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REVIEW: Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

Dear Ms. Andrews,

Magic BurnsWhen I read your first novel, Magic Bites, I was struck by your fresh worldbuilding. Sometimes I feel like many urban fantasy novels feature similar worldbuilding details. Execution makes all the difference, of course, but because of those similarities, I really appreciate unique worldbuilding when a book presents it to me. That said, I thought some of its plotting and characterization suffered from flaws you’d expect of a first novel. It was a good book, but I wouldn’t grade it as high as Jane did.

I don’t have those complaints here. The rough patches that bothered me in Magic Bites were not in attendance. And if they were, I didn’t notice them. I’m pleased this was the case because nothing is more disappointing than a poor follow-up to a promising debut.

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.

Against the backdrop of a building flare, Kate Daniels – now the liaison between the Mercenary Guild and the Order of Merciful Aid, has a problem. Two problems, actually. First, she’s been asked by the Pack to retrieve some stolen survey maps. Second of all, she’s been entrusted with a child named Julie whose mother, as well as the entire coven of witches the mother belongs to, is missing. When the maps continue to be stolen, even after being recovered, and demonic creatures come after Julie, it soon becomes apparent there’s a connection. And what that connection points to may prove disastrous for all of Atlanta, if not the entire world.

Kate remains the strong loner we first met in Magic Bites. She still has that smart mouth but I felt like she’d gained self-awareness of why she talked the way she did when choosing otherwise would have been the better course of action. While I do wish she’d learn to control that mouth a bit more, at least I no longer felt like she was being deliberately dense about it.

In addition, Kate’s pragmatism remains one of my favorite things about her. In the following passage, Kate is about to race the immortal thief Bran for the Pack’s maps:

I tossed Slayer on the bed, never taking my eyes off him, and put the maps on the sheets. “Back away, three steps.”

We stepped back in unison, he to the middle of the room, and I to the wall by the chair.

“On three. One,” he said, bending forward like a runner. “Two.”

He lunged for the maps. I grabbed the chair and hit him with it. He went down. I hit him again to make sure he stayed that way, stepped over him, and picked up the maps. “I win.”

How great is that? Bran cheats by starting early but Kate evens the odds handily.

As I mentioned earlier, I love the worldbuilding of the Kate Daniels books. It’s not just the premise of alternating magic and tech waves. It’s the little details too: the covens’ Oracle holds audience deep in the belly of a giant tortoise, the demonic assassins sent after Kate and Julie are mermaids with poisonous Medusa hair. I admit Celtic mythology is not my strong suit so I can’t comment on whether it was 100% accurate with the source material, but what was there seemed to work well. I am a fantasy reader first and foremost, so solid worldbuilding is really important to me, and this book does not disappoint.

But it’s not just the details that I love. It’s also how the setting is presented:

The shortest route to the garage lay along Interstate 85 through the heart of the city. In happier times, the view from the highway must have been breathtaking. Now both Downtown and Midtown lay in ruins, battered to near rubble by the magic waves. Twisted steel skeletons of the once mighty skyscrapers jutted like bleached fossil bones from the debris. Here and there a long half-eaten survivor struggled to remain upright, all but its last few stories destroyed. Shattered glass from hundreds of windows glittered among chunks of concrete.

The comparison of the city to dead and dying animals provides a striking image. It drives home the point that this is a world in decay, where magic is returning and destroying the modern technology impeding it.

While I liked the sparse, tight plotting, I do feel the last third of the book might have suffered from a little too many action scenes right before the climactic battle. I know many people like action scenes and I normally include myself among their number, but I also think too many of them too close together ends up having the opposite effect. Instead of speeding up the pace, I find it slows thing down for me. Or it’s possible I was simply exhausted by the thought of all that fighting and wanted to get on with the final confrontation.

I’ve been focusing mostly on the aspects that appeal to me as a fantasy reader, but it’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Kate and Curran dynamic. I like how their relationship is unfolding slowly, developing over the course of what I hope will be several books. It makes things more believable considering the two people involved: the Beast Lord of the Pack and the lifelong loner with a dangerous heritage. I may be wrong but I believe there’s enough interaction between them here to keep crossover readers satisfied.

As a word of caution, some people may find this book gory. It didn’t bother me because I think the setting supports it but I know it’s a concern to some readers so I thought it fair to mention. And finally, I enjoyed how we learned a bit more about Kate’s past and heritage. I feel like I have enough details now to start constructing her backstory whereas in the first book, I felt things were being coyly kept secret just to be annoying. All in all, sign me up for the next book. B+

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in mass market or ebook format.

***

Want to win a free copy of Magic Burns? Ace is graciously giving away a book to five commenters. Drop a line and let us know if you want one. Contest ends Thursday midnight. These books should arrive before the April1 release date. You know you want one.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

78 Comments

  1. Kerry
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 17:07:15

    Jia, first you turn me onto Rob Thurman and now this series! It sounds fascinating, kinda like Sean Stewart’s Galveston. I would love a copy to write my own review.

  2. Megan
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 17:20:11

    Always you taunt me with awesome books I can’t have yet.

  3. MeriBeth
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 17:24:04

    Now this sounds most interesting. I’d love to have one.

  4. Teddypig
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 17:26:29

    Now that sounds like a fun read.

  5. penny
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 17:44:16

    I really enjoyed Magic Bites & have been looking forward to reading Magic Burns. I would love a copy. I’m glad that you thought it lived up the promise of the first book.

  6. K. Z. Snow
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 17:51:35

    Well, natch, I would love a copy. Urban fantasy has really been intriguing me lately, and well-written urban fantasy would be a particular treat. (I am SO hooked on engaging prose styles!) I’m also curious about how the action sequences and violence are handled, especially after reading this review.

    Yup, you’ve hit my curiosity button. (And I like the title, too.)

  7. Angela James
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 17:52:53

    I don’t need a copy, I just want to say that this book is every bit of awesomeness that Jia said, and that anyone who hasn’t read Magic Bites (the first book) really needs to get it RIGHT NOW because there’s some kick ass world building and character interactions going on. I loved both of these books. The authors can’t write fast enough for me (I wish all of my favorite authors could be as prolific as Nora Roberts/JD Robb).

  8. Nicole
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 18:09:42

    I loved the first book in this series. Good to know it sounds like the second is faboo, too.

  9. Dani
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 18:10:28

    I would love a copy. I’ve seen the author’s name on several blogs I frequent followed by some great reviews.

  10. MaryKate
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 18:25:38

    Sounds fantastic! Please enter me!

  11. Jage
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 18:25:48

    Delurking to say I would adore a copy, I have the first book and I loved it.

    My one thing is I hope that the hints about her lineage and the line about gods walking the Earth doesn’t equal her having the ability to god mode during a flare, because if it turns out she’s the love child of Zeus and Hera or something and becomes impossible to kill/hurt, I think I would be more upset then if she got a magic vah-jay-jay.

  12. Michelle
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 18:32:07

    Sounds wonderful and I would like to be entered to win a book too please.

  13. Shar
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 18:44:32

    Jadge- …she is definitely not Anita Blake or a Mary Sue. Quite the opposite which is what makes reading it so enjoyable. I got to be one of the lucky ones who read Magic Burns and loved it. I read Magic Bites and had a few problems that Jia mentioned above. This book surpassed it on all my expectations. I still enjoyed Magic Bites, but Magic Burns has became my favorite.

    The dynamic between Curran and Kate or Kate and ( several spoilers) were my favorites. It was not only an exciting read, but fun too. I don’t see a lot of humor in the majority of urban fantasy/paranormal romance anymore. That bit with the chair was one of my favorite scenes out of several.

    I don’t have a problem with Kate’s mouth. She makes it obvious she runs it when she is scared. I have that same problem myself so I can relate to it. And she does get scared unlike most heroines that are labeled as kick-butt. I enjoy seeing a lead who has more than the typical worried, angry, independent (I am woman, hear me roar as I prove it) emotions that are so prevalent nowadays. They come across as so bloody perfect or aggressive that it has become hard to relate or care about the characters as they just don’t come across as true people.

    Okay, I don’t know if I am making sense. Still recovering from being sick and migraine city last night.

  14. ilona andrews
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 18:48:10

    I’m glad the book worked out :)

    PS :faints:

  15. Jia
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 19:03:35

    Jage: I promise there are no magic vah-jays-jays or god mode states in this book. Warp spasms, yes. This book draws upon Celtic mythology, after all. But no one human and/or mortal goes god mode.

  16. Jackie
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 19:05:24

    My to-be-read pile keeps growing, but Ilona’s work is right up there. I’m looking forward to reading this.

  17. bettie
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 19:18:08

    Ooh! I’ve been waiting for this book since the instant I finished reading Magic Bites. :D

  18. Jill Myles
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 19:36:06

    I don’t need a copy – I’ve already read it and adored every page.

    Most of you know I am 99% a romance girl – I like my urban fantasy to have a relationship at the core of it, and I will be the first one to tell you that Kate and Curran are what drive this book for me. I was mildly interested in how things would turn out at the end of MAGIC BITES, but by the end of MAGIC BURNS I was salivating – SALIVATING – to find out what happens between Kate and Curran.

    This is a terrific book for romance fans as well as urban fantasy. Like Jane has said a million times before, if you are not reading Ilona Andrews, you are *really* missing out. :)

  19. Charlene Teglia
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 20:22:24

    I skipped all the details in the review so as to remain spoiler-free when I get my paws on my copy. Is it out yet? This series is just so fun. Can’t wait to read on!

  20. Jia
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 20:29:25

    Charlene: The book’s official release date is April 1.

    first you turn me onto Rob Thurman and now this series!

    Kerry: You’ve found me out. I have an evil agenda devoted to drawing attention to lesser known gems. Please give your wallet my sincere apologies.

  21. AB
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 20:36:06

    This sounds great…please put me in the contest :)

  22. Rose W.
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 20:56:45

    Yes, I would iove to have copy of “Magic Burns”. I loved the first Kate Daniels book and I have a long business trip starting on April 1st. I won’t even care that I have to ride on a truck with French speaking truck drivers for two days if I can read while I am doing it. Or, perhaps I should save it for the transfer at O’hare. Last December when I came back from a business trip from Boston, United was telling me it was going to take them 3 days before they could book me a seat on another flight. I ended up having to take a bus to a town 2 hours from home and having a friend pick me up. I really do think I need this book.

  23. Stephanie
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 20:58:33

    Sure! (Since I’m not sure about eligibility rules, I figure you’ll disqualify me silently if I am to be DQ’d.)

  24. Christine
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 21:28:50

    I absolutely want a copy of Magic Burns! How’d you know? ;)

  25. Nicolle
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 21:40:17

    I really enjoyed the first book, Magic Bites, and I am so so psyched for this one to come out. If I win a copy or not I’m still going to have it in my greedy hands release day! I love Kate and the world she’s set in and after this review I’m totally not going to be able to contain myself until I can read this book!

  26. Kasey Mackenzie
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 22:45:37

    Sign me up please! I loved Magic Bites and look forward to Magic Burns. =)

  27. Tez Miller
    Mar 18, 2008 @ 22:51:55

    Commenting ;-)

    Have a lovely day! :-)

  28. Melisa
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 02:38:22

    Absolutely looking forward to this book. Loved Magic Bites and have been waiting impatiently for this book. Please add me to the list.

  29. Kelly
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 03:15:57

    Hi. I read the first, would love a copy of this one.

  30. Leslee
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 06:12:01

    Hi, I love reading your reviews. I would love to win a copy of this one.

  31. Susan G
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 07:04:17

    Would love to win it and read it!

  32. Jennifer Estep
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 07:21:20

    I’ve heard a lot of good buzz about this series. I’d love to get a copy of the book.

  33. Brooke
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 07:37:47

    This book sounds good. Can’t wait to check it out!

  34. Kim
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 08:17:54

    Ooh ooh, sign me up! I loved Magic Bites and can’t wait to read the next book(s). *crosses her fingers and hopes she wins a copy*

  35. Emily Ryan-Davis
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 08:27:42

    I just dropped a note on Ilona Andrews’ livejournal to say how much I’m loving “Magic Bites,” which I started reading last night. I’m so glad I waited on book one (not intentionally) because now I’ll be able to run right out for book two when I’m doing the M & SIL shopping on Saturday!

  36. Liviania
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 08:40:05

    I do know I want one – you’ve sold it very thoroughly with your excellent review. I’ll also have to pick up the first!

  37. Josh
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 08:42:16

    I would love to have a copy of the book!!!! I loved the first one, actually just reread for the 4th or 5th time, can’t remember for sure!!!
    Thanks!

  38. carolyn Jean
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 09:17:46

    This sounds great. I loved those excerpts.

  39. jmc
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 09:40:45

    I would *love* a copy. But even if I don’t win one via DA, I’ll be buying a copy on 4/1.

  40. Sara
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 09:53:40

    I’d love one, if at all possible. I really enjoyed the first novel, and this one sounds even better.

  41. Maya
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 10:41:55

    i keep seeing this author praised by other authors. there must be a good reason.

  42. Bernita
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 10:54:15

    Love the chair.
    Me want!
    ~will blog for book~

  43. Kel
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 11:26:32

    I’ve heard good things about this series. Put me in for the contest, please.

  44. Wednesday Review Round-Up « Urban Fantasy Land
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 11:29:56

    […] Dear Author reviews Ilona Andrews’s Magic Burns. So does Urban Fantasy Fans. […]

  45. Mallika
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 11:34:28

    Sounds great! Put me in, always looking for more yummy urban fantasy novels. :)

  46. hayden
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 11:46:42

    I’m eagerly looking forward to this book!

  47. Alana Abbott
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 11:54:49

    Now I’m jealous that I didn’t get a review copy… ;)

    -Alana (who reviewed Magic Bites for Flames Rising)

  48. Oyce
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 12:25:41

    I’d love a copy!

  49. Diane
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 13:13:59

    I would love to have a copy of Ilona Andrews’ newest–I loved the first one and have been looking forward to reading the sequel. Your review increased my anticipation–wish I could be reading it right now!

  50. Bordeauxxx
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 13:31:31

    This looks like a great book – thanks for doing the review and putting me onto another author. Now I’ll have to find Magic Bites and start reading…

  51. Allison
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 14:01:59

    Would love a copy. Always on the lookout for great new reads/authors!

  52. cathy m
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 15:01:28

    After all the comments, this sounds like a book I would really enjoy reading.

  53. Darlynne
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 15:44:46

    So I squealed like a fan girl over “Magic Bites” and can’t wait to do the same for “Magic Burns.” Whether I win a copy or not, this one is a must have. Best of luck, Ilona!

  54. Jan
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 17:37:27

    I’m a big fan of urban fantasy and really enjoyed the first book in the series. This will be an auto buy for me.

  55. LesleyW
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 17:55:28

    Ilona Andrews was one of my picks for breakout author of 2007. And I think Magic Bites was possibly my favourite book of last year.

    Amazon UK currently have it as no longer available, which I’m hoping is just code for not released til next month.

  56. Has
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 18:49:51

    I can’t wait for the sequel too!
    I am hoping that Amazon UK will supply it too and I hope that is the case too Lesley-

  57. janicu
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 19:57:32

    Throwing my name in the hat!

  58. Keilexandra
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 21:03:39

    I’m far too undeserving, but what the heck–count me in.

  59. Kelsey
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 21:24:20

    I would love to win a copy of Magic Burns.

  60. Anji
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 21:45:27

    I’m so glad this is available as an ebook. Now if Magic Bites was available as an ebook too…

    That’s happened to me a few times – a new release that’s part 2 or part 3 in a series is released as an ebook, but part 1 isn’t available in ebook format. I prefer having my books in the same format, so I wish they’d release those older titles at the same time the new release in ebook format…

  61. Renee Sweet
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 21:50:52

    I can’t wait to read this book!

  62. spiffi
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 22:17:48

    I loved the first book in this series – would love to win a copy of the new novel!

  63. SaraC
    Mar 19, 2008 @ 22:43:52

    Would love to read this book!

  64. loonigrrl
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 01:50:31

    I’ve been dying to read this-loved the first one!

  65. Kristen
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 08:37:54

    I love the premise – this sounds like a fun read.

  66. Bonnie Dee
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 08:57:14

    I admire the hell out of writers who can do such detailed world building. It is not my forte. This sounds like a very intriguing series and I’d love to win a copy of Magic Burns.

  67. JC
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 09:06:40

    OOOH! They cover looks great! Nice Review. I’d like a copy!

  68. STP
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 09:43:40

    I’d love a copy of the book!

  69. Vicki
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 09:47:58

    I, too, would love a book.

  70. Melissa Sawmiller
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 11:42:31

    I would adore a copy of Magic Burns!

    Lovely review. Thank you!

  71. Anna
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 12:06:39

    I loved magic bites and can’t wait for magic burns. i’m glad more of kates past is going to be in magic burns because the weird clues in the first one are driving me crazy. i would love a copy, who wouldn’t.

  72. Carita
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 13:02:19

    I’ve come out of lurking for a copy of Magic Burns. Thanks for the great review!

  73. Angie
    Mar 20, 2008 @ 15:46:06

    I’ve been following reviews of this series and would love to get a copy! Thanks for the great review.

  74. Jane
    Mar 21, 2008 @ 08:06:45

    The winners are commenters: 15, 5, 29, 18, 70. Email me right away so we can get these books out.

  75. Jane
    Mar 25, 2008 @ 14:20:31

    39 and 65 are new winners because commenters 15 and 18 don’t deserve the book (commenter 15 was the reviewer and commenter 18 excused herself).

  76. Dear Author Recommends for April | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 04:00:49

    […] Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews. Both Jane and Jia would recommend this sophomore effort by newcomer, Ilona Andrews. The “Magic” series features a smart mouthed, sword wielding Kate Daniels who helps to enforce the law in an alternate universe Atlanta. For the crossover genre reader (i.e., the romance reader that likes to cross the genre aisles), Curran, the Beast Lord of the Pack of Atlanta, plays the alpha male who likes to tweak Kate’s chain. Jia particularly likes “how their relationship is unfolding slowly, developing over the course of what I hope will be several books. It makes things more believable considering the two people involved: the Beast Lord of the Pack and the lifelong loner with a dangerous heritage.” […]

  77. Chenebe
    Jun 27, 2009 @ 01:19:00

    I read Magic Bites last week, and it made me pick up Magic Burns this week. I have been reading several first books in series over the last 8 months and NOT ONE has made me want to pick up book two in the series, even if I sort of enjoyed book one.

    The writing is unputdownable. Confession: I hate violence, I usually dislike urban fantasy (Hamilton, Lui, Singh were all recent tries) and I cannot stand vampires, shapeshifters or werewolves. This series ticks all those boxes and yet I found it absolutely brilliant. The book just MOVES. This was the first smart-mouthed urban fantasy heroine I did not want to slap, and who I got a true sense of the person behind the aggressive female facade. The romance between Kate and Curran was also surprisingly sweet.

  78. REVIEW: Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews | Dear Author
    Jun 10, 2011 @ 12:15:23

    […] Jia’s review of Magic Burns: For those readers new to the series, the Kate Daniels books take place in a futuristic […]

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