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REVIEW: Fate’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

Dear Ms Andrews,

I must confess, I am a fan. You are one of those authors I count on to consistently deliver good stories. The presence of your name on the cover of a book will motivate me to buy what I would otherwise pass. I’m hooked on your Kate Daniels series of Urban Fantasy novels. I enjoy the way you twist tired genre tropes in your Kinsmen series of Sci-fi Romance ebook novellas. I adore the excitement, intricacy and interconnectedness of your Edge series of Fantasy Romance novels, the third and most recent installment of which, Fate’s Edge, is reviewed here today.

Fate's Edge - Ilona AndrewsUnfortunately, intricacy and interconnectedness have their price in that they tend to make later books in a series less accessible to new readers. Though I enjoyed Fate’s Edge and look forward to the next book in the series, I was left wondering whether the plot threads and characters carried in from earlier books would intrigue new readers or alienate them.

Like other heroines in this series, Audrey Callahan lives in the Edge, a hardscrabble, half-magical borderland between the Broken—the modern North America we know and love—and the Weird, an alternate North America which, with all of its monsters, mayhem and magical devices, more than lives up to its name. Audrey comes from a family of grifters, but where most Edge families stick up for each other, Audrey’s family used and neglected her in favor of her drug addicted brother. She reluctantly agrees to one last heist for an unknown buyer in order to sever her ties with her family.

Kaldar Mar is exactly the sort of handsome, smooth-talking con man Audrey knows she should avoid, but he’s also the secret agent tasked with recovering the item she stole. And he’s not the only one after her. With evil agents of the Hand close on their trail, Kaldar and Audrey must combine their talents for conning and thievery in order to find and regain the dangerous device. Along for the adventure are stowaway brothers Jack and George whom fans of the series will recognize as Rose’s brothers from the first Edge book, On the Edge, and Kaldar’s ward, Gaston, whom we met in book two, Bayou Moon.

I enjoyed the way this book started with the events that bring this group of adventurers together. It filled me in on what life was like for Jack, George, and, to a lesser extent, Gaston, since I last saw them in earlier books. It also served to establish Kaldar’s and Audrey’s excellence in the arts of deception. Though it takes a while for them to meet, when they do, the scene is a very fun contest of cons with each trying to manipulate the other.

In addition to scenes shown from the hero’s and heroine’s points of view, Fate’s Edge gives the reader several scenes from Jack’s point of view and some scenes written from the villains’ points of view, too. I enjoyed your POV choices, and especially appreciated that though the villains were cruel and scary and evil, their motives made sense. Additionally, the increasingly complex plans Kaldar and Audrey devise in their quest for the MacGuffin require independent action from all of the main characters. We would have missed a lot of excitement without Jack’s point of view. And, we would have missed Jack. To be honest, I like Jack and George so much that I would have read and enjoyed this book even if it were only about them.

And therein lies the difficulty. While I adored the relationship between George and Jack—the dramatic posturing of adolescents, the alternating feelings of responsibility and resentment each boy feels for his brother—Audrey and Kaldar’s romance just was not as vivid a relationship. I think part of the problem is that much of Kaldar’s character development comes in the form of other characters telling Audrey—and by extension, the reader—about Kaldar rather than Kaldar showing who he really is:

Gaston bit his lower lip. “He’s not right… He still pretends that everything is cool. You can’t tell by looking at him because he acts normal, but the rudder on his boat stuck…He wants revenge on the Hand, and he doesn’t care what happens to him or how he gets it.”

Given that Kaldar is a con man, it makes sense that he would not readily reveal his deepest secrets, and I would have thought it odd if he had. But because he spends so much of his time with Audrey trying to be the type of man she would sleep with, I don’t feel like his character ever really solidified for me, even during the endearing scenes where he realized he loved her.

The difficult thing about confidence men as heroes is that the con is often bigger than the character. I found Audrey a fascinating heroine at the start of the book, but she faded in comparison to the scams she and Kaldar ran in order to retrieve the MacGuffin. By the end, I was happy when Audrey and Kaldar got their HEA, but content to let them ride off into the sunset. I am sure they will be useful in future installments of the Edge series, but Audrey and Kaldar didn’t hook me the way William and Cerise did in Bayou Moon or, to a lesser extent, Rose and Declan did in On the Edge.

Overall, I enjoyed Fate’s Edge and would recommend it to any fan of the series. I would not recommend it to new readers for fear that the tangle of preexisting characters, plots, and histories might prove daunting rather than intriguing, and I would really hate for any reader to miss out on a series as good as this one.

B

~Josephine

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Josephine

Josephine is a professional bibliophile whose hobbies include reading and writing. She enjoys genre fiction in general, and romance in particular. She is especially fond of romances with Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Urban Fantasy elements. Her list of favorite authors changes with her mood but she's always eager to read the next good book.

15 Comments

  1. Statch
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 17:14:55

    I agree that this likely would not quite work for someone who hadn’t started at the beginning of this series but, like you, I highly recommend doing that. This is a wonderful series, and I really enjoyed the Fate’s Edge installment. I loved the dialog among all the characters, and I did buy into Kaldar and Audrey’s romance. I normally don’t care for ‘conman’ characters as romantic leads, but I loved these characters.

    Ilona Andrews is one of only two authors I still auto-buy at the Agency ebook prices. (Nalini Singh is the other, though I waited for Kiss of Snow to come down to paperback price.)

  2. SFT
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 19:08:35

    Hmmm. While I have tremendous respect for the Ilona Andrews team as people, I’ve never “got” their work. I quite liked the first Edge book, but the characters in both series are always too cold for me (and the end of that first book – ridiculous!).

    But then I’m not huge of urban fantasy at the best of times.

  3. Josephine
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 21:06:18

    @Statch: Andrews and Singh are autobuys for me, too. It’s nice to have authors you absolutely know you can count on for a good story. I wish I had more of them on my list.

    @SFT: If it hasn’t already, Urban Fantasy is quickly solidifying into its own genre with its own conventions and clichés. The Andrews team has great style and an excellent command of their chosen genre(s). Andrews is near the top of the list I’d give to any UF fan, or reader interested in trying UF. But if UF isn’t your thing, there are probably some contemporary-set fantasy romance series less firmly rooted in UF. I wish I could think of some right now, but I’m drawing a blank. Anyone?

  4. Mandi
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 21:24:36

    I adore Jack and George and think they totally made this book. I also agree about the romance..I wish it would have been a little faster to occur and prominent…although Kalder trying to woo Audrey was amusing.

    I’m sad there is only one book left in this series and really hope they one day revisit Jack and George.

  5. Evangeline Holland
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 21:26:25

    I really loved this book. I wasn’t too crazy about William and Cerise’s book (it veered too close to elves and fairies fantasy for me *shudder*), so this was a return to form. I do agree that it was annoying that both Audrey and Kaldar learned one another’s secrets from other people or by eavesdropping–shouldn’t these adults be talking to one another, and not children/teens?!

    @SFT: LOL…I’m with you about the end of On the Edge. The abrupt change in the world-building from magic to fairy tale-esque fantasy was rather dumbfounding. I still loved Rose to pieces though.

    Which is why I do enjoy the Edge books. The heroines are “unconventional” for urban fantasy in that they aren’t “kick ass” and smart-mouthed; they feel like real contemporary women dealing with the supernatural events surrounding them. So unlike Josephine, I found Audrey compelling and fascinating as someone who dealt with being related to a drug addict. I had a good chortle over one of the Big Bads being a prosperity preacher!

  6. Janine
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 22:58:28

    @Josephine: I agree with everything you say in the review, but the book was a B+ for me, even though the Hand’s magic only seems to make people sick when they first encounter it if they are major characters in the story, and the effect disappears if they are minor characters. Still, I had great fun reading the book and look forward to more of George and Jack. Jack is one of my absolute favorite characters in the series.

    But if UF isn’t your thing, there are probably some contemporary-set fantasy romance series less firmly rooted in UF. I wish I could think of some right now, but I’m drawing a blank. Anyone?

    I think Patricia Briggs’ Charles and Anna series, beginning with the novella “Alpha and Omega” is in between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and does a really good job with both sides of the divide.

    @Evangeline Holland: I think book #1 is probably my favorite, the world of the Edge was just so fresh and well-developed in it, and I loved Rose and the setup with the three Heruclean tasks that she set for Declan. The grandmother was a great character too, I hope we see more of her.

    Having said that, I think I might like Cerise even better than Rose, but William less than Declan (William was a touch too needy for me to feel he was a great match for Cerise). Kaldar and Audrey were a lot of fun, though I would have loved more relationship development and just a little less of Kaldar admiring Audrey’s ass.

  7. cbackson
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 23:17:11

    Andrews is an autobuy for me, so I consumed this whole the day it finally DL’d to my Nook. I liked, but didn’t love it – I couldn’t really get a fix on Audrey as a character. I would have liked to have seen more of her doing her thing prior to the appearance of Kaldar so I would have believed her a bit better as some sort of master she-thief.

    I think the first of these books grabbed me the most, because I liked the juxtaposition of Rose’s hard pragmatism with Declan’s swashbuckly heroism. And I had a soft spot for Cerise, who seemed like a woman who’d had to swallow a lot of bitter things and keep going. Audrey just didn’t quite get there for me, even though parts of this were hilarious.

    Eh. An okay Andrews book is still head and shoulders above most UF for me. As a native Atlantan, the Kate books will always be my favorites, but the truth is that I’m unable to resist their stuff.

  8. Josephine
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 01:33:57

    @Janine & @cbackson:

    An okay Andrews book is still head and shoulders above most UF for me.

    This. The Andrews have the ability to make you forget other books when you’re reading theirs. When I picked a grade, I compared the book to nothing but other Andrews novels–a feat I was able to accomplish because Andrews’ writing, characters and worldbuilding are so vivid and distinct. The reason Fate’s Edge wasn’t a B+ or an A from me was that, in addition to it not being one I’d recommend to newbs, it fell short of other favorite Andrews novels.

    @Mandi: There’s only one book left? Oh no! That makes me so sad. I’ve been looking forward to each new book in the series, and now I’m rather sad that it will stop.

  9. Cathy KJ
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 07:53:05

    I really enjoyed this installment, but agree that if we hadn’t known Kaldar from Cerise’s book, he would’ve been a much more two-dimensional character. There were some moments where I felt like Audrey “got” Kaldar a bit too well, based on the scant days they had known each other, but I wrote that off to her being a conwoman and needing to be hyper-observant.

    I did love the final rescue at the end.

  10. jen
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 09:08:09

    Andrews has a way of creating a supporting characters that I wish would have their own adventures so I hope more than one book can be eeked out of this series!

  11. nitnot
    Dec 08, 2011 @ 11:36:28

    This series is probably the one series I do not get from Andrews. I tried to read the first one way back when it first came out and for me the story dragged. I tried reading the second time to no avail. It’s crazy because I am reading everything else from them to no avail, and loved it. Silver Shark was also amazing. I love their ability to create characters with quite qualities to them and make them speak. *sigh* I really hope one day I can understand this series because I am addicted to Andrews.

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  13. msaggie
    Dec 09, 2011 @ 00:57:02

    I agree almost totally with Josephine’s review of Fate’s Edge here. I loved Jack and George’s scenes. I wish Ilona Andrews would allow these two to have their own books in the future. Audrey and Kaldar are a wonderful pair – and the cons are actually more enjoyable than the pure romancey bits – perhaps it depends on how you approach the book. It’s not really meant to be a romance, but kind of action-adventure with romance as a secondary thing that both protagonists were not looking for.

    I thought there was a TSTL moment – and this is a pet peeve of mine – why did the love scene have to happen at that particular section of the plot? It really jarred me a bit as there really was too much at stake and the timing just didn’t feel right for two people dedicated to professionally getting the job done first. That, and also the floating male head of the cover, are the only main gripes I have with this book. It’s still a straight re-read for me, and I would recommend starting with the first book, On the Edge, for a more fulfilling reading experience as Jack and George are introduced there.

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