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REVIEW: Death Magic by Eileen Wilks

Dear Ms. Wilks:

I loved the first and second book in this series but as the worldbuilding evolved and became bigger, I felt like I lost an understanding of the world. The book started out as a Pack book for me (Pack = werewolf) and has been transmogrified into world where every kind of magic exists from dragons to sorcerers to shapeshifters. There is earth magic, fire magic, water magic, precogs, and with each new book, a new element is introduced. The first book in the series, Tempting Danger, introduces Lily Yu and Rule Turner. (I’ve not reviewed that book here, but I did review the second, Mortal Danger). Lily Yu is a former homicide detective and a touch sensitive who was recruited to be part of the Magical Crimes Division of the FBI. Her supervisor is Ruben Brooks.

Death Magic Eileen WilksAside: I do not recommend that any one start with this book. I think they would be lost. I was kind of lost and I’ve read all the books.  I do recommend Tempting Danger and Mortal Danger and the seventh in this series, Blood Challenge.  I think a reader could read those three and not be lost.   “Tempting Danger” and “Blood Challenge” are my favorite in this series.  Both focus strongly on the Pack and the romance between the main characters.

Rule Turner is a Lupi or werewolf and the designated heir of one of the strongest, wealthiest Packs in North America. He also wears the mantle of another pack, something that is not supposed to happen. Lupi have fated mates and Lily is Rule’s. Over the course of the series, Lily and Rule struggle with their matebond, a mystical connection that is so strong that it is affected by even distance. In “Death Magic”, Lily and Rule move ever more slowly toward an actual marriage ceremony. I’m not certain how much time has passed since book 1 of this series, but I think it is a bit more than a year.

An enemy of the Pack, an old and powerful god that the Lupi refer to as the “Great Bitch”, is rising up bringing to life old magics and dangers that have not been experienced in centuries. “Death Magic” is a continuation of this overarching plot about the “Great Bitch” and her nebulous plans. Ruben’s precog gift is foretelling something dire and it is up to Lily, Rule, and the other members of their respective clans to discover what they can do to prevent the negative outcome foreseen by Ruben. Ruben sets up a Shadow Unit, to work outside of the Bureau and by the book Lily finds herself conflicted when Ruben asks her to join. Rule is more sanguine. He’s an “end justifies the means” kind of guy and doesn’t see a problem with Lily joining Ruben in order to stop a greater evil.

Lily’s hand is forced when Ruben is accused of killing a Senator.  Tensions are further raised when the Humans First, an anti magical group, gains in power and violence.  Finally, Lily’s life is in jeopardy as she begins to experience strange illnesses that may or may not be connected to a Lupi related power she acquired in a previous book.

While Ruben, a figure that has appeared briefly in all previous books, gets more face time and an interesting storyline, I wasn’t fully engaged. I think it comes down to my own expectations for this series. It’s called World of the Lupi, but I feel that the Lupi often aren’t the focus, but the world surrounding the Lupi is. For readers looking for a broad, full and diverse urban fantasy series with some romance, I think this is very satisfying. For someone who is looking for a strong romance arc in each book, I think some of the books including “Death Magic” will be a disappointment.

The great thing about this series is the diversity. There is diversity in race and religion both on the “good” and the “bad” sides. An effort seems to be made to show each character as an individual instead of a representative token for a particular subset of society. I guess my major problem is that I expected this book to be paranormal romance and instead it is more urban fantasy. I feel emotionally distanced from these characters and would like to see more movement in the romance/relationship. It doesn’t have the visceral emotional power of my favorites but it does move the plot forward.  B-

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. Brian
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 08:56:32

    I thought this was a great addition to the series and liked it a lot. I can’t wait for the next one.

    Aside: I do not recommend that any one start with this book.

    Definately not, but then I always recommend someone start a series with the first book and read in order so they don’t miss anything. For me that’s one of the most appealing points of a series, to watch the characters and world grow in ways they/it couldn’t in a single book.

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  2. erinf1
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 09:21:20

    I just finished this book too! I loved it and I’m fully invested in this series.

    Like you and Brian both said, this is not a book to start the series. You do really need to start at the beginning as each book builds upon the other in terms of the series arc and reoccuring characters.

    I had to stop and think for a moment but I agree with you that this is more UF than PNR. We have our central couple, Rule and Lily and most of the action does center around them, but as in the previous books, the story centers on the conflict, not the romance. The romance is more of a subplot, one of many to keep the characters more engaging. As well as the interweaving substories involving Cullen and Cynna (and their new family), the dragons, the Nokolai clan, Lily’s grandmother and her family, and now Ruben and Deborah (and their new situation). I see this series more focused on the world, not necessarily the characters in it. I do like the broadening of the scope of this world and it not just being about the Lupi, but I do agree with you, it’s reaching epic proportions. Anyone reading this series should be prepared for a “heavy” read.

    Overall, I’ve really enjoyed this series and I’m looking forward to the next book :) (there was a short excerpt at the end of Death Magic for Mortal Ties due out next year).

    Thanks for a great review!

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  3. Nonny
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 09:36:19

    For me, one of the reasons I love this series is because they’re more UF than PR, but still have an ongoing HEA. I also love the depth of the setting, though I think Cynna’s storyline is still my favorite over Lily’s. It’s one of my favorite series, and I’d love to see more like it, because I adore how it doesn’t focus on just one couple but multiple and each book furthers everyone’s storyline.

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  4. Jane
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 10:07:10

    @Nonny Cullen and Cynna are my least favorite couple profiled and the three books that were devoted to them really dragged for me. In fact, I thought that there was far too much Cullen in this book. Probably where my disconnect is from Wilks’.

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  5. eggs
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 16:07:02

    I read the first one in this series and just couldn’t get into it. Both Lily and Rule were so reasonable, calm and logical it struck me as almost clinical. They didn’t strike me as being emotionally invested in their own story, so I didn’t see any reason to get emotionally invested in it myself. If I’m not emotionally invested in the characters, then I don’t see any reason to read on.

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  6. Merrian
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 17:16:59

    @eggs: yet if you read the second book there is a harrowing ending that is about the investment Lily and Rule make in each other. I love this series and agree that it is UF not PNR. The containeed thoughtfulness of the leads really appeals to me but then I find so much ‘angsting’ in romance mere whininess coming from a sense of entitlement. Non of the couples in this series take each other for granted.

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  7. Isobel Carr
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 18:34:31

    I was so excited to see an Asian heroine! I’m went back and bought the first book in the series yesterday.

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  8. Kay Webb Harrison
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 14:30:10

    Each year I look forward to the next episode in this series. I finished Death Magic not long after it was issued, and enjoyed it as much as the other Lupi books. In addition to the “World”, magic and external conflicts, I appreciate the evolution of Lily and Rule’s relationship: extended family adjustments, division of household chores, meshing work schedules, living arrangements, etc.

    I agree that one should start with the first book in the series. Each new episode builds upon the last.

    There will be an anthology out soon with a story about the continuation of Benedict and Argenie’s relationship. Looking forward to that.

    Kay

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  9. Brian
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 15:11:24

    @Kay Webb Harrison: If you mean the ‘Tied with a Bow’ anthology it came out November 1st. The Benedict and Arjenie story, ‘Human Error’ was quite pleasant and it was nice to see more of them as well as meet her family.

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  10. Estara
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 05:17:45

    @Brian: Yes, that’s exactly my take, too ^^

    Considering that Eileen Wilks came to be known via category romances I have the deepest respect for her ability to craft a convincing long time urban fantasy series without losing the thread of family love and romantic love and people in a long-time relationship behaviour that she has going with her established couples.

    Rule and Lily are my favourites, but I like Cullen and Cynna and Benedict and Arjenie as well. I’m looking forward to the novella featuring them in that Tied with a Bow anthology.

    Blood Challenge made it to this year’s GoodReads Choice semi-finals.

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  11. Randi
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 20:27:00

    I can totally see if someone came into this series from a Romance POV it would be a let down. As I came into the series from an UF POV, I have really enjoyed the series. I wasn’t fully engaged with the previous book, as I wasn’t emotionally invested in Benedict, but I still enjoyed it.I also ate this book up; I was totally engaged in the story arc.

    This topic was also raised during the comments of Jia’s review of the latest Sagara. Clearly, where one finds a book (Mystery, SciFi, Romance, Fiction, blog, etc) seems to have an enormous, and it seems, solidifying, impact on how the book is filtered by the reader. I don’t know if that made sense, but if someone finds a book via a SciFi route and it turns out to not really be SciFi, the reader’s impression is skewed and it’s really hard to get the reader to change their POV. The same logic could be applied to any genre. As an example, I found Catherine Asaro via the SciFi route and I’m glad I did, because, IMO, the romantic portions of her books are the poorest portions. For me, she is a terrible romance writer. But I read, all the time, on Smart Bitches, that people love Asaro for her romance, that they consider her Skolian series romance, when that doesn’t resonate AT ALL for me. And if I had first read Asaro thinking she was romance, I would have felt really betrayed and I’m not sure I would have ever been able to change my expectations enough to have enjoyed her.

    Jane: if you had come from an UF POV, do you think your review would have been different?

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