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REVIEW:  Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

REVIEW: Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

MB

SPOILER WARNING – Because Magic Breaks is Book 7 in the Kate Daniels series, there are unavoidable series spoilers found within this review. I’d also highly encourage readers new to the series to begin at the start of the series.  Below are links to Dear Author reviews of all previous books.

  1. MAGIC BITES
  2. MAGIC BURNS
  3. MAGIC STRIKES
  4. MAGIC BLEEDS
  5. MAGIC SLAYS
  6. MAGIC RISES

Dear Ilona Andrews:

I’m what we’ll call a “late bloomer” to your Kate Daniels series. I bought the first in the series, Magic Bites, when it first came out, but tried it and didn’t like it. But over and over when casting about Twitter asking for a great series to read, other trusted readers would recommend the Kate Daniels series.  When I confessed that I couldn’t get into the first book, Mandi from Smexybooks encouraged me to just skip it and start with book 2. About a month ago, I did, and it began a week-long glom of the highest order. I consumed all six books in the series within that span, barely stopping to eat, sleep or work. To no one’s surprise, Mandi was right. The series features a fantastic heroine, a dandy hero and more than that, a fully realized world that features fantastic creatures, court intrigue and power struggles galore — what’s not to love??

In Magic Breaks you bring a resolution an overarching storyline that has been strongly featured the entire series: the impending confrontation between Kate Daniels (our heroine) and her father, Roland, an ancient wizard who is more powerful than any other creature on Earth.

Kate and her mate, the Beast Lord, Curran, are looking forward to some alone time. First, Curran needs to travel for a short time to negotiate with a silver miner who he knows is selling to Kate’s father and mortal enemy, Roland. He’s promised Kate two weeks away from the Pack as soon as he returns from his visit with the miner. In the meantime, as Curran’s mate and alpha of the Pack, and overseer of all pack alphas in Atlanta, Kate will have to handle the dreaded Conclave with with People (Atlanta’s undead). Kate agrees to attend Conclave and hopes to get in and out without incident so she and Curran can get away. To her dismay, her father’s second in command, Hugh d’Ambray shows up at Conclave with the dead body of one of the two local leaders of the People in tow. He accuses the Pack of murder and demands that the killer be handed over to the People for retribution.

Kate determines that she and a designated team from the Pack will have to go to speak with one of the Rats’ spies who watches the Casino (the People’s stronghold). They set out through Unicorn Way, a place where magic never dies and is particularly unpredictable. Once Kate and her group has discovered the details of the killing, and apprehended the killer, she must devise a way to avoid turning the killer over to the People. During her double cross of the People, she is kidnapped by Hugh d’Ambray and teleported to Mishmar, along with Ghastek, the remaining of the two vampire leaders, who she’s had a cautious working relationship with. On top of that, during the kidnap, Kate’s most prized possession, her sword Slayer, is broken. Now Kate is in a real pickle. She’s in a bottomless pit of water, with Ghastek, a broken sword and no way out. She knows that Curran will come for her, she just has to stay alive while she waits.

I’m hesitant to say too much more about the plot, as it’s truly exciting and I think the best of the series, in terms of developments that will move the upcoming books forward. It also provides what I felt like was a very credible partial resolution to the Roland issue while also setting up intriguing new possibilities for the series.

There are so many things to like about this series. Kate is an incredibly strong heroine, one who reminds me very much of Mercedes Thompson from Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. She’s self-sufficient, smart, more powerful than she knows, and bears the weight of responsibility incredibly well. The series as a whole offers a truly wonderful romance between Kate and Curran, who also carries the weight of responsibility heavily. This books features Kate growing more and more comfortable with her power and also introduces some exciting new dynamics within the city of Atlanta on all sides.  Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of urban fantasy, and while this probably falls more into the UF genre than paranormal romance, I find Kate and Curran’s romance to be satisfying enough as a romance reader to always want more. The writing itself is very tight and the worldbuilding is stupendous.

While the book does have at the beginning a brilliant “journal entry” by Barabas, one of Kate’s trusted advisers, which summarizes the plot and the positioning of the various groups within the world, I’d highly encourage readers to start at the beginning of the series (or book 2, as I did). It’s among the best written UF/PNR books I’ve read in ages, and from now on the series will be a much coveted and often re-read one. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Magic Breaks gets an A, and a highly Recommended Read from me.

Sincerely,

Kati

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: Hellbent by Cherie Priest

REVIEW: Hellbent by Cherie Priest

Dear Ms. Priest,

I was first introduced to your work with Four and Twenty Blackbirds, your Southern gothic debut. I remember liking it but for some reason, I never picked up another book by you again. It happens. So when I saw this book pop up on NetGalley, I glanced at your backlist and was shocked to discover how extensive it was! Time passes fast. Upon realizing that Hellbent was the second book in a series, I tracked down the first book Bloodshot (which I talked about briefly here) and liked it enough to give this one a go.

 Hellbent	Cherie PriestRaylene Pendle is a vampire who makes a living as the thief known as Cheshire Red. She’s lived a long time and is good at what she does — so good that many people think Cheshire Red is actually a man. After the events of Bloodshot, the normally solitary Raylene has picked up some friends: the blind vampire Ian Stott and the ex-Navy SEAL turned drag queen Adrian deJesus.

In Hellbent, Raylene is recruited to steal a very strange set of magical artifacts. Unfortunately, a brilliant but mentally unstable sorceress also wants them for her own purposes. And when she gets them first, Raylene will have to contend with the woman’s greatly amplified powers to get them back.

At the same time, Ian has a political problem on his hands. Vampires normally belong to Houses. Raylene left hers decades ago after a falling out with the head of the Chicago house. (The head wanted Raylene to die for her, and Raylene disagreed.) Ian, however, never actually left. He went into hiding after losing his sight because as one of the potential heirs, such a perceived weakness would put him at a disadvantage and make him a walking target. But now the San Francisco head has died and people are looking for Ian. And because of her feelings for him, Raylene will do anything to dissuade him from leaving, even if that means dealing with the San Francisco vampire house instead.

I’ll be the first person to say that urban fantasy is a crowded subgenre. Adult, young adult, blending with paranormal romance, traditional fantasy with urban fantasy trappings, it’s everywhere despite the fact that I think the subgenre’s heyday is behind us. But despite all that, I found Raylene’s voice very refreshing. Anyone who’s read urban fantasy is used to the tough loner heroine with attitude and a chip on her shoulder.

And while Raylene started out a loner in the previous book, Bloodshot, she’s a different take on that archetype. She’s a loner because of necessity. While she can be tough, it has more to do with living a long time on her own without a vampire house to back her up and being competent at what she does. It’s not a front. In fact, the only lies she tells involve her valuing her solitary life and disliking all these people barging in on it. That’s obviously not true since she collects people and takes them in, just like the valuables and artifacts she steals.

The biggest thing that sets her apart, however, is her personality. Raylene is neurotic and has OCD. I liked that this played on the traditional folklore about vampires where to distract them, you throw rice at them because that makes them stop and have to count each individual grain. (Like how The Count on Sesame Street teaches counting?) It makes for an interesting character because Raylene is simultaneously overprepared and reckless. She likes planning for contingencies but ends up taking risks when faced with the actual situation.

I think it’s this trait of Raylene’s that made her interactions with the sorceress Elizabeth interesting. Once she realized Elizabeth had schizophrenia, she stopped being the rival Raylene needed to eliminate. Instead she became someone Raylene wanted to help. And if there’s something Raylene suffers from, it’s this unacknowledged desire to help.

For me, though, the main flaw of Hellbent is that the plot is divided between the stolen artifact storyline and Ian’s vampire house storyline. A part of me originally thought they would converge and I read on, interested in seeing how they would. Because that didn’t happen, I was left with a scattered impression. I liked the vampire house storyline because plots involving political intrigue are a favorite of mine. But Raylene jumping back and forth between that and the stolen artifact storyline weakened it for me.

I was surprised by the conclusion to the subplot involving Adrian’s missing sister. Maybe neverending series have conditioned me to expect mysteries to be drawn out for several books. That the question was answered in this installment was refreshing. Unfortunately, it also struck me as a little too convenient.

As for the relationship between Raylene and Ian, I still have problems wrapping my mind around it. I think I just never bought it in Bloodshot, so while I can see Raylene doing all this because he’s a friend, I have a harder time thinking of them in a romantic way. I don’t know if that’s intentional but I admit I find their interactions to be emotionally unsatisfying.

Adrian, on the other hand, I can’t get enough of. I don’t care what he does. I just want more of him. I am interested in seeing how his new connection to Raylene will impact their relationship in the future.

Overall, I do think Hellbent was a worthwhile read. Maybe not so much about the events that take up the majority of the book but rather the fallout and what it means for the future. I am curious to see how Raylene proceeds from here. C+

My regards,
Jia

Previous book in this series: Bloodshot

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