REVIEW: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
I saw this book featured on someone’s blog. The short blurb intrigued me and I went to the site and read the excerpt which really intrigued me. I immediately sent off an email to the Ace contact I have and begged for the book. The book was every bit as good as the excerpt promised. When a reader is done with a good book, an interesting book, she wants to share those thoughts with other readers. When I finished the book, I hopped onto the ‘net looking for someone, anyone who has read this book. Granted I got the book several weeks before the release date but someone had read it and would chat with me about it, right? Alas no. So finally getting to share my thoughts with people who may have read the book or will be reading the book is exciting for me.
Kate Daniels is a member of the Mercenary Guild. She hires out her sword and her magical talents to suppress those who are misusing their power. This is a world where tech and magic are competing for control. When the tech wave rises, magic subsides and vice versa. The fantasy construct is detailed and original. It’s a bit Renaissance society meets futuristic. Each City is assigned a group of knights from the Order of Knights of Magical Aid. In this world, there are also shapeshifters and The People (vampires) and humans.
Kate is a reluctant heroine. She is powerful, due to her lineage, but she doesn’t work well with others. She choose to be a Mercenary instead of part of the Order as her guardian and knight-diviner, Greg, wanted. But then someone starts killing different members of each group, including Greg. Before a full scale war breaks out between the Pack and the People and to avenge her loss, Kate Daniels must discover who is behind the murders.
I am first and foremost a romance reader. It takes a really good book to make me enjoy a story with no romance. While there is a slight tickle there between Kate and the Lord of the Beasts, Curran, the story focused on the fantasy construct, the plot, and Kate’s destiny in this world. The fantasy construct was something very original; very fresh. There are knights, protectors, crusaders, mercenaries, the Lord of the Beasts and vampires as I haven’t read in other books. The imagery is vivid; the dialogue smart.
I glanced around the room. The mood had changed. The game had ended, and their eyes burned like fire. The hair on their heads bristled, and the smell of murder was in the air.
“This is Slayer,” I said, holding the saber so they could see it clearly. The saber seethed, and luminescent tendrils of smoke clung to its blade. “It has had many names. One of them was Wolfripper. Push me and I will show you how it got that one.”
Curran turned to me. “Take one of mine again and I’ll kill you.” He said it in a conversational manner, matter-of-fact and flat, but in his eyes I could see a simple certainty. If he had to, he would kill me. He would not lose any sleep over it. He would not give it a second thought. He would do it and move on, untroubled by ending my existence.
The niggles is that Kate is a smart mouth and at times that gets her into trouble and she doesn’t always learn from this. During an encounter with Curran, Kate acts hastily and suffers a bad consequence from it. But in the very next scene, she is smarting off again which could have easily led her into more trouble. There were also some hiccups in the plot and some character motivations that I couldn’t explain but overall, this was an excellent start to a brand new series. Any fan of Patricia Briggs and Charlaine Harris would enjoy an afternoon with this book. A-
This looks awesome! I am definitely checking it out.
Me too. Matter of fact, I popped over to BN.com and stuck it in my cart!
I just bought this yesterday based on great reviews and the fact that the author is a very casual acquaintance. Can’t wait to read it!
I thought the fantasy construct was so unique. Like Renaissance meets futuristic. I wasn’t quite sure about the confluence of Magic and Tech but it also added a great dimension making the magical beings somewhat vulnerable at times.
I’m really looking forward to reading this book.
Ilona Andrews is an awesome writer and as her friend and a champion of her work, I thank you for this wonderful review. She’s very happy with it, too! I actually haven’t read all of this book, but I can tell you she has a second one scheduled to come out a year from now and you’ll love it.
I just finished MAGIC BITES and enjoyed it a lot too. I liked the author’s voice and Kate as a heroine, and I look forward to the next book in the series.
Thank you so much for the review. But more importantly, thank you so much for the conversation. For the very first time in my writing career I’ve experienced what it’s like to speak to someone about my work, someone who comes to it from a reader’s point of view.
I belong to an online workshop and have several friends who are writers (that’s why my acknowledgements are a mile long), and they had reviewed and critiqued my work many times. I’m deeply grateful to them for all their help. But being able to have a real discussion about your book with a reader is truly in a class by itself.
I will always remember it. Thank you.
Jane – Magic Bites – where to start. First, a disclaimer – I’ve spent most of my life reading without analyzing why some books sing to me and some books don’t. And, I love the “joyous” reviews whether or not the book works for me. Something in this book spoke to you and many others – wow, just wow. You loved this book – if you read my reactions, I hope you laugh and tell me “no, no, no – this really worked for me”.
My primary response to “Magic Bites” is definitely more about the reader than the book. I have a hard time with paranormals – a paralyzing fear of the dark. But paranormals dominate the landscape at the moment so I’ve tried many and have only 2 keepers: “Sunshine” and “Benighted”. I love McKinley but I refused to read Sunshine until this year. My loss, it is a wonderful book. And I found “Benighted” (originally and deliberately titled Bareback) by Kit Whitfield deeply disturbing and impossible to forget. In the middle of this book the heroine crosses the line and for a moment becomes evil. The progress to that point and the struggle forward from that point is riveting. This has very little to do with “Magic Bites” but everything to do with my reaction to it.
What I like about Magic Bites – the heroine is strong, imperfect, and likeable. The humour is engaging in the dialog and in the narrative. The re-invention of vampires is original. The plot works. The descriptions are strong and immediate.
But. The world is too close to Wen Spencer’s Tinker – this made me uncomfortable. The words of power are acquired too easily and used with too little cost despite the written disclaimers. Don’t tell me that the first 2 words were acquired perilously – show me the peril now. And I am obviously conditioned by far too much fantasy – magic blood, a magic sword and words of power? Kate lives in the city where she grew up but has no visible friends except for the new relationships developed during the story and a relationship with her foster mother which might be explored more in a later book (and her a relationship with her foster father but he is killed in the opening pages). I miss the pre-existing relationships and wonder why they are absent. The vampires are original but the shapeshifters follow the old cliche – why are the forces of evil more interesting than the forces of good? And pack humans don’t work for me.
My biggest problem with “Magic Bites” is a problem I have with all open-ended series (except for the mystery genre which is a different animal). If a series has a definite story arc, this shows in the writing. The development of the characters, the struggles they must undertake, the revelation of questions and answers may take place over several books but they are organic and build towards an ultimate resolution (which may be open-ended – that doesn’t matter). On the other hand, indefinite series tend to behave more like a television series. There must be unanswered questions so that the reader will tune in to the next book. I find these annoying. To me “Magic Bites” reads like an episode in a television series and that doesn’t work for this reader.
This is far too long but you did ask.
Re: the Tinker comparisons. I saw the Tinker comparisons too, but I felt that while the underlying world building issues might be similar, the other components such as the knight/mercenary construct was quite original. It had less of a similar feel to it than Anita Blake / Sookie Stackhouse did.
I missed the pre-existing relationships, too, but I viewed Kate as very much a loner whose pedigree necessarily insulated her. But I also hope that, over time, there is growth in that area.
As for the other elements – I actually liked the familiarity of the Pack construct. I don’t know that you could do a Pack too differently since the idea is that they are grounded in the original beast forms. All Pack books seem to have a generally similarity which doesn’t seem to bother me.
Anyway, I am glad you shared your thoughts. I makes me examine what I liked and what I didn’t and why it worked.
LOVE, LOVE, LOVED this book. No comparison with Tinker. (I also loved Tinker.) The feel of this book is completely different never mind the fact that both books are not even the same subgenre, i.e. no elves in this one, and Tinker is all about elves. Clearly a developing romance between Kate and Curran, Beast Lord, nice that it doesn’t happen too quickly and there are obviously a few time bombs obstructing the relationship yet to be revealed. But the tension between the two characters is great and Kate comes across as a tough but compassionate person. Anyway, it doesn’t matter even if other writers have done the same subgenre with shapechangers and vampires or even if there are similarities in plot, characters or ideas, it’s all irrelevant. If a book can seduce you into wanting to read more and more and being very impatient for the sequel, and makes you keep rereading it, then it’s worked. And Magic Bites works for me. Fab!!!
So – is it available as an ebook?
Not that I know of, Anji.
Awesome book couldn’t put it down, I hope this book gets out to more people, She is very good writer with alot of original ideas.
I have to say that I loved the first two books so far. Despite loving “urban fantasy” I realy hate those romantic blabla novels curently published under this banner (might be wrong to state this on this site :-))
Magic was different. I would compare Andrews writing more to Green’s Nightside Novels or, to some degree, to Butchers Dresden Files.
Magic is not “high fantasy” and I doubt it likes to. It is a quick, fun reading and contains enough humor, new ideas and loose ends that I cant wait for the next book.
I only hope that the author is explaining a little more how Atlanta (or better the whole world) came into the state it is in future books.
To sum it up: Can’t stand to wait for new books from Ilona Andrews
I know it was a first book but I really couldn’t get into Magic Bites.
The main character had potential but was just annoying. She didn’t seem all that bright even though it was indicated that she was supposed to be bright. Worst was how I just wanted to push Kate off a very tall building every time she opened her mouth.
I was willing to give it a try much longer than normal because sometimes this type of character has to have a moment of clarity/wake up call. I thought she was going to have one when they went to check the human out but the entire scene made no sense. Then she goes and gets drunk and whiny…blech.
And the medieval feeling of the Knights didn’t work for me (but admittedly I hate standard sword and sorcery fantasy). The modern world would be much stronger of an influence even if the Knights are a kind of hereditary class.