JOINT REVIEW: Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews
Ilona Andrews’ new book in the Hidden Legacy series, the conclusion to Catalina and Alessandro’s romance, is now out. Here, Sirius and I review it together. –Janine
Janine: Ruby Fever begins with Alessandro proposing to Catalina and Catalina accepting his proposal. They are very much in love but in this book, they are not yet married. We also see the Baylors touring their new compound/complex, a former resort they now plan to turn into their home.
It wasn’t clear to me how they could afford the (multi-million dollar, I’m guessing) compound. Yes, they are a House now and yes, Alessandro is investing their funds superbly, but unless I missed something, they haven’t hired themselves out to do anything more than private investigation, and I don’t see them running a corporation like Augustine does with his own agency. They’ve also only been out as a House for two or three years, if I’m not mistaken, and Alessandro hasn’t been investing their money for more than a year at most.
Regardless, they are dealing with a missing quarter-million-dollar spider when they are alerted to the murder of Luciana Cabera, a high-profile politician who is also (a bit conveniently) Linus’s neighbor and was dining at a restaurant he owns when she was murdered by a telekinetic with a connection to Rogan.
After securing the scene and handing off a necessary (to prevent a panic) coverup to the FBI, they rush over to Linus’s house and find his guard/friend Pete murdered and Linus himself comatose. It appears Linus has taken a quadruple dose of a drug that blocks a mental attack and then locked himself in a panic room. Catalina now has a second murder to investigate and she has to transfer Linus safely to the Baylor compound before they are attacked. But first, she must deal with something Linus left her and with Konstantin Berezin, a Russian illusion mage and prince.
Konstantin shows up at Linus’s house and insists on holding a discussion with Catalina that she can’t afford to have right away, not while having to secure Linus and his house. The house contains the secrets Linus has protected in his role as Warden of Texas and a plethora of weapons he invented, and frankly I thought the fact that no one stole the weapons and Linus’s laptop while Catalina and Alessandro still investigating Luciana’s murder at the restaurant was hard to buy. Catalina understandably postpones the conversation and Konstantin indicates that this may be something she’ll regret.
The thing Linus left her is a pen drive where he reveals that he knows something about Catalina’s powers, and more. He begins to explain that Catalina’s powers will challenge her control of them and is about to tell her what to do about that when Catalina is interrupted. She doesn’t get back to the pen drive for a long time after that (also a little contrived) so essentially she has to figure this out on her own.
After they leave Linus’s house, Alessandro is called away to stop a school shooting and Catalina realizes soon after that her mother is in danger. She and Cornelius, who is with her, discover that their phones were hacked. Luckily (also a bit contrived) they connect with Arabella and she tells them where they can find Penelope.
From there on thing snowball into one danger after another, with plenty of attacks, battles, action, and mystery. Arkan, Alessandro’s archenemy, is clearly involved, and it’s time to end his existence for once and for all.
Meanwhile, Catalina and Alessandro face other obstacles. Alessandro has been taking phone calls in Italian, clearly keeping something from Catalina, and there’s also the not-so-small matter of whether Linus will ever wake up from his coma.
I thought the first third of this book was slow and I wasn’t that engaged in this part (the reason I noticed all the contrivances) but after that the book did become more entertaining and absorbing.
Neither Alessandro nor Catalina is as great as Nevada but I really liked them and their relationship in this book. I love the more secure and stronger woman Catalina has grown into, and I’ve enjoyed her journey including its culmination here. I loved that though her relationship with Alessandro was tested their trust in and commitment to each other never wavered. This was very romantic and something I’d love to see more of in books. I think that the authors handle this type of material really well (they did an excellent job of it in Wildfire also).
There is definitely some retconning and backfilling with some of the other characters here, though. Something that comes out about Augustine was jarring and read like a contrivance (perhaps to turn him into hero material?). Arabella is now a successful financial manager for the Baylors, but my husband reminded me that in the House trials scenes in Wildfire it was stated she wasn’t good at math.
Sirius: I liked the book well enough and there were things that I liked a whole lot, for example I loved Catalina’s character arc very much and absolutely agree that her relationship with Alessandro was great. This team writes couples in love without making them boring so well.
However, overall this is probably my least favorite book in the series. You said that for you first third was slow, right? It probably was for me as well, however second part was way too fast, and I think ideal pacing for me would have been something of a mixture between first and second part. Actually let me specify – I love how action packed these books were, love it, but what I need in between all the action is to take a breath sometimes and I felt like I was unable to do so not even after the first half, after the first thirty percent or so. It was just too much and on rare occasions when the opportunity was provided, I felt like the characters mostly started telling me retconned family histories. I think what I needed was something like what happened in chapter one – main characters having some kind of interaction which made me feel them, not sure how to explain it better.
Janine: It was a little too busy, I agree, and the downtime would have been more satisfying if the family histories had, as you say, felt more organic. But I think it must not have bothered me quite as much as it did you.
Another contrivance was that Nevada and Rogan were missing from the stage as much as they were. Apparently they have other priorities than saving the lives of their family members. Seriously, I get that they can’t take over the book, but it would have been better to have them be on some kind of backpacking trip through a place where they couldn’t be reached, such as the Amazon. And yes, I think they could take baby Arthur along, it would be cool.
It was great to revisit some of the side characters. I particularly enjoyed Arabella, Leon, and Matilda (who I would love to see grow up to be a main character). I liked the resolution to Alessandro’s storyline with his family; I thought that was really well handled.
There is a hint into what may be in Arabella’s future (if the Ilona Andrews team ever write a book for her—the fast wrap-up of the Caesar conspiracy makes me fear that they may not :-() I really enjoyed that. Fingers crossed we’ll get her book(s).
Sirius: Agreed with everything you wrote in these three paragraphs. I could not believe that Connor and Nevada would stay away from the troubles her family is having, I just could not.
I love Matilda and would happily read her book. If Arabella has her book, I think she had at least two potential suitors hinted at.
Janine: Despite all my nitpicks, I enjoyed Ruby Fever a great deal and found it very romantic. There were a lot of fun scenes and storylines I can’t get into much because they constitute big spoilers—ones involving the Office of Records (I love the Keeper of Records and I have a theory about a cryptic conversation he has with another person), Catalina’s powers, and a young lady from another country.
Janine: The Ilona Andrews authors are among those who are in competition only with themselves as far as I’m concerned. When they are at the top of their game, no one else in the Urban Fantasy genre beats them. So it may not be fair, but I compare them only to themselves. This book was not the top of their game but I think I liked it about as much as I did Sapphire Flames and Emerald Blaze. I gave those book a B/B+ and this one gets the same grade from me.
Sirius: There was plenty for me to like in this book, and I agree that these writers are in competition with themselves, but all those annoyances do add up, so I can only give it a B.
PS re the previous hidden spoiler: