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REVIEW: Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Dear Ms. Andrews:

Having been a long time reader of series, I’ve come to expect that a series will generally start losing direction or steam or focus around the 5th book or so.  Fortunately, this series has not sagged at all and I think it has to do with not only the tight writing, but the tight focused plotting.  While each book contains a battle, it is all working toward a greater end that was visible from almost the beginning: Kate’s showdown with her father.

Magic Slays Ilona AndrewsI know readers often ask whether you have to read the previous books in the series in order to understand the current release and I think for the Kate Daniels series you kind of do, at least to get a full appreciation for the subtle changes that are occurring to Kate who begins the series arc as a complete loner who just lost her mentor to becoming part of the Pack.  Kate in the beginning of the series is a different person than Kate five books later and that makes sense because so much change has happened in her life.  The change, though, might go unnoticed if each book is read in isolation.

From Jia’s review of Magic Burns:

For those readers new to the series, the Kate Daniels books take place in a futuristic Atlanta suffering from an advanced state of urban decay. In this world, magic batters the earth in waves, eating technology. When tech is up, spells fail and magical constructs lose their power. When magic is up, cars cease functioning and planes fall from the sky. But every seven years the waves increase in intensity until they culminate in a magical tsunami called a flare. During flares, magic is so powerful that even gods can walk the earth.

For those unfamiliar with the series (and this paragraph will contain spoilers for the past books), Kate Daniels used to be a mercenary, hiring out her sword for a fee.  She then became part of the Guild, a group that polices magical beings.  After a falling out with the Guild, Kate starts her own protection agency.  Magic Slays opens with Kate having no clients and nearing financial ruin because the Guild is bad mouthing her and others don’t want to enrage the Beast Lord of Atlanta aka her mate, Curran.   And that is just her business life.

Her personal life involves constantly maintaining boundaries with Curran who would like to order Kate around, trying to decide what is best for her foster daughter who has run away from another boarding school, and being a good friend to Andrea who is recovering from a recent trauma.

One complaint I’ve read about this book is the huge cast of characters.  It is true that there are a number of people being tracked in this story and that is one reason that it has helped to have read the previous books.  New readers to the series might be easily confused.

This series is sort of a cop/detective mystery series wrapped up in an urban fantasy setting.  Kate is a kind of paranormal dectective, a powerful one.   What moves Magic Slays forward is twofold.  First, the mysterious object that is causing mysterious deaths to shapeshifters and vampires.  Second, the overaching series mystery of Kate’s origins and her destiny.  Magic Slays is also the most romantic book of the series because a great part of the story arc in the book involves Kate and Curran negotiating the terms of their relationship.  We are in the “happy ever after” part of romances where two people in love try to find out how to live with each, how to tolerate each other’s quirks after the emotional high wears off.

I’m not going to say that Magic Slays brings much of anything different to the table than previous books.  The mystery and how it is resolved is mechanically similar.  The relationship, as I mentioned previously, plays a bigger role than it has in the past.  The thing is that all of the previous books in the Magic series are excellent and thus saying that the recent installment isn’t different is a complement.  It’s another well constructed entry into an excellent series that featured some real character growth.   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

31 Comments

  1. k reads
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 12:21:14

    Good review. This is one of favorite series and Magic Slays is a solid if not great addition. One thing, Kate’s falling out was with the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid. She still has a good relationship with the guild.

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  2. Kerry
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 13:11:13

    This book made me angry. Curran tells Kate where to live and what to drive, sets her up with a jobby, and has a jealous fit when another man stands too close to her. That’s abusive, not romantic.

    Late in the book (I believe during the “everybody we know could be dead in a couple of hours, let’s play dress-up and have sex” scene), Kate admits she’s turned into a weakling. Finally, something I could get behind! You’re absolutely right–she’s not the same character she was in the first three books, but I don’t see it as a change for the better. This was the end for me.

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  3. Keishon
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 13:22:36

    LKH Anita Blake series started off the same way, as a mystery wrapped up in a urban fantasy setting but then it derailed. Badly. Sorry for the tangent. I actually have nothing of significance to add only that this is a series I hope to read one day because it sounds right up my alley.

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  4. Sirius
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 13:53:30

    Great review, I absolutely agree that these series have not lost direction and focus at all, and thus remain one of my favorites if not my favorite urban fantasy today.

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  5. Christine M.
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 13:54:24

    @Keishon: I think there’s only one or two books left to be published in the series so the wait shoudl be over ‘soon’.

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  6. Sandra
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 14:03:38

    I have to disagree with what Kerry said. Curran can be a jerk at times. He’s the alpha to all shape shifters in the Atlanta area and used to getting his way, so sometimes he pushes more than he should. He’s used to getting everything his way. For me there relationship is growing in a realistic way. (Or as realistic as you can get in a fantasy setting.) Kate was very happy with Curran giving her the opportunity to have her own business. What else is she going to do? She doesn’t have the money to start it on her own. She can’t go back to the Guild or the Order. She’s not going to go work for the People. The only things she’s been is a sword for hire. At one point Curran offers to leave the pack and disappear with her. In the dress up scene Kate admits she’s no longer the loner she was in the beginning. She loves Curran and if that makes her weak, she’ll live with it. For years she thought the only way she could be was alone, but now she’s trying something new. I see that as a very brave thing to do. Before she had nothing and no one to lose now she has much more lose.

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  7. Sirius
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 14:23:10

    Right, I also saw Kuran helping her start the business as him trying to help, not him trying to force into anything. I most definitely do not see Kuran as perfect, he definitely has some Alfa manliness that grates on me, BUT I also think that often enough he manages to check himself, so to speak, didn’t he said something along the lines that if he would have done what he truly wanted to do, he would have turned whole Atlanta up and down the moment Kate was not home? What I am trying to say is that I see him as trying to change and adapt because he loves and respects Kate and same thing with Kate, who is trying to change and adapt while keeping the core of her personality. Somebody tells Kate in this book that he liked her more as a merc, and Kate replies something along the line that she did too, she did not have to be diplomatic, etc, but we all have to grow up sometimes. I really like how both Kate and Kuran are IMO keep growing up mentally and emotionally and how they do it together.

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  8. k reads
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 15:20:03

    I think Andrew’s does a good job with how she handles two alphas in a relationship. Throughout the series, both Kate and Curran try to protect one another. Curran does it by demanding Kate not do certain things; Kate does it by doing the same. (She even going as far as locking Curran in a cage to keep him from the Midnight Games. Could you imagine if Curran physically restrained Kate from doing what she felt was her duty?) Then they argue about it and, ultimately, work it out. It’s one of the things I like about the relationship. That they come to compromises without giving up who they are.
    A spoilerish tangent: I happened to reread Magic Slays this morning (so it was cool to see this review), and I realized that Magic Strikes has Kate in a coma near the end, Magic Bleeds has Curran in a coma, and Magic Slays has Julie in a coma. Not sure I have anything to say about that. Just something i noticed.

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  9. Tina
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 15:31:29

    LOVE this series. This was a solid addition that moved the over-arcing plot forward not at all but was a necessary installment to see how Kate (the ultimate loner) and Curran (the ultimate control freak) were adjusting to being together.

    I think the author did a great job with it. Lest we forget, Curran has to be the way he is because he has to keep control of the Atlanta pack. Without The Code and without the stringent rules and controls he wrestled into place they go can go crazy and pack devolves back into chaos. If he wasn’t super alpha still then some fans of the books would cry foul because being conciliatory simply isn’t how she set up his personality.

    I also loved that Kate got a bit of a reality check with her parents and her past. It is also nice to know that her power isn’t all from her father. And it caused a very realistic crisis of faith for her. The scene where he tells her they’ll leave and disappear, just the two of them, was incredibly romantic, imo. It also reinforced how seriously the Pack fucked with their loyalty to him. And given what would happen to the pack if he were to leave that is some serious business!

    Finally given the note Kate got in the end, I have a feeling the series is about to ramp up in a big way.

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  10. Jan
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 17:24:14

    Loved this book, and loved the review. I agree that seeing two people actually make their relationship work was very interesting and endearing. I never felt that Curran crossed a line with his Alphaness, where I felt he did that sometimes before they got entangled.

    My biggest beef, though compaired to other books it totally isn’t a beef, was with the Julie storyline and the possible ramifications. I do not like the (possible) consequences of the choices Kate made there, and I’m worried where it may take her. I liked Julie as she was, and found her own magic more than interesting enough, and I’m just not sure the series needed this plotpoint.

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  11. Has
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 17:26:59

    I have to disagree about Kate being a weakling. There was several scenes in the book where she confronts Curran about his alpha behaviour and they compromised over their issues and probs. Most notably later in the book after their visit in the Temple. I agree with everyone else – Curran is an alpha and of course he’s going to be control freak and that’s the whole point. I also don’t think Kate would WANT to be with someone who is weak and Curran is not going to be a pussycat.
    They both have flaws and they both know they will mess up at times but they have respect, and love for each other and trust and this book cemented it.
    Has love made them vulnerable? Yes but has love made them soft – I disagree, and Curran is just as affected with his feelings for Kate as she is with him. They are both equals and that is why their romance works so well. When there is inequality in a relationship it doesn’t work but I don’t see that there. She calls him off his bullshit and he helps her not to do something stupid.

    @Keishon:

    DO EEET!!!! :D

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  12. Carolyn
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 18:42:24

    I love this series. Kate and Curran are my favorite couple. I think it’s because they remain true to themselves and yet their characters continue to grow over the course of the books.

    It never occurred to me for a minute that that Curran was abusive to Kate. He is what he is and he needs a mate who’ll stand up to him and not let him run over her. That’s Kate; she may compromise but no one runs over her. Some of the best parts of the books are when they’re snarking at each other and then they manage to find a compromise. I mean, what can you say about a couple that relieves their tensions and settles arguements by indulging in a knock down fight? Yet the love is there, boy is it ever!

    It works for them and it works for me. There’s a short section that epitomizes for me their whole relationship:

    “You can’t tell me what to do.”
    “Yes I can. Listen, this is me telling you what you will not do.”
    I raised the cookbook and tapped him on the nose. Bad cat.

    LOL!

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  13. Niveau
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 19:26:34

    I’m so very, very tired of Curran’s alpha-ness, and now I don’t know if I want to read this latest addition to it. I get that Kate needs someone strong and that she stands up to him, but it also seems to me like the entire series, the Andrews team have been constantly showing that Curran is more of an alpha, more of a control freak, a better fighter, has better magic… I’m really getting sick of the constant power struggle there, because to me it rarely feels like two strong people fighting each other and meeting in the middle. It’s more like one strong person (Kate) trying to make one suuuuper-duper extra strong person (Curran) give in just a little – and even that little bit takes a lot of fighting on her part – before she finally makes the bigger sacrifice.

    But I also really want to know more about her past, see how she handles the school situation, and find out what the mysterious object is… curse you, Ilona Andrews, for writing a series that makes me feel so conflicted!

    I’ll probably last about half an hour before I give in and buy it, love the mystery bits, and spend the next couple of days being ranty about Curran.

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  14. BlueRose
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 20:24:34

    I was a late comer to this series, and bought it based on reviews seen here (among others) and I have really enjoyed it. Like the reviewer, I particularly like how Kate does grow and change and how you can see that. I thought it was quite strong in this book because of her knee damage it makes her stop and think for a change, instead of just diving in. And so her responses become more measured and adult.

    I *love* the interaction with her and Curran – yes his alphaness can be grating but she stands up to him, and some of the discussions they have are quite mature and show growth and acceptance of issues on both sides. But their quibbling is adorably cute and funny :)

    I really liked this, I thought it was a solid addition to the series.

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  15. Bettie Sharpe
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 00:33:02

    I love this series, and I really enjoyed Magic Slays. I love the big cast of characters. I love the feeling I get when I read about those characters that they have lives and drama and concerns outside of whatever happens to be going on with Kate. I also like that Kate is a bad-ass, but she isn’t superwoman. Her concern for her chronically injured knee – the way worry for it and pain change her fighting choices and other actions – makes her one of the more realistic (if that word can be said to apply) bad-asses in UF. I eagerly await the next installment in this series.

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  16. Estara
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 09:28:57

    @Sandra: So what you said! *two thumbs up*
    @Bettie Sharpe: Oh exactly that , as well!!

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  17. Dallass
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 21:46:42

    I love this series, and reading your comments only makes me wish that the postie would hurry up and deliver my pre-order… which is over a week overdue. Perhaps the postie is reading it first :D

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  18. random123
    Jun 12, 2011 @ 12:59:51

    Small correction: comments keep referring to the author as a she when in reality its a writing duo. Using the sudo name is one thing, but referring to the non-existing author(s) just sounds strange.

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  19. knstrick
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 12:01:45

    I’ve been a fan of the series since it’s beginning and I don’t think there is anything the Andrews team can do to shake my loyalty. This was just another wonderful book in a wonderful series, though I will grant that it wasn’t as intense as Magic Bleeds.

    I will point out to all of those who are complaining that Kate is weak compared to Curran. Kate only thinks she is weaker than Curran, just as she usually doubts herself and her abilities before all the big villains she’s come across. In the end though, she always wins. I would argue, given her heritage and her recent development and improvement of powers, Kate is more than enough to stand up to Curran and most likely take him down.

    *SPOILER for Magic Bleeds*

    Erra almost did him in by herself if it wasn’t for Kate saving him.

    *end SPOILER*

    If they were enemies, and Kate wasn’t in love with him, there would be no stopping her and her hesitation to fight him would be non-existent.

    I will also point out that unlike most fictional relationships I’ve come across, Kate and Curran are incredibly honest and open with each other. Not only do they know about each other’s tainted past (Kate’s especially), but Curran says straight up in the previous book when they were establishing their relationship that he is uber-protective and controlling. He never hides it from Kate and tells her if she can’t handle it then she needs to walk away. Kate can handle it though, as evidenced by their interaction in Magic Slays. They are still new in their relationship and like most budding relationships, they are working out the kinks and details.

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  20. jmc
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 13:00:33

    I really enjoy Kate as protagonist and the post-Shift Atlanta Andrews has created. She/they have been a good storyteller from the first book, and the writing (IMO) has been improving. The thing that drives me crazy about the series, especially since these are NY pub’d books, is that there seems to be at least one noticeable continuity or content issue in each book. Someone’s clothing changing mid-scene, inconsistent spellings of terms, percentages adding up to more than 100, timelines working out not quite right. Even as I read and enjoy the stories, I feel like there’s a grain of sand or a tiny pebble rubbing away and irritating through what otherwise would be pure enjoyment.

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  21. Kaetrin
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 03:09:29

    I know what you mean JMC! On the first page, Kate falls out of bed when the phone rings – next thing, she’s leaning back against Curran who’s in the bed – wha?

    However, that is a very tiny niggle in a sea of wonderful. Count me as another who adores the Kate/Curran interaction. I don’t think he’s abusive at all. They both give and take and I like the way they’re working things out. Thank you thank you thank you Ilona Andrews for making the conflict organic to the story and not splitting them up and then getting them back together, rinse, repeat.

    I enjoyed the story and the kicking of ass all over the place but the romance was my highlight. Yum! :)

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  22. Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews – Review
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 13:25:20

    [...] Dear Author says: [...]

  23. jen
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 14:55:41

    @ JMC & Kaetrin, clearly things change in a scene because the magic’s shifted!
    It’s strange to hear the discussion about Curran’s ‘alpha-ness’ when Kate can be just as bad either being protective of him or (literally) kicking him in the head when she’s frustrated, which eh, I have to say *that* is when I find their interaction most uncomfortable(which I know is silly since he’s a big boy and all).

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  24. jmc
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 19:46:52

    @jen: Actually, their alphaness doesn’t bother me — they seem to negotiate that pretty well, butting heads and then getting over themselves. But their physical fights disturb me. Kate’s character, as established, is prone to violence as a solution to many (most?) problems, so their fights are in character. But if their genders were switched and Curran were the one swinging first, I’d be thinking that this was a potentially abusive love interest; why does making Kate the aggressor change that? Does it? Should it?

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  25. Jane
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 20:01:59

    @jmc: I think this is an interesting point. Can we remove the power and magic from this situation? In other words, does their equality in power negate abusive relationship? What would you think if it was an m/m relationship?

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  26. jmc
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 20:43:42

    @Jane: It seems pretty clear that neither of them finds their physical altercations to be problematic, presumably because they are both accustomed to using their strength or physical skills to achieve desired ends. To me as a reader/observer, violence to a lover as an outlet for frustration or for problem solving, even if your lover is your equal in power, seems Not Right in a fundamental way that I cannot articulate clearly, even to myself. Although perhaps it is unfair of me to impose contemporary morality on the urban fantasy setting and characters? Especially since that world seems precarious and casually brutal, and their violence-as-a-solution approach seems to work in their professional lives.

    If it were a m/m relationship…I would still be uncomfortable.

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  27. Kaetrin
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 21:11:33

    I’m not super comfortable with the h/h beating on each other regardless of their gender, but I’ve put it down to the urban fantasy setting and given it a pass – whereas, I couldn’t if it were say, a contemporary romance.

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  28. jen
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 08:51:49

    They ‘spar’ and play-fight in the books, but there have been times when it is not ‘play’ and Kate is clearly testing Curran’s control— and I don’t know if that is because of her cynicism about the worth of her own life or she’s skeptical about Curran himself (would really hurt her?).

    So, I guess my discomfort with the kicking isn’t that I consider it abuse but the general ickyness of using violence on someone (whom you’re mated with) to deal with your own issues. So whether or not it’s UF, or if the characters are M/M of M/F, I would be uncomfortable with it (and, just because I’m uncomfortable with one little aspect doesn’t mean I don’t love this series and these characters, and all their issues-which I hope they can resolve).

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  29. knstrick
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 18:34:50

    Great discussion about the violent aspect of their relationship. I think it definitely plays a part into why they work as well as they do.

    Kate was trained to be a killer, she uses violence to solve a lot of her problems, and she readily admits she has a fear of turning into Erra (who I consider the dark mirror of Kate- essentially what she could be if Kate were to release her inhibitions and selfishness).

    Curran is a shapeshifter, actually the shapeshifter as it were. They are all killers, use violence to solve their problems and establish the ‘pecking’ order, and fear turning into mindless, inhuman beasts.

    I think it would be strange for these aspects of their personality to suddenly disappear just because they are romantically involved.

    What makes their violent interactions ‘okay’ for me is that they knowingly became involved in this type of relationship. You could almost say that it might be one of the reasons they are together. I have a lot of trouble seeing Curran picking a weaker human or shifter as his mate and Kate has made her reservations of dating a weaker man clear.

    Now if you were to take their exchanges and put them in our society today, I would have to say that their relationship is quite dangerous and detrimental to their mental health. I don’t kick my husband in the head when we have a disagreement (no matter how much I want to).

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  30. Paperbackdolls » ARC Two-Doll Review: Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
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  31. Sarina
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 14:25:34

    Love this series. The authors are awesome. My only issues are one carried over from the previous novel and then one from this latest novel. From the previous novel she didn’t want to move into the keep with him and for him that was a deal breaker. Then poof her apartment is smashed to bits and she has nowhere else to go. And he gives her a business on top of it. would have rather if she had found a place on her own and opened a office space on what she could afford. Julie was going back to school so its was really just her to sort out [break into andrea's place and camp out till she came back]. otherwise the book blew me away. It was magical.
    The second issue is [Magic Slays] was the pace. It was too much packed into one book for me and not enough time spent exploring their relationship. Felt like a mad dash the whole way thru the book instead of just the last couple of chapters. It would have been ok to be a longer book, spend more time exploring them trying to sort out their relationship and her getting her business off the ground, sorting out julie. Overall still a good book and can’t wait for the next book. They didn’t take a completely strange path and alienate me like other authors have done. Just wish the path had been a bit slower and scenic….

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