What Janine is Reading: Kate Daniels, Part II
A couple of weeks ago I blogged about my Kate Daniels reading streak, which I continue to chronicle here.
SPOILERS AHEAD (But please try not to reveal too much about the books I haven’t yet read):
Magic Tests by Ilona Andrews
This short story, found in the anthology An Apple for the Creature and narrated in Julie’s viewpoint, picks up after the events of Magic Slays, when Kate takes a reluctant Julie to Seven Star Academy.
Julie initially believes Kate brought her to Seven Star to enroll her there, but conversation between Kate and Gendun Dargye, the school’s director, soon makes it clear Gendun has requested the Pack’s assistance, and Kate wants Julie to conduct an undercover investigation into the disappearance of a student.
The missing freshman is named Ashlyn. A location spell confirms that she is on school grounds, alive. Ashlyn’s parents are away; the school has twenty-four hours to locate her before they must notify to Atlanta’s Paranormal Activity Division, and PAD’s ham-fisted approach would only make things worse.
Julie gets a visitor pass and a student guide named Brook. She meets another boy named Barka, who likes to pull pranks, and discovers that Ashlyn had no friends in whom to confide her fears. Ashlyn must be hiding, but where? And from whom?
This was a charming little story. Precisely because she knows what it is like to have no friends, Julie feels empathy for Ashlyn and wants to protect her from whatever it is that is threatening her. To do so she has to enlist the aid of a powerful, perhaps dangerous student, Yu Fong, as well as overcome her own loner tendency.
Most of the characters here are teens, so I guess the story falls into the YA fantasy category, but there is no pronounced coming of age element. Julie’s arc is less about growing up and more about acquiring a new community.
I liked the YA-ish feel of the story, and enjoyed the supporting characters of Yu Fong, Ashlyn, and Barka, but Julie was the character about whom I cared most. She has a lot of heart and has clearly learned a lot from Kate; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. B/B+.
Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews
With Kate and Curran busy elsewhere, Andrea is pulled in by Jim to investigate a case of four murdered shapeshifters. The shapeshifters worked for Raphael’s reclamation business and were found dead on the site of a building he reclaimed, bearing snakebites.
This makes it necessary for Andrea to contact Raphael, with whom she split painfully in Magic Bleeds. Just when Andrea is about to swallow her pride, apologize for her part in their breakup, and tell him she wants him back, Raphael, in an epic jerk move, brings a gorgeous woman with him to their meeting. The woman announces to Andrea that they are “engaged to be engaged.”
Andrea’s rage has her shifting into her natural shape, thereby forcing a confrontation with the bouda clan that she must now, according to Pack law, join in the next three days. The only other option is to leave Atlanta, which feels like home. If she stays past the three days without joining the Pack, she will force Beast Lord Curran to confront and best her.
Meanwhile the murder investigation continues to force Andrea into proximity with Raphael, who decides he wants her after all. Andrea must decide whether she feels the same.
Besides this, Gunmetal Magic contains glass monsters, snake people, a Russian wizard practicing dark magic, a fight with a draugr (“an undead, unkillable giant”), and an Egyptian god who wants to body snatch Andrea’s body.
There is a lot going on in this book, maybe a little too much. I wanted more downtime from the mayhem in which Andrea could sort out her feelings.
Andrea is not the cuddliest of characters, she’s more of a porcupine, but still, I really felt the wound Raphael had inflicted on her. Raphael is spoiled (this has been stated in Curran, Kate and Andrea’s viewpoints, as well as shown) and Andrea is anything but. I feel that she could do better for herself, and I wouldn’t have minded it a bit if she had moved on with Roman, because I haven’t been shown how Raphael is better for her, outside of the hot sex.
(In one of the earlier books Andrea told Kate that she and Raphael heal each other but I don’t feel that that’s been shown. We certainly have seen them hurt one another, on the other hand.)
Because of the way I felt about this decision of Andrea’s, I also wasn’t sold on her other decision to join the Pack. Was it what she truly wanted and needed, or did she do it because Curran, the Pack, and their laws had her over a barrel?
I loved the scene in which Andrea becomes Aunt B.’s second; the dialogue between B. and Andrea was terrific. But I would have been more convinced of the rightness of this choice for Andrea if not for the Raphael issue.
Still, there was much to appreciate about this book, including the action during the fights with the glass monsters and with the draugr, the snappy dialogue, Andrea’s interactions with Ascanio, and the deliciously spooky villain.
On a minor point, I’m getting tired of the way magic waves get explained in each Kate book but the way they were described in the prologue to this book appealed to me. B.
Magic Gifts by Ilona Andrews
This was a terrific novella that is bundled into Gunmetal Magic, and takes place concurrently with that novel’s first half, but in Kate’s POV. I had to laugh when I started reading it because when I read Gunmetal Magic, I thought the explanation of why Kate was too busy to help Andrea with the murder investigation in that book was flimsy at best, a contrivance to allow Andrea to take the starring role. Here I learned just how wrong I was.
Kate and Curran are out on out at a restaurant when an incident takes place which involves a journeyman and journeywoman of The People. The journeyman gifts his date with a necklace, but when she puts it on, it drains her of blood and kills her. The woman’s parents and young brother show up – the father is about to take the necklace when his wife, clearly not human, grabs it and puts it around her son Roderick’s neck instead.
Now the child is slowly being killed by the necklace, which cannot be removed, and his mother refuses to divulge information about it. Kate and Curran take Roderick to Doolittle who tells them they must find a way to remove the necklace within a few days, or else the child will die.
Further investigation of the necklace by Julie reveals it is marked with old runes in a runic alphabet with which Julie, Kate and Ghastek are all unfamiliar. The local expert on runes is a rowdy Viking named Dagfinn, and Kate and Curran’s search for him leads to a brawl with the Vikings, a fight between Curran and Dagfinn, a bet with Ghastek, a confrontation with the draugr, and more.
I really loved this novella. The plight of the little boy moved me but I didn’t feel manipulated the way I often do when children are put in jeopardy. Maybe it was just that I knew Kate and Curran would save him, even if I didn’t know how. I loved the final resolution and the hint of what is to come in Roderick’s future.
Kate’s interactions with Curran show how their relationship is growing, and I also love the way they have to negotiate and reach compromises to make it work. That is the core of relationship building, and it’s good to see it depicted so well in fiction.
What else did I enjoy about this novella? The bet with Ghastek was very funny. I also liked that Kate had to wade into the politics of the Guild and resolve a dispute between the mercenaries and the administrative staff, even though she didn’t want to. And I loved that she thought Curran’s advice to her on how to handle that made him scary, but took that advice anyway. For good or ill, politics is part of life.
There’s a scene between Kate and Andrea that takes place in Gunmetal Magic as well as in this novella, and thus we get to see it from both women’s viewpoints. I thought Kate’s dialogue made a whole lot more sense with her POV included (In Gunmetal Magic I didn’t understand why she asked Andrea if she was going to fight for Raphael right after Raphael had treated Andrea like crap).
Also, I would have liked to have read the first fight with the draugr, which takes place in this novella, ahead of the second fight with him in Gunmetal Magic. For these reasons I advise readers to read Magic Gifts before Gunmetal Magic. B+/A- for Magic Gifts.
“An Ill-Advised Rescue” by Ilona Andrews
This short (very short) story is bundled in with Magic Rises, which I haven’t read yet. On the Acknowledgments page, the authors suggest reading “An Ill-Advised Rescue” first, so I started there.
While Curran is otherwise occupied, Kate is notified by the Guild that Saiman has been kidnapped by former members of the Red Guard and is being held for a million dollar ransom. She decides to take the job and forgo pay so that Saiman will owe her a very large favor. She takes Derek and Grendel for backup, but unless she can convince some members of the kidnappers’ gang that it’s a better idea to hand Saiman over, she and Derek may find themselves outnumbered.
To be honest, I was bored with the first half of the story. Saiman serves an important function in the series as a foil to Kate, one who reveals much about her values, and there’s also the threat he presents in his ability to suss out her identity and sell her out to Roland. Still, he is probably the least interesting character in Kate’s world because he doesn’t seem capable of growth.
All of this is to say that the stakes in the story initially felt low, because if Saiman had died instead, I wouldn’t have missed him much. I really didn’t care if Kate rescued him. Sure, a favor from him might someday come in handy, but at this point, when that day hasn’t come yet, that goal is abstract.
But the second half of the story, in which Kate and Derek put themselves at risk, was much more entertaining.
The conceit of the story is that Kate has to fight off the band of kidnappers without using a power word because she’s already used one in front of Saiman and if he sees her use another, he’ll figure out her identity. But that only holds true as long as Kate uses a different power word, so I don’t see why she couldn’t have used the one Saiman had already seen her use in the past. It’s not like power words only work on one occasion, and she had not used it on the kidnappers before.
Still, this conceit raised the stakes in the fight with the kidnappers, rendering Kate more vulnerable. I liked that a swordsman whom she fought with was a formidable opponent and succeeded in injuring her. Kate had to pour kerosene on her blood to get rid of it, something that should have made Saiman far more suspicious than the use of a power word. This short story was enjoyable nonetheless, with nice humor and action. C+/B-.
Agreed w/your comments on Raphael, who I actively disliked in the book. I actually enjoyed the majority of the book, but I never felt that he was a character who was going to help/love Andrea in the long run. So the sex is good, but he seemed like an immature jerk who didn’t feel obliged to grow up. It never felt like it was going to turn into a successful partnership, which Andrews is often so good at portraying.
“It never felt like it was going to turn into a successful partnership, which Andrews is often so good at portraying.”
You articulated this better than I did. Everything you said is so true, especially in contrast with Magic Gifts, which comes bundled in with this book, where we see Curran and Kate negotiate in a far more mature way. I liked Andrea, and I wanted better for her.
I would have been perfectly happy with an ending in which Andrea moves into the bouda clan but dates Roman. Why not? Oh, well — you know a book isn’t 100% successful when you’re rewriting the ending in your head.
Laughing because I often rewrite the endings of books. Good call on it not being a ringing endorsement of the book itself.
I would love a Julie book or series, perhaps co-starring Derek. They made a great team in the recent Magic Stars novella, though Julie alas must grow a couple years older for them to have a relationship. The Andrews are pretty busy, though, so for now, another short is probably the most we can hope for.
I guess I’m the only one who wouldn’t miss Julie if something tragic occurred, eh? And I loved Raphael in the earlier books, but like him less and less with the later books. I want some change and redemption there.
And I rewrite books–especially the endings–in my head all the time, too. :-)
@Susan: You are not the only one. In fact, I find Julie as Kate’s insta-family pretty unconvincing/inconsistent. But then, I find a lot of the world building to be not entirely consistent from book to book.
Is it Gunmetal Magic where Andrea explains why Kate can never use a telephone when she’s upset? I guffaw’d at that, it suddenly made things make SO much more sense, and the fact that Kate’s not aware of it while Andrea is slays me.
I’d totally be down with a YA series with the characters from An Apple For Creature (and some others that we’ve met along the years) to let Julie grow up and into her own. She’s sort of gone from convenient plot moppet to an actual character in my mind from that short story alone.
I’d really like to see Raphael and Andrea like, really have things out and grow together, and I have hopes it will happen. Kate and Curran were absolutely not working for me for a bit, but then full 180, totally on-board, oh yes and now I’m so happy.
Even though I feel like I’m the only one having Kate/Hugh D’Ambray fanfiction in my brain. “He just needed a banner that said I AM BAD to complete the look” *chortle*.
@Allison: LOL! And thank you for saying that. It makes me feel less weird!
@Amy K.: After An Apple for the Creature I’m looking forward to Magic Stars.
@Susan: I didn’t like Julie at all until I read An Apple for the Creature. I think it’s because in the Kate books Julie’s role is usually to make Kate’s life more difficult, and she doesn’t come across as having a whole lot of dimension. But in An Apple for the Creature where the focus was squarely on Julie, I felt I saw a more caring side of her.
@jmc: That’s a good point; the way Kate and Julie became family was unconvincing to me as well. It seemed like Kate’s only reasons for adopting Julie were because Julie was orphaned and because the plot called for Kate to start forging some new connections, but not out of any need to mother someone. There must be so many orphaned kids in this version of Atlanta, and if Kate can live with that, I don’t understand why (and I don’t feel I was shown why) she felt driven to adopt Julie.
@Lindsay: No, that wasn’t in Gunmetal Magic. It was in the novella Magic Dreams and it was Dali, not Andrea, who explained why the phone often doesn’t work for Kate during the magic waves. I think Andrea and Kate are still clueless. I loved that too.
Glad to hear that about Kate and Curran since I’m reading Magic Rises and at the moment things aren’t looking so great on that front. I agree completely on the YA concept, Raphael and Andrea, and even on the wish for Kate / Hugh D’Ambray fanfic.
It has been a long time since I’ve found a series to glom so it’s fun revisiting what that’s like while you’re doing it with the Kate books. I think I liked the series more than you from the start because I prefer the slow romance build-up of UF rather than PNR which is what their other series are. Gunmetal Magic wasn’t my favorite mostly because the ending felt rushed and I thought the bit with her former adversary was too easy/pat. I also almost rooted for Roman and wouldn’t mind a short story from his POV so he gets his own HEA (I vote for Rene, formerly of the Red Guard. And wouldn’t she be a great addition to Cutting Edge? ;-)) I’ll be very interested to hear what you think about Magic Rises. I struggled with that one and had to reread it to get over my initial frustration and enjoy the book’s bigger picture.
Big story twists and turns ahead…enjoy the ride!!
@lada: That’s a great point about the bit with Michelle (Andrea’s former adversary). I thought it was resolved too quickly. It’s probably the wishful thinker in me, but I was sorry to see Michelle still had all the same prejudices even as an adult. I hoped she would apologize but no such luck. And since she was a mom, I worried about her kids.
Hmm, Roman and Rene. I could see that! But I think the Cutting Edge has enough employees. More of them could make fighting the bad guys less suspenseful.
I’ll definitely post my thoughts on Magic Rises when I get through the next few books.
Ha, I thought I was the only one who wouldn’t mind if something “tragic” happened to Julie. I haven’t read Magic Breaks or Magic Shifts yet, but I have read all of the books, novellas, and short stories up until those books, and I have not warmed up to Julie. I actually find her quite annoying. During MAGIC TESTS, my favorite part was the brief bit when Kate was in it. I feel like Julie is trying too hard to be like Kate, but there can only be one Kate Daniels!
@Lindsay: Have you seen the authors’ blog post from last April 1, with the Hugh cover and blurb? If not, you must read now…
@Janine: Ah hah, that makes more sense (loooooove Dali). I love the books but they all kind of blur together for me — I have the same problem with any book series that is more than, say, 3 books. Even then I often need to re-read everything prior before the next book comes out, and this turns into a huge undertaking if it’s something like Brent Weeks’ fifth book or anything by Brandon Sanderson. Although I did just read the full Steelheart – Firefight – Calamity (plus novellas) trilogy this month now that Calamity’s out and it was so much better to read them all together because I’d forgotten… almost everything.
I don’t know how things work for people with better memories, but I’ve always had to leave post-its (now a Calibre field) in the covers of books regarding if I want/should re-read it or not, if it’s a happy or sad ending because that can matter (or at least has a satisfactory conclusion a few books later), and specific content notes for things I know I cannot read, say, in the middle of a depressive slump.
(For Magic Rises, yeah, that was my “What the HELL Curran” book)
@Sandra: MY HEAD JUST EXPLODED.
Why, April fools, whyyyyyy?!
@Lindsay: FWIW, Ilona Andrews has blogged since that post (and just recently, too) that she is going to write Hugh’s book (though of course he’s not going to end up with Kate). You Hugh fans (I’m not one though I think he makes an excellent villain) have planted a seed that seems to have sprouted.
Hugh is getting a book? I admit, he’s fascinating, but how are they going to get readers past the whole “locks people in cages” thing?
@Janine: I believe they resisted the idea for a while ( based on what they were saying on the blog only), but then caved in? I mean caved in in a sense that they found idea interesting – I think Ilona Andrews was at some point saying that now it is a question of whether she would be able to do it, to redeem him somewhat I guess? I do not get many fans’ desire to see redeemed Hugh to be honest and kind of gagging at the idea of his book, but to each their own. I mean he is a great villain, and I do love me some antiheroes but not everybody can be redeemed and deserves to be redeemed imo.
@Sirius: I have no idea how I will feel about that book. It may depend on the execution, or maybe he’ll be impossible to redeem (I have not read all the books yet so I don’t know the extent of his miseeds). One question that comes to mind is whether Hugh even has free will when it comes to his worst actions. If Roland purified his blood of Lyc-V the same way Kate did Julie’s, then he cannot refuse a direct order. So it depends on what I learn about him in future books.
Even though I’m not sure I want him to get his own book, I can understand why some readers have been asking for his story. It is the mark of well-written, multidimensional villains that we can find one or two human emotions or actions in them that make it possible to relate to them, and sometimes to wish that they weren’t quite so evil.
@Janine: Of course when I say I do not understand all I am saying that it is a matter of taste differences. We love and hate different characters for whatever reasons we choose (we meaning readers in general). But what *I* as a reader learned about Hugh after reading all the books in the series to date makes it incomprehensible to me to see the argument that Hugh can be redeemed. Have you read the last two yet? Don’t want to accidentally spoil you and do not do not read my reviews of them on the site if you have not yet, I do not reveal many spoilers, but there was no way not to reveal one very important one .
I will of course still read the book – I love their writing that much and think they can do great things, but I am very very skeptical.
@Sirius: No, I have not read past Magic Rises. I still have Magic Breaks, Magic Shifts, Magic Stars and the Curran POV to read.
@Janine: The Kate/Hugh shippers came after Magic Rises. I’m very much on the same page as you and @Sirius: and think Hugh is a great multi-dimensional villain but am wary of making a hero out of him. I think the question of free will be a big part of that equation.
Here’s what Andrews posted earlier this week: “We have edits on White Hot, then likely edits on Magic Binds, then Hidden Legacy 3, then hopefully, Hugh’s book just so I can download it from my brain and it will stop nagging me.” So obviously they’ve thought of some way they believe will redeem him.
I also find it interesting that they now seem to want to write Hugh’s book *before* the final Kate book.
@lada: So there are only two more Kate books left to be published?
Yes, I think they’re pretty adamant about wrapping the series up with book 10. It was originally only going to be 7 books but they realized Kate was not ready to take on daddy dearest yet so they contracted for 3 more books to wrap it up. Magic Binds (book 9 not counting Andrea’s book) will come out later this year and then 1 more after that. I have no idea how or if a Hugh book will change anything.
Lada yes I read this comment but I was thinking about some of the earlier ones – I think that was around April 1 joke when Ilona Andrews was saying that they did not realize just how many wanted Hugh’s book and that it is now a matter of professional pride for her ( paraphrase, could be wrong). You think something important for the series as a whole may happen in this book?
Janine yes two more books and what Lada said .
@Sirius: I remember Andrews saying something along those lines, too. Professional pride or not, it’s clear they have an idea for Hugh they want to publish. Whether or not it’ll change things for how Kate’s story wraps up I have no idea but I have a hard time believing Hugh’s story would have no affect on the last book if it’s published first.