better intro). I cannot wait for book four.

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  26. bettie
    Jan 07, 2010 @ 13:09:44

    I love Ilona Andrew’s books. Feels like I was waiting forever for this book to come out, but somehow it fell off my radar. Your review reminded me, and now I’m off to buy. Thanks!

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  27. Janine
    Jan 07, 2010 @ 13:14:02

    I hope you enjoy it, Bettie! I would love to hear your thoughts.

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  28. ms bookjunkie
    Jan 07, 2010 @ 14:47:58

    Thanks for the review, Janine! It gave me the kick in the butt I needed to dig ON THE EDGE out of my TBR pile. Just finished reading it and I concur that it is totally full of awesome sauce. Cannot wait for William’s story.

    @Ilona Andrews:

    If you do decide to give the Magic series a shot, the first book is probably the worst of the lot.

    It’s a relief to hear you say this. I was *so* disappointed when I couldn’t love MAGIC BITES the way I felt I should. The only reason I went on to read MAGIC BURNS was because I’d already bought it, and having slightly more patience and a lot less books to choose from than I do these days, I decided I would at least read book 2 before I unloaded the series. Color me shocked when I absolutely love love loved MAGIC BURNS and decided that this was one series I would see through to the end, come hell or high water. Since then I’ve loved every single one of your books that I’ve come across, and they keep getting better and better! *happy sigh*

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  29. Janine
    Jan 07, 2010 @ 15:26:57

    @ms bookjunkie: I’m glad my review got you to pull the book out of your TBR pile and that you enjoyed it. I had such fun reading it and it is a great feeling to be able to spread the word about books I enjoy this much.

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  30. Ilona Andrews
    Jan 07, 2010 @ 15:31:40

    @ms bookjunkie:

    Well, with MB, we wrote it, subbed it to Tor which sat on it for a little over a year, then we subbed it to Ace, which bought in a couple of months, but wouldn’t publish it until 18 months from the point of contract. So we’re talking roughly a three year period from manuscript to book. What you’re seeing is a gap in craftsmanship. If I had known then how the publishing worked, I would’ve fixed it in the rewrites, but when you just start out, you don’t know anything. I was afraid to mess with it too much because it was already bought.

    And then of course, Anne Sowards, our editor, worked with me and I learned a lot from her while editing the second book. It’s a case of practice makes better and three years of practice made a good deal of difference.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s still my work and I still stand by it and am proud of it. But I do have secret fantasies of reediting MB. Maybe when I am a super BNA, lol. Right after I win a lottery and move to a Greek island.

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  31. Connie
    Jan 26, 2010 @ 14:09:16

    Wow such a great book! I haven’t browse DA recently because the last couple A review romance though were good, but I didn’t have that “OMG best book ever” feeling after like when I read the Tenth Gift reviewed by Jayne. So I thought I should wait for the A reviews to stock up a bit before browsing again. To be honest the review didn’t spark great interest. I picked it up because I like magical stuff but I don’t really like settings that were completely unfamiliar, and I generally like your reviews.

    Man I LOVED this book. I was so excited right from the get go, the heroine is HILARIOUS!!! This book totally gave me the feeling of Harry Potter for some reason, and the Golden compass series. I loved that fact that the romance was intense but did not dominate the whole book (ah the act of subtlety). When I got the book I heard through the grapevine that it was going to be a series I was kind of afraid there would be no conclusion to the book. Thank goodness there was.

    I TOTALLY agree with you Janine; I actually like stand alone books as in not the same h/h. There is something that just takes away from the first book if you read another book about the same h/h. I don’t mind if they appear in other books as long as they are not the main focus.

    Purely personal opinion but I think this is my favourite suggested book from DA. So cool the author came and left comments :D

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  32. Janine
    Jan 26, 2010 @ 15:01:14

    @Connie: I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed On the Edge.

    Yeah, this is probably not the best-written of my reviews. I put it together over the holidays when I didn’t have as much time as I usually do and it probably shows. Also, the book wasn’t that fresh in my mind — I usually try to write the reviews right after I finish the books but I didn’t have the opportunity with this one.

    But if my review didn’t convince readers to try the book, maybe your comment will! Your enthusiasm really comes though. I only read the first Harry Potter and none of the Golden Compass series but I agree with you about the subtlety.

    I’m really looking forward to the next book in this series.

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